Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Rereading Harry Potter

My commute each day is forty minutes to an hour long.  Most of the time, I fill the drive by listening to audiobooks through Audible.  As a single mother of a toddler, I don't have a lot of time to sit down with any book more complex than Goodnight Moon, but I appreciate still being able to consume good books by listening.

On my Goodreads account, I have a shelf for "three formats."  These are my absolute favorite books, the ones I have hard-copies for, e-books, and audiobooks.

One of my favorite three-format reads is Stephen King's Dark Tower Series, which I've read multiple times on paper and listened all the way through on Audible at least twice.  Others include the Feed trilogy by Mira Grant, City of Bones by Martha Wells, The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum, Stephen King's The Stand and the Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins.

Lately, though, my daughter has gained enough language comprehension to make me uncomfortable listening to Stephen King books in the car with her.  Because he is so successful, his books are generally performed by excellent readers, and even if Becks can't understand the plot yet, she can understand tone very well, and his books often use language I would rather she not hear at 15 months old.  There's time for her to learn the C-word when she is old enough to know why we never use it.

So, a compromise.  The Harry Potter books just came to Audible, so we've been reading those (interspersed with Discovery of Witches, which I may blog about another time, and an old favorite from childhood, The Thief of Always).  While I continue to enjoy these books- this post should not be taken as a criticism of the stories- this is my first time sitting down with them since I became a full-time teacher, and I have to say I am deeply concerned by the quality of education at Hogwarts.

(Disclaimer: Clearly, many of the details I critique below are there for entertainment purposes.  My rant is meant in a similar vein. The downside of audio books is that I end up overthinking them, which is why I stopped ever listening to medical thrillers.)

First off, Neville Longbottom clearly requires special education services.  He is a competent boy who we all know is ultimately very successful after he receives small-group, specialized instruction ("Dumbledore's Army"), but at my current place in Goblet of Fire, he is still terrified of most of his classes, frequently ridiculed by students and teachers alike for his failures, and even subjected to physical assault (usually in potions) due to his learning disability.

In fact, the entire Hogwarts school needs a serious overhaul for ADA and IDEA compliance.  How is someone with a physical disability going to navigate those moving staircases? Do they have adaptive quills for students with motor issues?

Moving on to the quality of the classes.  First off, there seems to be no qualification requirement for Hogwarts teachers.  Divination is taught by a woman widely regarded to be a fraud except for one (later two) genuine prophecies, care of magical creatures is mostly taught by a man with no teaching experience or instruction, and defense against the dark arts... seriously, don't get me started.  The teachers show blatant favoritism across the board, from academics to sports.

There are no classes for studying literature, math (except artihmancy, which is optional and seen as a "nerd" subject) or science.  This school pumps out wizards who can't function outside the exclusively wizarding world, which we were just reminded in Goblet is actually only one ally (Diagon) and one town; Hogsmeade is described as the only wizard-only town in the country.  Wizards aren't supposed to reveal themselves to muggles, but most of them don't understand muggle clothing and can't use muggle money or transportation.  Do they just stay in their houses all the time unless the go to platform 9 3/4 or Hogsmeade? No wonder they were all excited to gather for the Quiddich World Cup!

There are also no art or music electives- or, as far as I can tell, extracurricular ones.  The only after-school possibility is Quiddich, which admits only seven people (mostly boys) from the student body.

In fact, and this may be a genuine critique of the series, boys as a whole do more and are presented in a more positive light than girls.  Hermione is somewhat of an exception since she is very competent and goes on adventures with them, but even she's seen as a worry-wort who is often more concerned with the rules and getting in trouble than anything else.  She is also the only one whose physical appearance is frequently critiques.  Three boys and one girl enter the Tri-Wizard Tournament; I haven't reread that part yet, but as I recall, the girl is the only one who needs help to complete at least one of the challenges.  Among the adult men, there are powerful characters like Dumbledore, Lupin, Mad-Eye, Snape, Sirius, etc; the women have McGonagall, while most of the other female professors are either sidelined or described as batty and incompetent.

Mr. Weasley works; Mrs. Weasley stays home and worries.  The Weasley boys get up to fantastic adventures; Ginny, the only girl, is rescued, protected and eventually a love-interest.  James Potter earns notoriety as one of the marauders, while Lily's claim to fame is her eyes, being a bone of contention between James and Snape, and eventually dying to protect her son.

I could go on, but I won't, because I actually do like the series and I don't want to overthink this issue even more... just point it out.

Let's conclude with, I enjoy reading the books, but I think if Becks receives an invitation to Hogwarts, I might encourage one of the other wizarding schools instead.

1 comment:

  1. I actually thought we were only following the jock crowd in Harry Potter. Both Harry and Ron are jocks, they both play Quiddich, Ron has a Quiddich poster up in his room, they play Quiddich at the Burrow, most of Ron's family is jocks including Ginny, and they follow the Quiddich World Cup. They even make fun of some of the others, like the geek crowd. We see a little of the geek crowd with Hermione, always going to the library, studying with Victor Krum, taking extra classes. And in the movies she even works at the library. But I just thought we never see any of the other sides of Hogwarts. I assumed they were there we just didn't see them in the books because Harry does not interact with them. Like the Frog Choir in the third movie.

    This could also stem from the fact that I really like Harry Potter Crossover Fanfiction. I don't read HP Fanfiction that has the HP Characters because that changes things but I love HP Fanfiction that has characters from other series in the HP world. Most of these stories have the main characters also playing Quiddich just like Harry but some of them spread out and make the characters have other interests. Music, Journalism (which we sorta see some of with Colin Creevey), Math, Fashion, Potions, Research, even Art...(I read a fanfiction where there was a muggle-born painter who was trying to make their art move like the portraits)

    I also assumed that there were a lot more students in Hogwarts than the ones that Harry encounters. If you think about the fact that there are 5 boys in Harry's dorm and 5 girls in Hermione's, then each class has 10 students per house per year, 70 per house total. Then there are only 280 students in Hogwarts at any given time, 40 per year. This does match what the movies display but I always thought there were more. This would be a very small private school size here where I live. I mean, I graduated with 148 in my High School class from a private school. My sister graduated with 400 from a public school. With that comparison my private school did not offer all of the classes that my sisters public school did. Like photography, soccer, and economics. We had art and music but in limited quantities.

    Just some thoughts that I had when I read your post.

    Still it was very well thought out and made me re-evaluate some of my preconceptions. How do most of these Wizards live if they don't know how Muggle stuff works? I guess a lot of them work at the Ministry and other government facilities. And there can be lots of Wizard only places in the world. Hogsmeade is just the only one in Britain. We just don't know.

    I have been reading the new posts on Pottermore.com recently and it has been pretty interesting. It is almost taken some of the magical qualities away. They just released History of Magic in North America and it is kinda sad. Not that all of Harry Potter is happy but it was just different.

    But I sure hope you enjoy the rest of the series without too much overthinking. :)