[Show music begins]
Eric Scull: This is Episode 216 of Alohomora! for March 19, 2017.
[Show music continues]
Eric: Hello everybody, and welcome to another episode of Alohomora! I am Eric Scull.
Alison Siggard: I’m Alison Siggard.
Haley Lewis: I’m Haley Lewis, and today we have a guest with us. Carla, do you want to introduce yourself?
Carla Kypke: Sure. Hi, I’m Carla. I’m HagridsDrinkingProblem on the forums.
[Alison, Eric, and Haley laugh]
Carla: First book listener. [laughs] I’m a proud Hufflepuff.
Carla: Yeah. I actually share a birthday with Professor Sprout, so I’m…
Haley: Oh, that’s nice.
Eric: That’s really cool! [laughs] I’m sort of jealous. I’m sort of jealous of your Hufflepuff-ness right now.
Carla: I know. I’m from three places – getting that out of the way. I was born in Berlin, I was raised in Ontario, and now I live in Munich.
Carla: Yeah. Harry Potter… I don’t know how that all happened, but I remember I read it with my mom when I was a kid, and then at some point, it turned out that all my hardcover books were missing pages and didn’t have their covers anymore because I’d read them so often. I have no idea what happened in between. It just spiraled out of control.
Carla: That’s my Harry Potter story, yeah.
[Carla and Eric laugh]
Eric: Did you do any of those cool craft projects with those pages of the remaining books that you see around, like on Etsy and stuff?
Carla: No, I just taped them back on, but that’s a good idea.
[Carla and Eric laugh]
Eric: I was like, “If you have to replace the books, [you] might as well make use of the remaining pages of the other ones.” Anyway, little ideas – a little hat, maybe?
Carla: At some point, they’re not going to last my whole life. It’s a very bad taping job I did.
Carla: So that’s probably going to happen at one point. [laughs]
Eric: Well, there you go. We share ideas, is what we do. Actually, speaking of the sharing of knowledge and ideas, today our main topic on Alohomora! is going to be magical education in the wizarding world. Ooh, aah.
Eric: This is a great topic [that] we’re looking very forward to discussing. I know [by] myself, it’s a main topic. As soon as I saw this was in the pipeline, [I] had to say yes, had to be on, and [I’m] thrilled to have you ladies here to talk about it.
Alison: But before we jump into that, we want to remind you about our Patreon. And we want to let you know that this episode is sponsored by Ali F., who has been a loyal sponsor for us on Patreon for several months. So thank you, thank you, thank you, Ali!
Eric: [claps] Thank you, Ali!
Alison: Woo! Claps. And listeners, you can become a sponsor for as little as $1 a month. We do continue to release exclusive little tidbits. I know the Let’s Plays are getting into gear. Kat and I are going to go hike Mount Greylock, hopefully in a week or so, so we’ll probably have some fun stuff with that. So we’ve got lots of cool stuff that we want to share with you to thank you for being a sponsor.
Eric: Love it. Love it, love it, love it. You guys have to do a documentary called Finding Ilvermorny…
Eric: … and just selfie yourself climbing up Mount Greylock.
Alison: Make it legit.
Eric: Yeah! Yeah, why not, while you’re there? That sounds like a really, really cool pastime. So getting into our topic of magical education, we each have focus points: where we’re coming from, what we’re looking forward to discussing out of this topic. I’ll go first. My big focus here is going to be on the education system that the wizarding world has following your traditional seven years of Hogwarts education. I’m really curious about examples of wizards and learning outside of Hogwarts because there seems to be – at least in my opinion – a disconnect between real, hardcore, “adulting” jobs. How do you become Minister [of] Magic, and can you with only seven years of magical education? So I’m interested in that gray area, in-between period, because – [as] far as we’re aware – there aren’t any wizard colleges… at least so far. So we’ll talk about that.
Alison: Yeah, because I am a teacher… [laughs]
Alison: … I want to look at good teachers versus bad teachers in the book and what makes someone a good teacher, according to these books, and what makes them a bad teacher. And also, [I want to look] at the curriculum that gets covered and not covered…
[Alison and Eric laugh]
Alison: … and how old it is and all of that jazz.
Haley: Well, what I wanted to talk about was the equivalency of Hogwarts education to qualifications in the Muggle world or our world. How I see it is [that] the OWLs are a high school equivalent of a degree, while the NEWTs seem to be more of the college that they have – sort of a bachelor’s or even an associate degree since it’s only two years. Because it seems like those are the only two qualifications that we hear about in the books.
Eric: Right. Most wizards become productive members of society, with jobs, with their OWLs and NEWTs. With either only their OWLs, like Fred and George – which we’ll talk about – or with their NEWTs, and then that’s it; there’s no schooling. So I like the idea that that fills in the gap if the OWL is like a high school [diploma] and the NEWT is like [a college degree]. That actually makes a lot more sense in terms of how the world is set up for education.
Alison: But we also have to think of it in context of the British education system.
Eric: Yes. That we do. Yeah. So we’ll talk about how that works. Carla, what’s your focus here?
Carla: Just in general, I agree with Alison. The curriculum, I marvel at it – or the lack thereof…
Carla: In general, there’s no structure to the educational system in the wizarding world, so I’m looking forward to looking into how that even works when there’s no structure. And then I’m going to focus on something that I studied for my thesis in educational science: trust between professors and students and how that works and how that affects the teachers and their teaching style and the learning and motivation and all of that.
Eric: Interesting. Yeah, definitely. I read that you had this project, and I thought it would be a great fit for this episode. So I’m looking really forward…
Carla: Yeah, I’m really glad I get to talk about it because it is fascinating.
Eric: Well, cool. So we have this down to some solid bullet points here, but I’d like to begin by talking about the curriculum. Because I actually went through, recently, the HP Lexicon, and they break down different classes, by class, what the curriculum was for that year or what the students studied for that year. And before I get too deep into it, I really want to ask to follow up: Alison [and] Carla, what were you saying about there being no structure to education? Carla, having been brought up with the British education system schooling and Alison – your familiarity with it – what does that mean that there’s no structure? How is it similar and how is it not in Hogwarts with how they do things in Britain, and what do you know about it?
Carla: So, yeah. Since the words “no structure” came from me, I figured I’d just expand on what I mean. It’s basically that there’s no… The exams seem to be very flexible, as [to] whether they happen or not. There’s no set curriculum that the teachers have to follow. They basically assign books and teach based on that, but every teacher can really change it on [their] own. And most of the stuff that we see is… There’s no real teacher that has to go through any kind of training to become a teacher in this world. It’s just very, very haphazardly thrown together when you look at it that way, which is what I meant with “no structure.” There is more structure in England, in Great Britain…
Eric: [laughs] I would hope so.
Carla: So the only similarity that I can think of off the top of my head there is that there’s no curriculum that they have to follow, but there is a curriculum that is recommended and that most do follow. But maybe, Alison, you have more info on that? [laughs]
Alison: Yeah, I wouldn’t say I’m an expert [laughs] on the British education system at all whatsoever. We need Rosie for that. [laughs] But I do know it’s broken up a little bit differently than we do in the US. Haley mentioned OWLs and NEWTs, and I think those more align to GCSEs and A Levels, which are the big tests that UK students take at the end of the equivalent of American high school.
Eric: So it’s [like] secondary education?
Alison: Yeah. And that determines in a lot of ways where you can get into [a] university and what programs you can get into in [a] university.
Eric: So college placement exams, in a way?
Alison: A bit, yeah. Except for…
Eric: Or college prep, in a way?
Haley: Like an SAT?
Alison: A little bit, as far as I’m aware. Like I said, I’m not an expert. I just know a little bit.
