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:

Deloris Umbridge
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.

Educational Decrees
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?

Dumblebore’s Army
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.

Tags: Education, Educational Reform, Educational Technolog, Harry Potter, Hogwarts, Rafe Esquith

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You read my mind! I was especially found Umbridges teachin stlye a poignant reminder of our reality. I think part of the exchange with Hermione says something about not knowing what to do in the real world. It reminded me of the whole idea of "protecting" the students from the world wide web.....
So glad somebody else heard what I heard...
I often wonder if people who want to protect students from the world wide web also see the glass as half empty!
: - )
Britt
I just posted to my NewLearning Network on Alan November's article in techlearning.com on "Banning Student "Containers"".

This paragraph is so much like Hogwarts:
In school he has no access to these tools and is even taught they have nothing to do with learning. How can we say we are preparing our students for the future if we "ban" their most usable tools?

How are we ever going to motivate and include all learners by excluding their most valuable tools?
I think you are right - and I think that "learning by doing" is something that most people would agree with. But for some reason, as a society we accept the contradiction that although "school" works for relatively few people, it's still some sort of hazing ritual we all have to endure.

It's the contradiction that politicians know how to exploit when they call for higher standards, accountability, and more creativity in order to compete in the global marketplace in the same breath.
I have often made connections between the Harry Potter series and teaching practices because I first started reading the series as I was entering my education program. (Worst idea ever, by the way. I have never known two things to eat more of my life than HP and teaching.) I agree with your assessment of Umbridge. I think that before she arrived, the worst offender at Hogwarts was Snape. It has always bothered me how he has his students do all of their practical application of potions directly from their books. He never seems to offer instruction or advice, only criticism at the end of a lesson or in the case of his favorites, undeserved rewards.

The other professors at least seem to demonstrate the task and help students while they are practicing. I remember a good example of scaffolding in one of the earlier films in Flitwick's class. He demonstrated the spell for the students, had them all practice the movements and words together as a class, and then had them practice individually while he wandered around and helped students.
Yeah, I did a whole post on my blog before I spotted the thread here about this. I only point out the post because it has a link to the movie excerpt that many of you pointed out as relevant.
I saw the same parallels pointed out here when I read the book, but they were thrown into your face with the movie. Remember that kids read these books and that just like Harry and his cohort they can tell good from bad teaching. An example is Hagrid. Harry and friends know he isn't a great teacher; however, they recognize that he has his heart in the right place and loves what he does. As I read the book I knew I related to it on the same level as some of my students... "Snape is just like Mr. Smith: he's so unfair." or "McGonagall is just like my social studies teacher Ms. Jones; strict but I learn lots."
Interesting ideas. I have not seen the movie yet, was working on the new book. But now that I have read this post, I am excited to watch the movie through this lens.

I was also interested in your comment about the Wizard of Oz. I think that your teacher might have been talking about how the book is a bit of an allegory about the Populist Movement. There are tons of perceived links to that time period, including the books original silver slippers and yellow brick (gold) road. If the movie was truly about the Cold War I would be surprised since the movie cam out in 1939. If you remember more about the details, movie & cold war I would love to hear them.
Interesting discussion. As a fan, I recognize that Harry and the rest of the students are living lives that are not connected to what the teachers are teaching them. For Harry, he must deal with many different things that school and books will not be able to teach him such as friendship, loyalty, dealing with loss and death and other such things. The life of these students goes beyond what is happening at the school and they only get small amounts of usable information from attending the classes which, I believe, is much like what is happening in many of our schools as we, educators, struggle bridge the gap. In the end, it is the relationships and development that become important much like how Harry and Dumbledore's evolves. Now, having read the last book, I see many more connections that can be made but I won't spoil it here for those who are still reading!
I disagree Kelly. It seemed like both Lupin and Moody (even though he is not really Moody) did make an effort to prepare them for "real-life" threats. Also, almost all the classes (including Snape's, but excluding Binns and Umbridge) feature lab/practice portion. Like the famous double-Potions class of Snapes has lecture/note taking, then a lab practice where they do the work. Flitwick and McGonagall have practice in their classes. Umbridge and Binns are the exception to this with nothing but, read and lecture. Notice when Umbridge keeps saying, "Put your wands away," the students are surprised and shocked at this. They are used to having hands-on practice doing magic in class. I think book 5 and the movie show the contrast between these two styles of teaching, and that makes the comment on brain-dead lecture style of teaching more obvious, more telling, and more on point. I thought that Fiernze's style was sort of Socratic, with a discussion, and questioning between the teacher and students.
Yes! These are the things I would have said if I could have remembered them. Great examples!
Okay. They did hands on work in their classes. I guess what I was focusing on and what I get from the books and movies is that all the knowledge in the world isn't going to bring you friendship and love. You're right, they did do the hands on work in the classes which, in some way, helped them in their various times of need. However, as Voldermort demonstrates, all the knowledge in the world won't help you the way that true friendship and love will. In the final analysis, it wasn't what HP learned in class that gets him through and, in the end, it's Voldermort's reliance on his knowledge that is his downfall. As for the classes, I'll accept your analysis, it's been awhile since I read book 5. I just finished 7 and the three don't go back to school. They've learned what they can. What's interesting is that when they think of the school, they reflect on the companionship, even with the teachers and not the great lessons.

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