Eight reasons why Georgia schools should be modeled after Hogwarts

Local parent and teacher Jennifer Wirth shares eight reasons why schools should be modeled after Harry Potter’s alma mater, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

By Jennifer Wirth

I love the Harry Potter series and I shamelessly re-read all seven books every year. I believe I have figured out why I love them so much: because (as a public educator) I would love to teach there and send my children there.

After realizing this, I set about to compile a list of reasons why I believe all schools in America should be modeled after J.K. Rowling’s famous (but sadly, fictional) school.

1. No government interference: Hello! Did anyone read “The Order of the Phoenix”?  Did you see what happened when a government official with no knowledge of education (Dolores Umbridge) started evaluating other teachers? Did you see the effects of government involvement?  Morale plummeted, students rebelled, teachers had shouting matches, and rates of alcoholism increased. The Ministry of Magic decided to start setting arbitrary standards and rules and the results were disastrous. Educational laws, reform, procedures, curriculum, and evaluation methods need to be designed by people who have worked in education. Methods for determining teacher effectiveness should never be based on student performance (if that were true, Umbridge would have had to fire herself). Pay for performance (a.k.a. how well students perform on standardized tests) is the WORST idea to hit the educational system in our nation’s history.

Is this what school should look like -- at least in spirit?

Is this what school should look like — at least in spirit?

2. No standardized testing: Aside from their O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s, Hogwarts students were not forced to sit through endless (and ineffective) testing. The teachers did not have to rush through a curriculum that covered far too much information just to ensure students could regurgitate worthless surface knowledge facts on a test that also is too broad. Standardized testing begins with our youngest students and follows them throughout their entire school career. They sit through multiple tests a semester just so that we can evaluate “data” that supposedly tells us how much they have learned. Can you blame them if they stop caring about these tests? The Hogwarts teachers had freedom to design their own curriculum and set their own exams. I do not think educational standards are a bad thing, but they should only provide a framework that gives teachers room to use their instinct and creativity to teach what they believe will benefit their students the most. Most educators are passionate about what they teach and will make good decisions for their students. We really DO NOT need help from the government.

3. Effective discipline: The Hogwarts teachers were actually allowed to hand out punishments that were effective without fear of retribution from litigious parents and special interest groups. For example: would you break the rules if you were made to polish all the school’s trophies or scrub out bedpans?

4. Uniforms: My students were always outraged when I told them I support school uniforms. Not only would discipline problems decrease (any high school teacher knows that every day involves a battle over dress code), but I believe it would also set higher standards. Students would realize that we expect more of them, and I think uniforms would be one way to help them rise to meet those expectations. You cannot enter the workforce and expect to wear whatever your mood or creative nature inspires you to wear that day. Some standard of dress is required in the professional arena. If we want our students to take their education seriously then we must make it a serious. Anyone who has read the Harry Potter books cannot deny that the students had copious amounts of fun at school. Their uniforms clearly did not detract from their educational experience.

5. Good food: Mrs. Obama, I applaud your efforts to help our students become healthier through your Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, but the resulting food is often tasteless and unappetizing. My students would frequently skip the provided meals and eat a lunch that consisted of Spicy Fritos, a Honeybun, and a diet soda from the vending machines. The students of Hogwarts were provided with tasty, balanced meals and thus did not have to consist solely on sweets from Honeydukes. I know I would hate to go to a school where the food was terrible. The chicken fingers we had at my high school were not healthy, but at least I did not starve the rest of the day because they were too gross to choke down.

6. The students were allowed to go outside: Hogwarts students not only had classes outside (I think we need more agricultural classes, by the way), but were encouraged to go outside on their breaks. Recess is a good and beneficial thing, especially for our youngest students.

7. A good custodial staff: Now, I support Hermione in her efforts to promote S.P.E.W., but the bottom line is the house elves of Hogwarts took pride in their jobs. They wanted to serve by keeping the school clean for the teachers and students, and I believe that helped keep morale high. More schools are contracting custodial services to companies outside of the school district and the results are often appalling. Schools are getting filthier because these companies are only in it for the profit and take no pride in the school and its reputation. The floor at my last job was disgusting for the entire year in spite of repeated requests that it be cleaned. I still remember the names of the custodians at my elementary school and I even said hello to them in the halls.  Our school was never dirty.

8. Starting school at an older age: Students at Hogwarts did not start until 11, and I believe this helped them to be prepared and eager to start school. When students start school as an older child, they are mature enough to handle the responsibility of being full-time students. Five-year-olds are barely old enough to use the bathroom by themselves in public places, so why should we require them to sit inside for hours on end learning information their parents could teach them? Students in Finland do not start until age 7 and I think that is a much better idea.

So there is my reasoning for why I wish I could send my children to Hogwarts and why I wish I could teach there. I am a public educator with a master’s degree and, unless things change dramatically, I will either be homeschooling my children or sending them to private school.

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Reader Comments 0

24 comments
class80olddog
class80olddog

Time for a new topic.  How about school starting at the beginning of August?  How many school children are absent between now and the day after Labor Day? 