Carla: I think it’s similar to the German system because the German system also has this double degree thing where after Grade 4 you’re split into three different tiers, basically, based on your grades, based on your motivation, based on your…
Carla: Yeah, it’s ridiculous. [laughs] But that’s a whole other story. And so basically everyone who has great grades and seems to be going toward [a] university – because you can tell that in Grade 4…
[Alison and Haley laugh]
Carla: … goes to do their Abitur, which is a full 12 years. Then there’s the next one, Mittlere Reife, which is 10 years, and then there’s Hauptschule, [which] is also 9 or 10 years, but very hands-on. And at the end of each tier… I guess if you go to Hauptschule, at the end of your 9 or 10 years, you have a degree, so to speak, like you’ve finished school. But it doesn’t qualify you for [a] university. [It’s] the same with Realschule. It qualifies you for not [a] university but for a couple more internships. And then Abitur is the highest one, [which] qualifies you for [a] university. And I don’t know if you can draw parallels between GCSEs and not being qualification for [a] university, but for being able to start an apprenticeship or some ongoing learning thing.
Haley: Yeah, I feel like here in America you can get a GED for an equivalent of a high school degree, but most colleges will still take GEDs here. It doesn’t matter. As long as you write a good essay and you’ve had reasonably okay grades, you can still get in.
Eric: You said they do that, Carla, after Year 4? After fourth grade?
Carla: Yeah, fourth grade. So [in] fifth grade, you go to a new school, and you’re either going toward sort of a very hands-on apprenticeship toward… I don’t even know how to explain the difference. It’s basically like the lower [grade] is more of you going toward an apprenticeship to become a cook or to become a…
Alison: Like vocational?
Carla: Vocational, yeah. That’s the word. Thank you. And then the next one, for example, if you want to be a banker or if you want to be an insurance salesman, you do an apprenticeship here. You don’t go to study that; you don’t go to [a] university. You do an internship/apprenticeship thing, and then you’d need the next level to do that, basically, and then… yeah.
Eric: Well, sometimes I think Germany Sorts too soon.
[Alison and Haley laugh]
Carla: Oh yeah. That comparison… I don’t know how often I made that. Seriously. Yep.
[Carla and Eric laugh]
Eric: I mean, thinking about even in America, I don’t have a perspective of the British way of doing things, but we were able to get to vocational/technical classes starting in ninth grade. So that was quite a ways later. But yeah, everything, as far as that goes, seemed to be decided roughly at the start of high school in ninth grade for my school system – in terms of if you’re looking to do college placement. Because actually, you mentioned breaking off into three… But yeah, each of the classes that we could take, like math-wise and for subject matter – science as well – had sort of the three levels. There was honors at the top, what they called “college prep” for middle – which was good enough to get you into college – and then there was career level, which I guess is probably a misnomer. It’s not to have a career in the topic, but it’s more like if you’re not doing this as a focus, this is a class that says you took it, you understand it, but it’s not going to have the same workload that the higher classes are expected to have. So it’s actually interesting. And still, there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent in Harry Potter. Looking into… Part of this, though, to be honest and thinking about the curriculum for a few moments here, we don’t really have a lot of Year 7 info. Because not only are Harry, Ron, and Hermione, our portals into the world, not present at Hogwarts in Year 7, but the students [who] are, are not getting – from my understanding – the traditional training because Voldemort is taking over. So…
Alison: They might have changed some things.
Eric: Yeah, exactly. So when Defense Against the Dark Arts… I was looking up what they were teaching in Year 7. Well, the class is gone. It’s actually Dark Arts, and they’re doing Cruciatus Curses on each other, so it’s a little bit hard to track. But I think I recall McGonagall mentioning to Harry – at the beginning of Year 6, wasn’t it? – that there are NEWT preparation classes for Potions – or Slughorn’s class. So there’s a situation where if you do well on your OWLs, in Year 6, you’re able to take the higher-level classes toward the NEWTs. So the Potions class Harry and Ron attend is actually not honors, but of a higher tier.
Haley: Almost an AP class, like Advanced Placement.
Eric: Yeah, versus… So other students are probably not… If they’re getting Potions in Year 6, they’re not taking that same level of class.
Haley: I wonder what happens if you just get Acceptables or Dreadfuls on all of your exams.
Eric: Lots of study hall.
Haley: [laughs] Do you have any classes?
Eric: Lots of study hall time, clearly. [laughs]
Alison: Well, we know they have remedial classes, right? Because that’s what they say that Harry is taking when he’s doing Occlumency, right?
Haley: Remedial Potions, yeah.
Alison: They say he’s got remedial Potions. So I would assume that if you failed all of your OWLs, they would put you in all of these remedial classes or something to make sure you’re a competent enough wizard, I guess, to get through in the world. But then maybe they have career placement or apprenticeships or something.
Carla: Do they make you repeat a year, maybe? I mean, we didn’t see it happen, but if you don’t pass…?
Haley: Because they used to say that almost… They’re like, “Even Goyle passed the tests!” every year.
Eric: [laughs] Well, actually, Marcus Flint, I think it was, repeated a year. But that was actually due to a math error with J.K. Rowling because I think…
Haley: She’s not good at math. [laughs]
Eric: … she forgot what year he was in, so he was actually at Hogwarts a year longer than he should have been. I think he might be mentioned in Order or Half-Blood after he should have graduated, but…
Haley: That’s funny.
Eric: That’s probably the only precedent for a student repeating. Gosh, I just thought of remedial Potions.
Alison: Well, doesn’t someone ask? Oh, gosh, it’s at the beginning of Order or something – or at the beginning of Half-Blood when they’re getting their results – and someone says, “Well, what happens if you fail?” And Hermione tells them and you talk to your Head of House about your options, and then you go from there.
Haley: Because she asked Professor McGonagall because she was worried for some reason.
[Alison, Eric, and Haley laugh]
Alison: Because she’s Hermione and she does that.
Eric: Yeah. Actually, that’s an interesting point. Speaking with your Head of House, having a conversation like “Have a biscuit, Potter” with McGonagall about future placement, seems to be a big part of what you can rely on if you’re not the best student. And that actually – because Harry gets by and we only see that kind of a conversation happen once or maybe twice with him – we don’t realize fully the scope of how often at Hogwarts that must be happening. All other students must be quite often having conversations with their Head of House, who’s sort of like a guidance counselor, on getting them into their future professions. I guess, really, that’s just sort of omitted from Harry Potter, but it’s totally there because it’s been mentioned.
Haley: And that even feels more of… Like I was saying, I just have an American education, and I’m in college right now, and I never had a guidance counselor discussion in high school, but now I’m required…
Alison: You didn’t?
Haley: No. I mean, no, I didn’t. I never went to them.
Alison: Oh, I did.
Haley: But now in college we’re required to go meet with them ever[y] so often.
Alison: Oh, see, I feel like I was switched. In high school, we had to meet with counselors every so often, at least at the beginning of every year or so.
Alison: In college, you just went to the advisement center for whatever program you were in when you wanted to switch your major or make sure you were on track or you were about to graduate. [laughs]
Eric: Same. Yeah, that’s the same with me. We had an entire class that was for a quarter of the year called Career Explorations, and we had it two out of the four years of high school. And guidance counselors very heavily pressured us to submit applications and do this-that. Then when I got to college, though, it was all self-motivated. If you had questions about credits, transferring, if you want to do a double major or switch a major, that’s when you go to the advisement center. But we didn’t have any… because at that point, you’re an adult. You’re managing it yourself. But high school was very much handheld guidance.
Carla: I remember I was in tenth grade – at the end of tenth grade – and I was called to the guidance counselor’s office, and she told me to start looking into scholarships to apply for a university. Well, I’m in tenth grade.
