CLOSE
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

High School Teacher's Theory Frames 'The Wizard of Oz' as a Political Parable

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Published in 1900, L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz tells the story of a young girl who finds herself in a magical world filled with fantastic characters. At least that’s what most young readers take away from the novel. In 1963, a high school history teacher named Henry Littlefield suggested that Baum’s book is more than just an innocent fairytale.

His story is laid out in the video from TED-Ed below.

According to his theory, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a political satire alluding to the economic climate of late 19th century America. Littlefield said the story makes specific nods to the Gilded Age, a time when farmers were pushing for silver to be recognized as part of the gold standard so that more money would be available for them to borrow. In the book, the yellow brick road allegedly stands in for gold. Dorothy wears her silver slippers on the path while journeying toward the Emerald City, which represents prosperity. (This symbolism is lost on anyone who watches the 1939 movie; the original silver slippers were swapped for ruby ones because red looked better on film.)

That's not the only turn-of-the-century political message attached to the world of Oz. The scarecrow has been painted as an allegory for American farmers, the Tin Man as a symbol industrial workers, and the Cowardly Lion as a stand-in for the Gilded Age populist politician William Jennings Bryan. Unfortunately, L. Frank Baum died decades before Littlefield’s theory gained popularity, so he can neither confirm nor deny its validity. But we do know that when he was alive, Baum never presented The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as anything more than a children’s story.

[h/t TED-Ed]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
arrow
architecture
Qatar National Library's Panorama-Style Bookshelves Offer Guests Stunning Views
Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The newly opened Qatar National Library in the capital city of Doha contains more than 1 million books, some of which date back to the 15th century. Co.Design reports that the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) designed the building so that the texts under its roof are the star attraction.

When guests walk into the library, they're given an eyeful of its collections. The shelves are arranged stadium-style, making it easy to appreciate the sheer number of volumes in the institution's inventory from any spot in the room. Not only is the design photogenic, it's also practical: The shelves, which were built from the same white marble as the floors, are integrated into the building's infrastructure, providing artificial lighting, ventilation, and a book-return system to visitors. The multi-leveled arrangement also gives guests more space to read, browse, and socialize.

"With Qatar National Library, we wanted to express the vitality of the book by creating a design that brings study, research, collaboration, and interaction within the collection itself," OMA writes on its website. "The library is conceived as a single room which houses both people and books."

While most books are on full display, OMA chose a different route for the institution's Heritage Library, which contains many rare, centuries-old texts on Arab-Islamic history. This collection is housed in a sunken space 20 feet below ground level, with beige stone features that stand out from the white marble used elsewhere. Guests need to use a separate entrance to access it, but they can look down at the collection from the ground floor above.

If Qatar is too far of a trip, there are plenty of libraries in the U.S. that are worth a visit. Check out these panoramas of the most stunning examples.

Qatar library.

Qatar library.

Qatar library.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images: Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
science
Reading Aloud to Your Kids Can Promote Good Behavior and Sharpen Their Attention
iStock
iStock

Some benefits of reading aloud to children are easy to see. It allows parents to introduce kids to books that they're not quite ready to read on their own, thus improving their literacy skills. But a new study published in the journal Pediatrics shows that the simple act of reading to your kids can also influence their behavior in surprising ways.

As The New York Times reports, researchers looked at young children from 675 low-income families. Of that group, 225 families were enrolled in a parent-education program called the Video Interaction Project, or VIP, with the remaining families serving as the control.

Participants in VIP visited a pediatric clinic where they were videotaped playing and reading with their children, ranging in age from infants to toddlers, for about five minutes. Following the sessions, videos were played back for parents so they could see how their kids responded to the positive interactions.

They found that 3-year-olds taking part in the study had a much lower chance of being aggressive or hyperactive than children in the control group of the same age. The researchers wondered if these same effects would still be visible after the program ended, so they revisited the children 18 months later when the kids were approaching grade-school age. Sure enough, the study subjects showed fewer behavioral problems and better focus than their peers who didn't receive the same intervention.

Reading to kids isn't just a way to get them excited about books at a young age—it's also a positive form of social interaction, which is crucial at the early stages of social and emotional development. The study authors write, "Such programs [as VIP] can result in clinically important differences on long-term educational outcomes, given the central role of behavior for child learning."

Being read to is something that can benefit all kids, but for low-income parents working long hours and unable to afford childcare, finding the time for it is often a struggle. According to the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, only 34 percent of children under 5 in families below the poverty line were read to every day, compared with 60 percent of children from wealthier families. One way to narrow this divide is by teaching new parents about the benefits of reading to their children, possibly when they visit the pediatrician during the crucial first months of their child's life.

[h/t The New York Times]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios