Competence measurement in Oz

by Maria

A little orphan girl from Kansas is blown away by a hurricane and finds herself in a pretty, but unfamiliar country where beasts and scarecrows can talk and where there are good and bad witches. Dorothy’s project is to return home, but unfortunately no Save the Children nor Red Cross ever come to Oz. Dorothy must cope on her own. But she is firmly determined, nothing can come between herself and her goal. Anyone who has read the book or seen the wonderful movie knows how she gets there.

Dorothy has three helpers, each of them with a project of their own. The Scarecrow wants brains, the Tin Woodman wants a heart, and the Cowardly Lion has no other wish than be brave. During the perilous journey to the Emerald City to see the wonderful Wizard of Oz, and later during the hard task he sets them on, the three friends cannot agree about which feature is the most important. Intelligence may be good, the Tin Woodman admits, but without the ability to love, without feelings and empathy you are not really human. Without courage, the Lion argues, your are nothing at all, and no prospects to be a regent in your own kingdom.

As readers or film viewers we may feel confused. It is possible to measure such different competences as wisdom, empathy and courage? Can we ascribe any one of these higher importance than any other? We also notice, long before the characters themselves realise it, that they already possess the traits they think they lack. The Scarecrow finds quick and efficient solutions to all intricate problems. The Tin Woodman may be sentimental, but in the first place he is caring and loving, while the Lion behaves exactly like someone who has true courage, as opposed to recklessness: he fights enemies even when he is scared.

The three friends want some external confirmation of their competence, which they receive from the cunning Wizard, but the competence itself is born and developed during the journeys and tasks, under Dorothy’s clever leadership.

Dorothy is an intuitive leader. She believes herself to be little, weak and helpless, but she does not only fulfil her own project, but helps her companions to discover the features they long for. She chooses her team carefully, so that each member complements the others, and all the skills are easily available. Without the combined efforts by the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Lion, Dorothy’s plans would not be successful. But she does not want to measure their competence or compare them to each other. When she must say farewell to them to return home, she repeats again and again that she loves all the three of them equally.
And with some imagination – or with scholarly perversity – you can say that the three friends and their competences belong within Dorothy herself and that she develops them all parallel, without priorities, since she understands, little and helpless as she is, that all of them are equally important.

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