On Harry Potter

What Do Students Learn from Hogwarts Classes?

By Robin S. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

Although the world of Harry Potter is engrossing and inventive, the educational system at Hogwarts is filled with disturbing elements: Hogwarts promotes memorization and punishes experimentation, creativity, and critical thinking skills, creating alumni who are truly unprepared to handle calamities. Of course, not all students are unprepared (as I’ll explain in detail later); Harry Potter and some of his friends are notable exceptions.

Just what are Hogwarts’s educational goals? We can safely assume that its primary objective is to help students learn the basics of witchcraft and wizardry. Less clear is whether the school seeks to help students learn how to solve problems on their own. That is, even after they’ve mastered wizarding basics, can they properly recognize and define problems, ask relevant questions, obtain useful information, generate approaches to solving problems, and experiment with possible solutions (Bok)? Let’s examine what we know of the Hogwarts educational system and see how well it prepares its students for critical thinking and problem solving.

Lack of Curiosity

Neither students nor teachers appear to be curious about the sources of their magical powers–they take magic for granted. The six Harry Potter books are notable for the characters’ utter lack of wonder about why the magic they observe and learn works as it does. Consider the owls as a means of transporting messages: How do the owls know how to find a message’s recipient, when even the message sender does not know where the recipient is? No one in the books expresses curiosity about how this could  …

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