Oobleck: A Lesson in Leadership?

While From amazon.caexploring Dr. Seuss’ Bartholomew and the Oobleck as a text for my children, I was struck with an idea:another lens through which I could look at this book. My Learning Coordinator colleague, A. Gilbert, and I have put forth the idea to secondary teachers of reading picture books in high school English classrooms, and this book might work.

Specifically, it might be interesting to explore the nature of leadership. Jeffrey Wilhelm promotes the idea of re-framing our lessons through an essential question, as explained in his book Engaging Readers & Writers with Inquiry.

Perhaps this book could be used to set up an exploration into the nature of leadership and the essential question: What is the nature of good leadership? What, then, is bad leadership?

Another essential question could be: What is the role of the ‘common person’ when faced wiboss-vs-leader-800x800th ‘bad’ leadership? What is my responsibility when faced with injustice?

Wouldn’t it be interesting to use this question and then Bartholomew and the Oobleck for Grade 12 students who then studied George Orwell’s 1984 to find out those answers? And then possibly studied Hamlet with the same essential questions?

Bartholomew, for example, confronts King Derwin of Didd,

“You may be a mighty king,” he said. “But you’re sitting in oobleck up to your chin. And so is everyone King-Derwinelse in your land.  And if you won’t even say you’re sorry, you’re no sort of king at all!”

It might be interesting to ask students: is this what good leadership looks like? Is this confrontation the responsibility of Bartholomew?

And we could explore the nature of leadership by way of sites such as Leadership Freak or Modern Servant Leader.

IMG_1727Indeed, the more I think about this book, the more I sense it was written as a commentary on leadership. (And this is also supported by the fact that some of Dr. Seuss’ books are meant to be commentaries on certain topics, such as fascism in Yertle the Tertle or destroying the environment in The Lorax.)

I think the commentary on leadership was driven home to me when I happened to look at the back cover of IMG_1710Bartholomew and the Oobleck, which depicts a person having the Oobleck land on their head, to their obvious dismay under the words “Beware the Oobleck!”

If the Oobleck is a metaphor for a ill-conceived idea from a detached and capricious leader, then what might be the lesson for teachers and leaders in the education system?

Is this a commentary by Seuss about how the common person must pick up the tab, so to speak, and bear the brunt of the short-sighted, common-sense-defying ideas of a power-wielding leader?

I wonder if this book should be required reading for leadership and teacher candidates…

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