[Carla and Eric laugh]
Eric: Thinking about money for college.
Carla: But yeah, it’s very interesting because it’s very different in Germany. Because I went to high school in Canada, so I got the full handheld experience. And in college a little bit too. My brother went to college in Canada, and it’s also very… They help you out your first year, and here it’s the exact opposite. You’re swimming on your own. And it makes me wonder, I don’t know if anyone knows what it’s like in England? If they have the…? Do they…? Because I don’t know what it’s like for… I was only there for a year in Grade 3, so I wouldn’t know how much of a guidance counselor relationship sort of position they have in their schools or universities.
Alison: Yeah, I’m not sure about that, actually.
Eric: Something I just thought of, too, and this is not in the document. I want to get into very quickly the year-by-year curriculum. But thinking about how the school is run, there’s a board of governors, which I believe is probably similar to a British boarding school. Couldn’t speak for them, but I’m guessing. And the board of governors is able to oversee/remove Headmaster Albus Dumbledore in Year 2. They have some function, and I imagine one of those functions is to set a curriculum or agree or adjust upon what these students are being taught. Doesn’t that seem like something a board of governors would do? Or do you think it’s more just handling finances and making sure Hogwarts stays afloat money-wise?
Alison: Well, I guess they always sounded to me a little bit like a school board, like a district school board to some extent, like the equivalent of that, that we have in the US. So I mean, I guess they might set some of it?
Haley: I think it’s more like “You have to teach these classes; do what you want with them.”
Alison: Yeah, because the US notion of having standardized curriculum is relatively new. It used to just be [that] each school decided on what they were teaching, especially way back in the day. Which makes a lot of sense for a wizarding school, I feel like, since they always seem to be several decades behind. And I believe it was that same way in the UK – back a few hundred years ago or whatever – which would make sense for Hogwarts to be behind in that teachers pick their own curriculum. And maybe it’s just these established classes and subject areas that they decided, “These are important for wizards to know” or “These are different things that can be important for different fields.” Because they pick for their third year, right? They all take the same classes [in] first and second year, and then starting [in] third year, they can pick electives. Which is the same in the British system now. I mean, they do a couple years doing everything, and as they move toward their GCSEs, they decide which ones they’re going to take tests in. So I mean, they all take the core subjects, but then you have four or five other subjects that you get to pick what you want to study, so things like languages, different kinds of sciences, history, technology, whatever. So that seems similar there, for that system.
Carla: I would hope the board of governors don’t set the curriculum because then they really failed in Defense Against the Dark Arts in Chamber of Secrets. [laughs]
Haley: Oh yeah. [laughs]
Carla: I mean, they chose bad.
Eric: Well, how much of that was the curriculum and how much of that was Gilderoy Lockhart appointed by Dumbledore to basically be a useless teacher?
Haley: I think we need to blame Dumbledore for a lot of things.
[Alison and Haley laugh]
Carla: That’s what I mean. I mean…
Alison: From Defense Against the Dark Arts, it sounds like it’s the teacher [who] gets to decide. Because we know in fourth year, the Weasley twins, who are fifth years, come up and talk to them about how Mad-Eye Moody has seen it all and he knows all this stuff about Dark curses, and then the fourth years get pretty much that same lesson. So I have a feeling that the teachers just establish what they want, and it’s not necessarily, like, fifth years get taught about – I don’t know – curses, and third years get taught about Dark creatures. It probably should be that way, but I guess they just got lucky that they had teachers [who] were varied. [laughs]
Carla: I mean, Defense Against the Dark Arts is just an unfortunate example, maybe. Because it is like that in Charms and Transfiguration, if I’m not mistaken, because there the books are Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, right? There is…
Eric: From buttons to Desk!Pig.
[Alison and Carla laugh]
Eric: There’s a very clear progression of skills. Before we get on to that specifically, I do want to talk about… You mentioned Dark Arts. I’m glad we talked about that because I think [in] the school as a whole, the governors surely must control some modicum of how much of a certain subject is taught because Durmstrang has a reputation – right? – for being more into the Dark Arts. How is that measured, if not by a governing body that says…? Maybe there’s Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts; maybe Durmstrang has two or three other subjects that also deal with Dark Arts as an entire subject with a different professor teaching it. What if that’s why Durmstrang has its reputation? Because the board of governors at Hogwarts have been like, “Well, this is sufficient. Just Defense Against the Dark Arts is sufficient enough. We don’t need to go into what else is out there in any other real way.”
Haley: That makes sense. It would be the directors telling them they can have more of the subject.
Eric: Yeah. “You can have more Dark Arts. We like it.”
Haley: Might be fun.
Carla: [laughs] “There’s nothing in society that says that’s bad. It’s okay. Let’s do that.” [laughs]
Haley: “We might have had Grindelwald come from this school, but it’s okay. It won’t happen again.”
Carla: “Hey! He was stopped in the end, right?”
Eric: “Didn’t you wonder where Grindelwald learned it all?”
[Alison, Carla, and Haley laugh]
Alison and Eric: “Learned what?”
[Alison, Carla, and Eric laugh]
Alison: “Who’s that? What?”
[Alison, Carla, and Haley laugh]
Eric: Let’s talk about this. So I’m going to… So I wrote this… Again, thanks to the HP Lexicon for this information.
Carla: It’s incredible.
Eric: Anytime their homework assignments were mentioned – what Harry, Ron, and Hermione were working on – or if any other random character comes in and says, “This is what we did in class today,” they captured it. So this is by no means a 100% flawless list – because I compiled it in the way that we’re going to discuss it – but it’s a general picture of the educational progression through Hogwarts. So let’s start with Charms because there seems to be a pretty clear path there. Charms begins in Year 1 with levitation. Of course, [the Levitation Charm] comes into very, very much use when defending against trolls. In Year 2, we just don’t hear about it, but by Year 3, the class is working on Cheering Charms. I think the purpose of a Cheering Charm is to make you happy.
Alison: Yes. Because someone overdoes it and…
Carla: And they’re giddy.
Alison: … they are in hysterics or something.
Haley: It [contrasts with] the Dementors that year.
Eric: Oh, that’s right. That’s actually a good example of…
Alison: Oh, look at Flitwick being such a good teacher! Aww!
Eric: But that’s a great example of the teacher…
Haley: I think they actually mention that.
Alison: Oh, I love Flitwick.
Eric: Yeah, of the professor tailoring the class to the events of the year.
Alison: Yeah. Well, someone says at one point too… I think it’s in fifth year. They’re like, “Flitwick will be fine. He gets everyone through their exams fine.” So it always seems to me that Flitwick has a nice, steady building curriculum and he knows what each of his students need[s]. Flitwick is such a good teacher.
Carla: Flitwick is so underrated.
[Alison, Eric, and Haley laugh]
Carla: I mean, in Year 5 with the swamp – Fred and George’s swamp that he leaves there…
Eric: Oh, gosh.
Carla: It’s his shining moment.
Eric: We have a segment on teachers. I didn’t even put him in. I feel awful now.
Eric: Later for this, we got to put him in.
Carla: Don’t know if we have…
Eric: We’re adding it. But so from basically the moving of an inanimate object in Year 1 – levitation is flying; that’s fun – to Cheering Charms, which can affect a person’s mood, that would seem to be more involved. And then in Year 4 of Charms, we get to Summoning and Banishing, so you get [the Summoning Charm], which is pretty cool. And that works a little bit like… That’s a more intense [Levitation Charm] because something is flying to you. But you’re able to identify it, call it out by name, and then the laws of the universe react to cause what you are Summoning. Harry’s broom, even by example from so far away, is immediately jettisoned toward that person.
