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.
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.