Monday, April 7, 2014

Fish Can't Climb Trees Very Well

In “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle pits evil in the form of conformity and control against love and freedom to be different. On Earth, Meg is seen as different from most children her age and therefore has started to believe that she is ugly, dumb, and an embarrassment to her family. Her parents, however, have been testing her throughout her life in different ways than schools classically test children. They, unlike the majority of society, understand that intelligence comes in many forms and is not always immediately apparent. Both Meg and Charles Wallace are written off as bizarre misfits by many of the people in their town, but their father and mother realize that they are just late bloomers and their talents are not often revealed by math tests or beginning to speak when most children do. Instead of being dull, Meg and Charles reveal themselves to be remarkable and capable of fantastic things. This is seen more profoundly in Meg’s character because she goes from perceiving herself as a “monster” on Earth to realizing that she is capable of extraordinary things while saving her father. On this adventure, she finds out that even though she has not been successful by society’s standards so far, that does not mean that she will always be the oddball that she now views herself to be. Although Meg does not fit in at all in school, she has an extremely supportive and loving family. Because of this, she encouraged to find her own way and her own talents.
 Meg’s family life strikes a stark contrast with life in Camazotz, where individual discovery is literally beaten out of children. In Camazotz, there is no value beyond a person’s ability and willingness to conform to the standards set forth by IT. Although there is no conflict or war, there is also no true happiness. Without discord there can be no harmony and without unhappiness there can be no joy. Without the opposing views and varying talents that can be found on Earth, Camazotz has become a place where there is no real progress and no real life.

Although Camazotz is a depiction of a utopian society gone wrong, there are certain reflections of our own society within it. Meg’s schooling has taught her that she is unintelligent just because she does not conform to society’s expectations of success. Because of this, she begins to believe that she is unintelligent. This type of scenario is extremely common in schools in our own society. Naturally the goal of education is to teach children so that they can succeed, but many education systems do not account for the fact that people learn at many different paces and in many different ways. By only accepting one standard, schools condemn students like the boy  in Camazotz was hurt for dropping his ball.  As Albert Einstein said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” In Camazotz, as well as many modern schools, the only test given is tree climbing. In teaching with this strategy, there will certainly be many excellent tree climbers, but there will also be many excellent swimmers who will never learn that they are talented and worthwhile. I therefore believe that one reason some schools may have challenged the teaching of this book is that is criticizes the school system. Not only are Meg’s teachers cruel, but they are also portrayed as useless to extract the potential from Meg, a girl whose talent finally blooms when she finds her own value in life.

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