Alison: Well, it’s not just floating, right? Levitation is just floating there. The whole reason the thing with the troll works is because they drop it, right? But Summoning is more pointed; it’s coming to you or you’re putting it in a certain place. They practice Banishing things to a certain spot, so it’s more directed, and so I think it would take more focus and nuance. Instead of just floating randomly, there’s a direction it’s going.
Haley: Do they actually learn [the Summoning Charm] in fourth year? Because I know that Harry learns it because he’s studying for the [Triwizard] Tournament.
Alison: I think they do, but I think Harry is struggling with it, and that’s why he and Hermione spend so long practicing it. Because he’s like, “Oh crap, oh crap, I actually have to get this.”
Eric: And he’s using it for the Triwizard [Tournament first] task.
Carla: So that’s why he’s… self-studies, yeah. Okay.
Eric: But actually, Summoning Charms are in the OWL as well in Year 5. So there’s very clearly… It’ll take you more than a year to master the nuance and be able to impress your Griselda Marchbanks instructor.
Carla: I feel like [with the Summoning Charm], there’s probably a lot of… What makes a difference in your grade with [the Summoning and Banishing Charms] is how fast and how smooth you make it come to you and send it away. You don’t want it whizzing at you or flying into the basket and knocking it over.
Eric: Doesn’t Harry try [to] Summon Hagrid at one point? I think it’s in battle, but he’s like, “Accio Hagrid!”
Alison: Oh yeah, [in] the “Seven Potters” [chapter].
Eric: It’s not clear if it works, right? Because we don’t know how good he is.
Eric: Sort of foggy. But then Charms [practices], also in Year 5, Silencing Charms and Color Change Charms. So you’re changing the natural… If you want to get science-y, you’re changing the way light refracts off an object. But that seems to be…
Alison: Or pigment. You’re changing [the] pigment of something.
Eric: Yep. Pigmentation. Who knows?
Carla: Inherent physicality.
Eric: I’d love to know if there’s a different incantation for what color to change it to or how that really works or if your mind gets involved. Because also, come Year 6, when we start doing nonverbal stuff in most classes, there’s not any specific nonverbal stuff listed for Charms, but they do end up turning vinegar into wine, which is…
Alison: Which isn’t that hard. [laughs]
Eric: Oh, it’s not? All right, Alison, you tell us how to turn vinegar into wine.
Alison: A lot of different kinds of vinegar are made from… Well, I guess it would depend on what vinegar you’re doing because some vinegar is made from grapes. [laughs] So…
Carla: I mean, there’s white wine vinegar, right? [laughs]
Alison: Or balsamic is made from grapes, but some is made from…
Carla: … apples. [laughs]
Alison: … wood or other kinds of diluted kinds of alcohol. Squish juice that’s fermented in different ways.
[Alison and Carla laugh]
Eric: So they might be just speeding up the fermentation process. But you’re talking about a chemical reaction within an object. So you’re changing the cells of that object.
Alison: They’re taking… I mean, I guess in some cases they could be accelerating time in a lot of ways, like accelerating the fermentation of…
Eric: That’s interesting. Also in Year 6, the Water-Making [Spell], Aquamenti, [in] which water spews from your wand, [I] don’t know where it comes from – probably from the depths of the ocean somewhere…
Alison: Or I was going to say “the air.” Maybe it just gathers all the moisture in the air – the water molecules in the air – and…
Carla: Oh, you would have to gather a lot of molecules for the amount of water.
Carla: Maybe it takes one molecule and…
Alison: … expands it.
Carla: … multiplies it or something, yeah.
Haley: Well, you can do that. That works with the law. You can multiply things from thin air.
Eric: Yeah. That’s the progression of Charms.
Carla: Makes sense.
Eric: Anyone… Let’s pick something. Potions or Transfiguration? What should we do next?
Alison: Let’s do Transfiguration. It’s close to Charms. I think that could be interesting to look at why they’re two separate classes, maybe.
Eric: Yeah, okay. So [in] Year 1, Transfiguration with Professor McGonagall, I think their first class, or their first big change, is a match into a needle. So you have two long, skinny objects, relatively small in size, relatively uncomplicated, except to say that a match presumably can ignite at the tip, so there’s something there. But turning into a needle and back, [it’s] very small, very basic. But by the end of the year, they’re turning a mouse into a snuffbox.
Alison: So here’s my thing with Transfiguration versus Charms. I get at the beginning how they are different. Because Charms [is] like, you’re doing something to an object. You’re not necessarily changing the object; you’re just doing something to it. Whereas [in] Transfiguration, you’re changing one object to another object. But if we get down later into Years 5 and 6, some of the Charms – Color Changing, Silencing, Summoning, creating legs on teacups, turning vinegar into wine… That feels more like Transfiguration to me. You’re changing one thing into something else rather than doing something to something else.
Eric: I can see that.
Alison: So I’m a little bit confused about why there wasn’t more of a distinction of those at the end, I guess. Or is there a reason why that’s in Charms and not Transfiguration?
Carla: Maybe she just forgot to add, at some point, that Charms are only temporary? That’s the only thing that I could come up with, that Charms maybe are just temporary. They don’t stay that certain color.
Eric: Yeah, there’s a lot more you can do with Transfiguration. We talked about Desk!Pig, obviously, but imbuing sentience onto something that does not ordinarily and probably should not have intelligence… The chessboard is a perfect example. I know it’s Year 1, but it’s the Sorcerer’s Stone protection and the guardians of Hogwarts in general, which come into play in Book 7. That is something that I don’t think you could do in Charms. It’s essentially giving a brain and a body structure, like the way the suits of armor are said to move around. They assume a corporeal form, and their bodies, whatever you want to call them, move like human bodies, which is really just so interesting. I think because it has more to do with intelligence and the connection between man and beast and inanimate, it’s a different subject altogether.
Carla: Maybe the theory is different.
Haley: Yeah, also, a lot of times, Professor McGonagall talks about how it’s one of the hardest subjects at Hogwarts, Transfiguration. And then you have something like in Half-Blood Prince when Neville’s grandmother is like, “Don’t take Charms; that’s not very important; that’s kind of wishy-washy.”
Haley: So I don’t know if there’s a difference between them like that.
Eric: Yeah. Well, that goes back to underrated Flitwick, right?
Haley: Yeah. [laughs]
Eric: The subject he teaches is frivolous. You don’t really need to know it. It’s not worth your time.
Carla: It’s just for fun!
Eric: Which, you’re at a boarding school. Why would you not have time? Why would you not make time for it? So from a match to a needle and a mouse to a snuffbox, we then go to Year 2 of Transfiguration. We see two Transfigurations happening this year, according to the Lexicon. A beetle into a button, so you have a little bug [that] you’ve now snuffled the liveliness out of, I guess. You’ve turned it into an inanimate [object], a button. You could put it on a coat. And at the end of the year, or later on, they’re turning rabbits into slippers. Which is a joke, but it’s totally happening.
[Carla and Haley laugh]
Eric: Let’s just transfigure all these bunnies. There'[re] too many bunnies in the world.
Eric: But we could really use some soft things to wear on our feet.
Carla: My feet are cold. Where are some bunnies?
Haley: I love Transfiguration, but I can’t help but ask, “Why?” for a lot of things that they do. Beetle into a button? Why?
Carla: Hey, if you have a beetle infestation and you’re missing a lot of buttons on your coats…
Eric: Exactly, exactly.
Haley: There you go.
Carla: Two birds with one stone.
Haley: Oh, gosh.
Eric: It’s like, “I have too many of this thing and I don’t have enough of this thing.”
Haley: Good thing I learned that in Year 2.