LarryMajor
LarryMajor

I'm not sure the public is prepared to hear Sloan Roach address the problem of mountain trolls in the girls' restroom.


Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Anyone who is familiar with the characters care to tell us their characteristics? How well do they match our average students in public school?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@Wascatlady 

Hogwarts students are all wizards or witches, there to take training classes in magic which they practice performing in the classrooms.  The faculty are senior experienced wizards and witches, who don't hesitate to demonstrate what they know. There aren't any classroom management problems.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

A very funny post.   Lots of clever analogies - some good, but most ignore the complexities of public education.  Remember, Hogwarts was NOT a public school and thus had more flexibility to do what was best.   It was invite-only, remember?


I applaud Ms. Wirth for a noble attempt at trying to use the most incredible children's book series to identify shortcomings of our public education system.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@living-in-outdated-ed 

British "public schools" aren't at all the same as ours, but are fee-paying private boarding schools, non-profit, that are "public" only because they accept students from all classes of society.

class80olddog
class80olddog

" Investigators find ‘rotten’ DeKalb government"

I am SHOCKED, shocked, I tell you!  Next step is a forensic audit of the DeKalb County School System.

Mandella88
Mandella88

@class80olddog

Looks like members of the (now defunct) DeKalb Schools Watch II mafia are still floating around!

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

Interestingly, Hogwarts is based upon the British system (and mores) of the British "public school," as seen by a Scottish author who subtly satirizes the British as well as their educational system.  So Hogwarts is portrayed as class-ridden (valuing most the students from the "old wizarding families"), and rigidly hierarchical ("sorting" its new students upon arrival  into the Houses to which they will belong). And as "nothingpersonal" notes here, the Hogwarts students are primarily white, although there are implied racial implications in Rowland's subplot of the "Mudbloods" who are a mix of non-wizards, or "Muggles," and "wizards." The Muggles seem treated very much the way the British treated their non-white colonial citizens....The series has many levels of allusion, including the parallel of Voldemort to Hitler and the rise of Naziism.


I'm not so sure that our own schools really should be modeled on Hogwarts...

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

A shame that our typical public school can't get similar results.  Then, all this "help" wouldn't have come about.  


Hopefully once the true educators (not the hide bound eduacracy) embraces charters as a vehicle that can enable smaller, focused and effective schools suited to a specific set of students, we'll begin to see effective learning again.


Until then...1) MORE MONEY, and 2) STAY THE HECK OUT!


Yeah, thats working so well....

ATLPeach
ATLPeach

I couldn't agree more on every point. All of these reasons are why I choose to send my child to private school. We have lost our way on public education. Number 7 is one that really gets under my skin. Not only is my class not cleaned properly, we also have a problem with stealing.

bu2
bu2

@ATLPeach 

I was really pretty shocked how poorly maintained the schools in Atlanta and DeKalb were when we moved here.


There have been lots of studies that the environment in workplaces impacts productivity.  Badly maintained schools can't be an inducement to good learning.

Antagonist
Antagonist

Perhaps when public schools become more concerned about the students again they will improve. There is much in this article that could be lessons for school improvement. 

jaggar1
jaggar1

@Antagonist Public school teachers are concerned. The whole point is that their hands are tied due to the government overreach! Teachers have NO say in anything that happens in their classrooms. They are told what to teach, when to teach it, what homework to send home, and are not allowed to deviate.

nothingpersonal
nothingpersonal

Hogwarts is like Decatur, mostly WHITE kids.  We get it.

class80olddog
class80olddog

3. Effective discipline"

Why would you ever need effective discipline in a school?  We are doing just fine with our current system of ISS. (NOT!)

BurtDawg
BurtDawg

I agree 100% with each point!  I spent 27 years in technology sales to K-12 and I have seen education only  getting less productive. Home Schooling is the best alternative, but is limited to special parents with a ed background. Private schools also work, but again is limited to a select income level. The middle class and lower class students are left to themselves and many just give up. The rest of the world is blowing us away in edcucation and will eventually curtail our economy.

Homeschoolbeliver
Homeschoolbeliver

@BurtDawg  We home schooled our children(my wife primarily who only had a high school education) and they have all been very successful. All our grand children who are old enough(all home schooled) are presently in college or have graduated from college with high grade points a couple 4 plus. So yes I agree that home school is the way to go but it does not require the highly educated to do it although that could be helpful.

class80olddog
class80olddog

" I am a public educator with a master’s degree and, unless things change dramatically, I will either be homeschooling my children or sending them to private school."

There you have a great commentary on the state of education today.  This is why charters and vouchers have seen so much support.  The existing status quo not only fights any improvement, but they also try to make things worse (APUSH changes before the last capitulation).  PC rules the schools.

Signed In
Signed In

The book series is fiction, about a school that actually gets the job done. Apparently to the complete satisfaction of parents and taxpayers. Ergo, there's far less call for accountability and choice.

There's nothing magic about that.