Alright, so I am a Harry Potter fanatic. My classroom is littered with fake wands, flying Harry Potter quidditch figurines, and dozens of posters. As a result, I wasted no time in seeing the latest Harry Potter (The Order of the Phoenix). The funny thing was that I spent most of my time during the movie giggling to myself (much to the concern of my wife) about the parallels of the story and what I see going on with education today.
Several times throughout the movie I would take mental notes about the unbelievable coincidences with the state of education at Hogwarts and the state of education in our schools. The following are a few of the connections:
In the story, Hogwarts has named Deloris Umbridge as the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. This post is routinely vacated, as many of the teachers are killed, fired, or simply disappear. This year, however, Professor Umbridge has been appointed to the post by the Ministry of Magic (the magical governing body). Throughout the movie Umbridge is continually constricting creativity and poo-pooing kids’ ideas. In fact, in an early scene she passes out old, dusty text books and tells the class that they should put their wands (which I viewed as technology) away, as they will only be taking a theoretical approach to defending against the dark arts. Hermione exclaims, “You mean we won’t actually be DOING any magic?” To which Umbridge replies, “Oh no, we won’t be DOING anything. We will just be focusing on theory and the test. After all, that is what we are here for… the test!”
Alright, I think there are some connections here. Umbridge represents teaching in a vacuum without concern for the real outside world. She simply wants the students to read the book and take the test. She could simply care less about the real world application of her content. As she said, “We are not going to DO anything.” This hit me like a ton of dusty textbooks.
Eventually, Umbridge finds so much wrong with the teaching at Hogwarts that she is named the High Inquisitor for the Ministry of Magic. From there, she spends quite a bit of time criticizing teacher without offering much suggestion. In addition, for every criticism comes a decree (which is literally nailed to the wall) that forbids this or limits that. By the end of the movie, there are so many decrees that there is hardly any room left for nails.
As far as the connections go here, I am not too familiar with education policy, but perhaps others could help me out?
By far, the most inspiring part of the movie in terms of connection to education was the formation of Dumbledore’s Army (or DA). DA was formed by the students as a result of Umbridge’s failure to incorporate “doings” into her class. Harry and his friends decided to take matters into their own hands and began practicing defense against the dark arts. However, this time the students were actually doing instead of sitting. In fact, the students were voluntarily showing up after school in order to practice and teach each other about defending against the dark arts. This part of the movie had several scenes that showed Hogwart’s students engaged in learning due to the fact that THEY WERE INTERESTED.
As I said, I loved this part of the movie. It reminded me of how kids respond when you let them take charge of their own learning. In addition, it brought back ideas from Rafe Esquith’s book There Are No Shortcuts, in which he repeatedly says that kids will stay before and after school to learn as long as they believe that the content and ideas are meaningful and have a real world connection.
The Weasley Twins
Harry’s best friend, Ron had older twin brothers. These characters spend a lot of their time developing gag spells and magical ways to get out of class. After Umbridge’s final decree, the twins have had it. They decide for themselves that they are going to leave school and venture out into the business world on their own. These two will undoubtedly be successful, as they have already spend a large amount of time on RD for various kid friendly spells and candy.
I think that the Weasley twins represent the kids that teachers haven’t connected with. Perhaps these are the kids who drop out of school early. Some may go on to be very successful due to the talents they have that their teachers didn’t appreciate or value. Once again, I think there are more connections here, but am not sure what they are.
Alright, if you have seen the movie or read the book is this too far of a stretch? Like I said before, I often snickered to myself because of all the connections I noticed. I wanted to put this post on a discussion board instead of my blog in order to gather more connections from the movie.
My high school history teacher once explained to us that The Wizard of Oz was somehow a satire of the Cold War, with certain characters representing certain countries. Although, there may not be as many connections in Harry Potter, I am interested in others’ thoughts.