Eric: Yeah, in Year 2. But of course, Year 3 is the most memorable because we’re learning about Animagi. They’re still doing proper Transfiguration. The end-of-year exam in Year 3 is turning a teapot into a tortoise. So just briefly, they’re going from a mouse in Year 1 to a rabbit in Year 2 and a tortoise in Year 3. There’s a very definite size increase for the animals that they’re working with.
Carla: And now they’re [taking] something inanimate and giving that life. So it’s kind of going the other way around in Year 3.
Eric: Yeah, exactly, from a teapot to a tortoise. Yeah, exactly right.
Carla: Yeah, instead of from life to no life…
Eric: … you’re going from no life to life. Yeah, exactly. That’s a nice switcheroo that they’ve done there. And then, Animagi, it’s funny because the topic is covered in school, but of course, it serves the plot of the book quite well because we later understand about the Marauders. The idea really sets the groundwork for the future of Transfiguration – McGonagall herself is an Animagus – and so to see that, even though it’s not taught at Hogwarts – and I guess it’s supposed to be strictly regulated – you can do with Transfiguration a complete Animagus transformation.
Alison: I feel like in Transfiguration, too, they get a lot of theory. They get quite a bit of practical application of it, but I feel like it’s one of those things where they get a lot of theory too – more than other classes. They tell them about Animagi, but they don’t do it; they don’t become it. They just learn about what they are, and I guess maybe that could help with the thing of transforming something into something entirely different and maybe getting into that idea they’ll get into in a couple of years of human transformation. I don’t know.
Carla: Yeah. I always figured they had the longest essays to write for Transfiguration.
Eric: [laughs] Oh, wouldn’t it have been Snape’s class? Isn’t he assigning 12 inches?
Haley: Yeah, he is. I think it’s just to Harry.
Haley: Everyone else gets it easier.
Eric: Poor Harry. I also think it does come down to the teacher. I know we’re going to talk about this later, but McGonagall as a teacher, like we’re saying, there’s plenty of practical stuff, but there’s also a healthy dose, I think, of research involved when they’re writing essays. I think that is a good way… There’s something to be said for book learning and studying and reading. And of course, they’re buying all of these hefty school books every year, so it’s important that they read them and be focused on that.
Alison: Well, you would hope. [laughs]
Eric: I think, anyway. Yeah.
Alison: Unless they’re like some college classes where it’s like, “Buy 12 books; we’re going to read one.”
Eric: Yeah, there’s that. There’s that.
Carla: I’m so glad I avoided that. [laughs]
Eric: Yeah. By Year 4, they’re doing cross-species switches, if you can believe this. Guinea fowl are being turned into guinea pigs. And actually, I looked this up because I wasn’t sure if guinea fowl were just young guinea pigs because there’s that… What are they called? Little frogs?
Eric: Tadpoles. Isn’t there a potion at one point [that] de-ages Trevor and re-ages him? That’s Shrinking Solution. So I was like, “Oh is this an aging thing?” We could talk about that in Transfiguration. But no, guinea fowl are birds. They look like peacocks without the plumage, but they’re actually sizable. Guinea fowl appear to be a hen or rooster-sized, based on an image I’m looking at on Google, versus guinea pigs, which are smaller. But you’re still dealing with that progression of larger animals, and now with the added talk of cross-species switching, which becomes, obviously, very important in Animagus transformations because these things are not at all like the other, and it’s no longer becoming like you’re changing an animal of a species into an inanimate thing, whatever your pleasure is; this is changing one animal into a different animal.
Alison: Yeah, totally different too. One’s a rodent [and] one’s a bird.
Carla: Yeah, you’re going a couple of levels in that tree thing that you learn in biology at some point in Grade Six. The classes or whatever it’s called. [laughs]
Eric: You’re transcending kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species… Yeah. And then the other thing that happens, though, also, is Viktor Krum who’s visiting. It’s important to mention that he is a sixth or seventh year at that point.
Haley: Yeah, he’s in seventh year.
Eric: He’s in seventh year, but we witness in Harry’s fourth year that he transfigures his head into a shark. That was him, right?
Alison: Yes, but he does it incompletely.
Haley: He didn’t try to do the whole job.
Alison: Yeah, he didn’t do it.
Eric: Ah, so tough. But that’s the progression of Transfiguration. You can [not only transform] into an animal or between animals, but you can [also] transfigure part of yourself into an animal to benefit that animal’s unique properties. Like if a shark has gills, to be able to swim underwater, at least in theory, that is something that you can do in J.K. Rowling’s world, which is cool.
Alison: But I don’t know if that was intentional. I always get the feeling that was unintentional, like he actually meant to transfigure himself into a shark for a while.
Eric: Well, that’s interesting!
Alison: But he half did it, right? It’s almost like Apparition, where he wasn’t all onboard, and so… [laughs]
Eric: He Splinched? He trans-Splinched?
Haley: But the idea that you could turn yourself into an animal without being an Animagus is strange.
Eric: Right, just temporarily. That’s intriguing, at the very least. But then, come Year 5, there’s sort of a beeline. They go into a different territory entirely with Vanishing Spells and Conjuring Spells. So vanishing, at least my understanding of it… I didn’t look this up prior to saying this, but you’re sending an item to either a nowhere space or it’s not where it was a moment ago when you vanish something.
Haley: I feel like it has to go somewhere, maybe even the Room of Requirement or something like that.
Eric: Yeah, like vanished objects. Because in order to pull it back, it has to still exist.
Alison: Well, the answer to the Ravenclaw knocker is “Into nonbeing, which is to say, every[thing].”
Eric: Into ether.
Alison: So it’s a weird question that I don’t know if anybody knows the answer to. But it’s almost like, do the atoms just get separated so it dissolves and then you can pull them back together? How does that work? [laughs]
Eric: Yeah. Well, this idea of the nonspace, somehow it opens the fabric of the universe to do 15-year-olds’ Transfiguration homework assignments. But it’s just so interesting. And why is this Transfiguration versus anything else?
Alison: I guess Transfiguration maybe has more to do with, if we get science-y, changing the atomic structure of things. So you’re messing [with] things at an atomic level or at a molecular level. Whereas I guess Charms might be more dealing with stuff on the whole level, like as a whole thing.
Eric: So macro versus micro. And Transfiguration changes the nature of an object.
Alison: Yeah. Because it’s changing the atomical structure.
Eric: Including whether or not it exists or can be seen or can be held in front of you. And apparently, we also find out this year – although this is not a subject; this was just mentioned in the Lexicon, and I thought it was important – the art of healing. So we should talk about St. Mungo’s, because you can become a Healer for St. Mungo’s. That apparently involves some degree of Transfiguration. So if we’re talking about it as a science – changing atoms and changing what things are – that makes a lot of sense now, that Healing would involve skills in Transfiguration.
Haley: Because you definitely need certain classes for jobs. In fifth year, [McGonagall] is like, “Okay, you need Potions to be an Auror, you need Defense Against the Dark Arts, and all that kind of stuff.”
Alison: So I guess then everyone goes through at least seven years, and then for further education, it’s more internships or apprenticeships. At least that’s what I got, because doesn’t Tonks talk about how she spent two years training, and now she’s only at a certain level and she has to take more time to get to the final Auror level? And I think McGonagall talks about that too. She’s like, “Okay, so after you’re done at Hogwarts, if you want to be an Auror, you have two or three years of further training.”
Eric: Yeah, we have that quote later.
Alison: Yeah. I guess the wizarding world, instead of being more academic focused, [is] more practically focused. So by the time you get through school where you learn these things, instead of going and furthering academically, you go into your field and then you specialize in your field from that point on.
