June 19, 2013 - By Samantha Kraska
Dr. Jean Houston visited Upland Hills School. Photo by Sam Kraska. (click for larger version)
As Dorothy said when she clicked her heels in Oz, "There's no place like home."
But for American philosopher and author Dr. Jean Houston, there's no place like Upland Hills.
Houston, 76, visited Upland Hills School in Addison Township to discuss her new book, "The Wizard of Us," and talk to the K-8 school's students as well as local residents about tapping in to their own potential.
In "The Wizard of Us," Houston takes the well-known story of Dorothy and her friends from Oz and compares it to the journey people take to follow their own Yellow Brick Roads to accomplish their dreams.
Every journey has obstacles, and of course Dorothy's is the twister that takes her away from Kansas. As Houston described, these obstacles can be what get people on the right path.
A twister is "a big kick in the pants," Houston said. "It tries to stop you, but it also serves as an energizing element to get you moving."
Once in Oz, Glinda the Good Witch gives Dorothy the ruby slippers which will ultimately help her get home. To Houston, these slippers are like a person's inner talents and schools like Upland Hills are the perfect places to cultivate them in students.
"When you look at a school like Upland Hills, which is way out in front, that's how you create the people who can take on the challenges of the world," Houston said.
Upland Hills School was founded in 1971 and includes in its mission statement the importance of respecting what makes every child unique. Set on 12 acres of wooded land, the school also encourages students to establish a relationship with nature.
As Houston explained, "What you get in a school like this, where art and hands-on learning is central to the education, is the ruby slippers."
Of course, even with the ruby slippers Dorothy would never have made it to the Emerald City without her friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. In "The Wizard of Us," these characters represent the ways people hold themselves back from achieving their goals.
While the Scarecrow wishes he only had a brain, as Houston noted, "Not one of us has not been put down, but the quality we think we lack is often our greatest potential."
The Tin Man is also important since his wish for a heart teaches the importance of love and compassion. Like the Tin Man needs Dorothy to oil his joints, Houston emphasized the need for community. "We oil each other, so we become unstuck and adventure together," she said.
She also described how the Cowardly Lion has to face his fears and insecurities and stand up for his friends to gain his courage. To Houston, courage is "stepping into your bigger story.
"Where do you limit yourself?" she asked. "What would you do if you knew you were enough?"
The message Houston wants readers to take away from "The Wizard of Us" is that we are all the heroes in our own stories and we can all make it to our own Emerald City.
"Your talents, your abilities, are always in you," she said. "It is not unique to the person, it is within all of us."
For more information, Upland Hills can be reached at (248) 693-2878 and at www.uplandhills.org. To learn more about Jean Houston or "The Wizard of Us," visit www.jeanhouston.com.