Carla: And I wonder if that has something to do with the rather small wizarding population. Because it seems to me that you need a lot of personnel – you need a lot of people to run a university – so there’s just not enough people to run a university. And I know this is coming later on, but those that do want to further their education go further into their studies, do that independently. Everything is there at their disposal, but there’s no institution because there'[re] just not enough people to run it.
Eric: That’s really interesting.
Alison: So I guess maybe do they go work with masters?
Carla: Kind of mentors.
Alison: If they want to do something more theoretically… Dumbledore corresponding with notable people in Transfiguration and Potions and things. So maybe it’d be like you would go study with a master in that subject instead of going to a university.
Eric: Right. Yeah, and Albus Dumbledore discovered the 12 uses of dragon’s blood. Where did that happen? Was it in a laboratory? Was it out in the field? Was it in a field with a dragon, where he was like, “Hey, give me some blood, I’m going to check this out”? I imagine he was surrounded by white coats, other wizards who were [at] the cutting edge of discovery. But it begs a lot of questions, like what means does Dumbledore go to? What means does any wizard have for doing those things that they end up becoming most notable for? And are there apprenticeships and other [training]? Unfortunately, it’s just a side effect of the story being narrowed to Harry’s quest that we don’t learn more other than the Auror training, which we’re going to mention. For a solid three years, you do this after Hogwarts. It’s additional teachings in different subjects that you may not have had before, but your skill in those subjects will have allowed you to be competent in whatever [they’re] about to teach you now. That’s the only instance of next-level-type stuff, where not everybody can do stealth the way that Aurors are going to teach you to do stealth. That’s not a subject that’s just taught in high school or at Hogwarts, but it’s something that involves different branches of magic that is completely relevant [to] our profession. That’s why you need to take an additional class. But I love the idea that the population is limiting the ability to have universities, like Carla said. Perhaps they just made it work to where you are taught in the field. I didn’t even think about that before, but I like it a lot.
Carla: Yeah. For me, that explains also why it seems like basically anyone can become a teacher. Just because you need a teaching staff at Hogwarts and if you’ve got a teaching spot to fill, you fill it with someone who’s available. See: Defense Against the Dark Arts.
Alison: Yeah. But they all seem to be experts in their fields.
Eric: Some of them. I would actually argue it’s closer to half.
Alison: Well, I think Flitwick seems to be an expert. Sprout is obviously an expert. McGonagall is obviously an expert. Snape is obviously an expert.
Eric: No. Well, Snape is really good at Potions, so I’ll give you that.
Haley: The Half-Blood Prince’s book is his!
Alison: I was like, “What?”
Carla: I read a great quote today. It said, “Snape shouldn’t be the one teaching. He should be the one writing the textbooks for Potions.”
[Alison and Carla laugh]
Haley: He really does not teach them from textbooks. He writes it on the board.
Carla: Exactly. Slughorn makes them open the textbook. He writes it on the board. He gives his own instructions.
Eric: That’s amazing. Okay, okay, I got you. Trelawney, of course… We’ll get into this, but Trelawney is…
Alison: Well, but Trelawney is a special case.
Eric: Well, Trelawney and Snape, but [it’s the] same with Hagrid. They’re all strategic placements by Dumbledore. They don’t necessarily have value, Hagrid especially, teaching-wise. He’s got a great, big heart.
Carla: He likes animals.
Eric: He likes animals. So he’s fulfilling a base set of requirements. But we know that there'[re] more important reasons why he’s there. He’s going to be a liaison to the giants one day, who are totally going to have a big part in the final battle, we promise. There’s something going on there. And then Trelawney, who is of insane, insurmountable strategic value because she’s the only other person besides Dumbledore and Snape who know[s] what the prophecy said. And because she actually conjured a real prophecy in her lifetime.
Carla: He wasn’t even going to hire her until she made the prophecy, so that says everything.
Eric: Yeah! Hello! That’s total[ly] strategic. Some teachers don’t necessarily earn it.
Haley: Yeah, like Hagrid.
Alison: No. But I think those are few and far between, and those were all appointed by Dumbledore. And Dumbledore was playing a bigger game.
Haley: Yeah, blame Dumbledore. Puppet master.
Alison: But the DADA teachers, I think they all basically came with relatively good credentials for that, right? Well, to some extent.
Haley: Quirrell is a Muggle Studies teacher!
Alison: You’ve got Lockhart, who’s supposedly… Well, yes, he was, but they said he went out into the field and got field experience.
Eric: Yeah, Quirrell was very highly regarded.
Alison: Yeah. So he had good credentials. Lockhart was supposedly supposed to have written these books about defeating all these Dark things. That one was a little bit more of a Dumbledore joke too, because he was like, “Mm, nope. We’re going to call you out on that.” Lupin obviously has some experience. I mean, he was in the Order, [and] he is a werewolf himself. Maybe he really excelled in that subject when he was at Hogwarts.
Haley: You seem to think that Lupin was very intelligent while he was at school.
Alison: Yeah. Moody is an Auror, so I mean, Dumbledore brought him there for other reasons too, because I think Dumbledore knew things were going to go down, so he was like, “Good Auror [whom] I know, come be at this school just in case.” Obviously, that backfired.
Eric: Granted, it was Barty Crouch, Jr.
Haley: He knew some stuff!
Eric: Well, yeah, he knew some stuff. But yeah.
Carla: But knowing your subject and being competent in the subject you teach is different from being competent as a teacher as well. That’s what I was getting at. They need no training in order to become a teacher. I mean, studied educational science, but I could not teach; that’s just not a skill of mine. I can’t explain things very well. It’s something that you have to learn or hone, I guess. And that’s something that just doesn’t seem to happen in the wizarding world. And I wonder if that’s also just because they need the teachers, and somehow the students manage to learn clearly, no matter…
Eric: Yeah, because you have teachers like Snape with a surprising lack of empathy and personal skills. So let’s just finish up the curriculum here. So there'[re] a couple other subjects.
Haley: We got off topic.
Eric: Yeah, yeah. No, it was all good. It was all very, very good.
Alison: Well, it all goes together.
Eric: But yeah, there'[re] a couple of other subjects we’ll just breeze through. Potions is another one that has a pretty clear escalation of intensity. The Year 1 potions [are] a Cure for Boils [and] a Forgetfulness Potion, which I forget if that cures forgetfulness or creates it.
Haley: All I remember is they’re like, “What'[re] the ingredients?” “I forgot!” [laughs]
Eric: “I forgot!” Year 2 [has the] Swelling Solution, which I think actually ages. Isn’t that what Trevor got?
Alison: No. The Swelling Solution is the one where they throw the Dungbomb so that they can go sneak the ingredients, and it explodes on everyone.
Carla: And everyone gets really puffy faces.
Haley: Oh yeah, and their chins get all big and stuff.
Eric: [laughs] A Hair-Raising Potion.
Eric: I don’t know why that potion exists. You should just listen to a spooky episode of Alohomora! doing some really good book discussion. That’ll raise…
Carla: Maybe it really, literally raises your hair for people with mohawks or something. Then they don’t need any gel.
Eric: That’s really useful. The ’80s hair band British rock indie society really used that potion a lot back then.
Carla: Oh yeah.
Alison: Or maybe it induces fear.
Carla: Ooh! That’s dark.
Eric: That’d be an amazing potion. That’s crazy. So very minimal, not quite to the point of changing your mind or feelings just yet. [In] Year 3, they’re doing Shrinking Solution, which is de-aging Trevor, which is weird because I love it. But that’s Year 3. [In] Year 4, they’re dealing with antidotes, which is really smart, actually. You’re about halfway through your schooling and you’re dealing with how to protect against a lot of the potions that are yet to come.
Alison: Well, I think they should’ve done that first. Let’s be honest.
[Alison and Eric laugh]
Carla: They did in the first lesson with the bezoar. Got to give him credit there.
Alison: Gosh, Snape, get some safety protocols going on.
Eric: Maybe that’s why it’s Year 4, is because it’s Snape. He’s like, “I’m going to torture the students for three years without giving them any way to defend themselves.”
Carla: He probably did give them safety protocols, but only the Slytherins got the safety protocol.
Eric: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Antidotes in Year 4. In Year 5, [there’s] the Draught of Peace, Strengthening Solution, and also, they study – I don’t know if they perform, but they study – Confusing/Befuddlement Draughts. So the Befuddlement Draught would probably cause somebody to become confused, versus Forgetfulness Potion was Year 1. But you’re getting into the more “this is a potion that’s going to act sort of like a poison. “It’s going to affect a very specific part of your body, the mind, and in a specific way.
Haley: And they don’t actually do it, but in Year 4 or 5, they talk a lot about Veritaserum in those two years.
Eric: Exactly. So you get more into the localized type stuff. And then by Year 6, which is after the [OWLs], and also change of teacher, oh-ho, Slughorn. [With] Amortentia, you’ve got Love Potion – or sorry, Intense Infatuation Potion – the Draught of Living Death, which will slow your heart rate to a crawl, and also the Elixir to Induce Euphoria – hello, happiness, my old friend – and Felix Felicis. And then Felix Felicis is its own separate entity, and I’m pretty sure it might just be a quirk of Slughorn’s that it was even studied or introduced, but that…
Haley: Yeah, they don’t even learn how to do it, though. They just get it as a gift.
Eric: They just get it, yeah, yeah, yeah. So that’s more of…
Carla: Same with Amor[t]entia, I think, eh? I don’t know.
Haley: I don’t think they…
Eric: Do they not brew…? But they do because…
Haley: They smell it.
Carla: I don’t think… Because Felix Felicis and Amor[t]entia are two of the potions that Slughorn has at the very first lesson. I don’t know if they actually make it.
Eric: But I think they actually do [make] Amortentia…
Carla: Do they?
Eric: … because Ron gets poisoned by the… isn’t it Romilda Vane?
Alison: No, no, no. That’s something else. That’s…
Carla: Oh yeah, but that’s Fred and George’s.
Eric: Oh, Fred and George’s.
Alison: I think… Doesn’t Slughorn say they should be able to make all of them by the end of their NEWTs? So they should be able to make those by the end of seventh year.
Eric: Oh, okay, okay. That makes [sense]. So he’s introducing them early, which is a problem. But also, that’s the future of potion-making, so I mean, I’m pretty sure we’ve had at least an entire episode on Felix Felicis before, but… because that chapter came out too, and that, to me… We were talking about with Transfiguration opening up the universe and changing the nature of objects. Felix Felicis seems to change the very nature of probability, that things will work in your favor, that you have a conscious ability to affect your luck. It seems to work for a lot of them dodging curses. All of a sudden, all the Death Eaters turn into stormtroopers and can’t hit their targets when you’re on Felix Felicis.
[Alison and Carla laugh]
Eric: It’s a big deal that this potion can somehow affect… Even if it’s just a placebo thing and you believe it, I think it’s a little bit more than that. It’s actually changing reality in a way.
Alison: Well, I actually saw a really interesting analysis of Felix Felicis the other day where it talks about how it just nudges you in the right direction. Oh, what did it say? It was talking about how… Basically, it came to the conclusion [that] Felix Felicis works through a theory of saying you have the ability to make your own good luck. So it just nudges you in the best decisions, more than anything. So it…
Eric: That almost makes it even more complicated because who’s deciding what the best is?
Alison: Well, the best way to get to your desired goal, so I guess it knows you if you have a goal.
Eric: But Harry didn’t even know that he was supposed to visit Slughorn.
Alison: But he had a goal.
Carla: He had the goal to get the memory.
Alison: His goal was to get the memory.
Eric: Oh, the end goal. Yeah, yeah, you’re right. You’re right, you’re right. I mean, in a universe with infinite possibilities and we’re crawling along at a snail’s pace on a timeline that has maybe infinite outcomes, how does Felix Felicis insert you or guide you into one particular…? It’s crazy. Although it has very real-world implications. Obviously, it’s banned in sports, and if we’re also looking at Amortentia, Voldemort was conceived under duress because Tom Riddle, Merope Gaunt seduced him using Love Potion. So these potions that are really going to mess you up, and they’re changing history, and they’re affecting the way people really interact in the world, is a big deal. So you’re getting a lot of these higher-end, probably a lot more complicated-to-brew potions by the end of it. I think the only other topic that we have here… Care of Magical Creatures, we can sum up very quickly. They go from small to big, more or less.
Eric: The exception is hippogriffs, which I think is a Hagrid affectation.
Carla: I was about to say that Hagrid screws up the entire small-to-big, not dangerous-to-dangerous scheme there.
Alison: Oh, he wanted to make an impression. It was his first lesson ever.
Haley: And then whenever Grubbly-Plank comes, they do different types of lessons [from the ones] Hagrid ever does. I mean, back to the “if you like the subject versus if you’re good,” I mean, I love Hagrid, but she was a better teacher.
Eric: Yeah. Well, I mean, and in Year 5, you learn [about] six beasts. It’s Porlocks, Kneazles – which are like cats – Crups, and Knarls. There are Thestrals and Fire Crabs. Interesting thing about salamanders: Salamanders are something that Fred and George study in their fourth year, but again, when Hagrid takes over in Harry’s third year, he teaches Harry’s third-year class about salamanders. So he’s lowered the age bracket for when you have to learn about those, which makes me think again [that] he’s exposing the students to needless dangers.
Carla: And then there'[re] the Blast-Ended Skrewts. Who even knows where they rank on the danger scale? [laughs]
Eric: Only Hagrid could… yeah.
Alison: Those were just a decision.
Eric: Oh man.
Carla: Oh, Hagrid.
Eric: The funny thing was, there was another subject that I looked up, which was Astronomy. Because Astronomy is something they always seem to be going off to. There’s an exam at the end of Year 5. But they have it from Year 1, and we never see a class of it. We just see the exam that gets taken over by the Death Eaters or whatever at the end of the book. But Astronomy, I was like, “Are there any mentions as to what they’re actually studying?” And it’s so interesting because in Year 1 they’re learning about Jupiter’s moons, and they’re doing star charts. So they’re learning all the names of all the celestial bodies in the night sky, and then in Year 5, during the exam, they’re doing the exact same thing. So there’s actually no progression that is noted in the books of Astronomy.
Eric: They’re still making star charts, and they’re still…
Alison: Hey, there’s a lot of stuff in the sky.
Eric: Well, I guess there’s a big sky out there.
Haley: It probably has to do with the time of day. Every year, it’s different, so you’re studying the changes over the seven years.
Alison: And each season, it’s going to be different.
Eric: Oh my God.
Alison: There’s just so much.
Eric: I never thought about that. I never thought about that.
Carla: Possibly. Wow.
Eric: They also do star charts in Divination, though, which is…
Haley: What’s the difference?
Alison: I feel like Astronomy is more like, “Okay, we know where the stars are, we can navigate by the stars” kind of thing, whereas Divination is horoscopes. That’s what they’re using for the stars. [laughs]
Haley: So what are they using the star charts for? Navigation?
Alison: They know the stars.
Haley: What are they…?
Alison: I don’t know.
Carla: Maybe there’s some kind of magical alignment of the stars and the moons that makes some…
Eric: Yeah, what does magic have to do with it?
Carla: Or don’t you need to pick some potion ingredients by [a] certain moon, by a half moon or whatnot? Maybe that’s why.
Eric: That’s exactly right. And then that’s so interesting because, though, if you think about it…
Haley: So that’s probably it.
Carla: Oh, wow. That’s insane.
Eric: If they’re in Astronomy from Year 1 through Year 5, I’m surprised it’s never mentioned – other than the fact that they’re in it – but that’s a lot of time comparatively given to this branch of magic that we know and hear almost nothing about. They’re in Astronomy as much as they are in Potions or Charms or DADA or Transfiguration.
Alison: Yeah, it probably influences other things.
Carla: Yeah, because you definitely need to pick certain things when the moon is… In Book 2 with Polyjuice Potion…
Alison: Isn’t it lacewing flies or something has to be picked by…?
Carla: Exactly. By the new moon…
Alison: … the full moon…?
Carla: … or the full moon.
Alison: … or the new moon or something?
Carla: Yeah, exactly. Something like that. [laughs]
Alison: Obviously, I’m going to fail at that.
Eric: So there is an influence that the stars have on a magical world. Of course, that’s what the centaurs say from the beginning too. So it’s like a gap being bridged.
Carla: There you go. In a way, that’s a foreign language that they’re learning because then they can communicate with the centaurs.
Haley: But then again, Firenze teaches Divination when he comes, and he teaches stars in that class.
Eric: Well, and he says that even centaurs misread the signs. So we’re getting into a science or something that’s not exactly a science. And speaking of science, I know we’ve been talking about that a lot with Transfiguration and changing atoms and states and everything, but one thing I had to mention was when talking about education at Hogwarts, all of the students come to Hogwarts when they’re 11 or going on to 11 or 12, and they leave their formal math, grammar, spelling, science, social studies, language arts training behind. Everyone at Hogwarts has a fifth-grade reading level. And there, presumably, it stays. Do you really get more grammar skills by talking more? Do you really…?
Carla: Or writing essays.
Alison: Well, reading, writing… I mean, they’re doing some of this cross-curricular stuff. They read and write all these books and these essays. They’re measuring stuff out in Potions. They have to do all of these calculations they talk about. I’m sure in Astronomy they’re doing angle calculations and time calculations.
Eric: That’s a good point.
Alison: Science, I guess, could come into the theory of magic. I guess it changes science a little bit to include magic in it. If we’re talking about Transfiguration and you’re changing things on an atomic level, then that’s science. I would assume they have to know what they’re doing, so they would have to understand how it works.
Eric: So your opinion is, it’s not missing. It’s just…
Alison: Yeah. I think it’s just incorporated into other subjects.
Carla: My only issue with that idea is in regard to English specifically, because then every other subject I failed miserably on – didn’t fail, but you know – but English I just know that in order to really improve your language skills, your writing skills, your spelling, your grammar, you would need to receive feedback on your essays, for example. And do they really…?
Alison: I could see McGonagall doing that.
Carla: Yeah, but do they really review those essays when they get them back? I mean, I think back to myself as a teenager. If I got a bad grade or if I got a good grade, I was happy or I was angry, and I put it away. I didn’t really go through it again and look at my mistakes. I didn’t have that self-motivation kind of thing.
Alison: Maybe that’s part of their study halls that they have. Because don’t they have a study hall period?
Haley: They don’t study in there! [laughs]
Eric: They do have free periods built in. I guess that’s what I want to know from J.K. Rowling, I guess, then, is one of the questions, right? What is that study time used for? When they have free periods, what’s the theory behind it? Astronomy, what effect [do] the planet and stars actually have on things other than potion ingredients? And to what extent are the classes at Hogwarts still being your science, your math equivalent for growing up? Because on [the] one hand, it’s funny to joke, “Harry can’t read well.” But he is getting a lot of experience, I guess.
Carla: On the other hand, we have to think in terms of why we learn these things [for] so long because in Canada, for example, you only have to take science until Grade 10. After that, you don’t need it anymore. I personally don’t remember anything I learned in science from Grade 7 onward.
Carla: But I don’t need it in my university degree, right? So it’s not as important. And considering they don’t go into the sciences, they don’t need the advanced science or the advanced English to become a biologist, to become a translator, or what have you. Like all those things you would have in the Muggle world where you need a bachelor’s degree, a university degree, to work in these professions, you don’t need that in the wizarding world. So do they need way advanced science, math, English, or is that sort of…? Okay, fifth grade is probably not enough, but is what they get on the side enough for the professions they are going to use? They specialize in magic because that’s probably what they are going to work in in the end.
Eric: There is something in this Doc. Haley, did you put this in?
Haley: Yes. [laughs]
Eric: It might have been “Why did these kids not learn Latin?”
Haley: Seriously, though. Come on. All the spells are in Latin. They don’t know what they are saying.
Carla: No kidding.
Haley: How do they make new spells?
Eric: I want to know, [laughs] now that that’s in there. That would be a useful language to learn. It…
Alison: Maybe that’s part of theory too.
Eric: Magical theory, yeah.
Alison: Or maybe nobody just cares. Maybe nobody cares. [laughs] Whatever.
Haley: But if you learn Latin and you got a new spellbook, you would be like, “Okay, this in Latin means ‘to burn.’ This spell is to burn. I’ll say it, and that’s what it’s going to do.” You would be so much better at learning new spells in Latin.
Carla: No kidding. It’s like doctors learning Latin because then they understand what illnesses they are diagnosing.
Eric: Yeah, exactly. The systems and the…
Carla: I mean, do we dare say it? [In] Year 6, Sectumsempra maybe wouldn’t have happened. [laughs]
Eric: [laughs] If Harry knew some Latin.
Carla: If Harry knew some Latin. [laughs]
Eric: Yeah. But I mean, there’s always going to be those exceptional students, and this ties in with progressing the discussion. There’s going to be a lot of opportunity for, I guess, independent research and study. Carla, you had some notes here in the Doc.
Carla: Yeah. I just noticed going through it again [that] there’s a huge emphasis on self-teaching in the books. I mean, the DA is the biggest example. Hermione is also very prominent. She teaches herself advanced magic. But then also the practicality of all the lessons. Harry is barely in class in Goblet of Fire. He basically learns it all outside. Fred and George with their experiments, it’s all self-taught. And I wonder if that’s because it’s necessary because magic is a skill that you have to practice. I mean, you can write essays on the theory, but in general, you have to practice and hone that skill practically. And I wonder if Jo is telling us something with that or is it just the necessity of the nature of magic.
Alison: Well, Jo was a teacher, right?
Carla and Haley: Yeah.
Alison: She taught for a while. And there’s actually a lot of research that shows that inquiry, so self-motivated inquiry, so looking up things for yourself, trying to figure it out, is one of the best ways to learn. There’s been a lot on education lately. Instead of direct instruction, like the teacher standing up and giving a lecture, there’s more focus on students, [with] the teacher’s role being more of a facilitator. So students are learning because… And if they are doing it this way, they will care more, and they usually retain more than if they’re just being talked at and memorizing if they’re learning how to apply and they’re looking for answers to their own questions. So I see a lot of that in this, and I think you’re right. I think magic is a kinesthetic thing. And so you have to practice, you have to physically do it sometimes, and that’s one of the reasons why Umbridge fails so much in Order of the Phoenix because she won’t let them practice. She won’t give them that time, that opportunity, to practically apply what they’re learning.
Eric: So yeah, on this topic of independent study, I know we talked about [it] a lot as well [with] Dumbledore. [With] Voldemort, all of the things that he does to discover the depths of the human soul and dark evil are not things… As it turns out, he did learn some of it in a book, [laughs] which is kind of cheap and I hate that. But a lot of it was self-taught as well. He’s traveling. There [are] all these references to travel and independent study. You seem to learn by doing, like we’re talking about. All the greatest minds… Dumbledore traveled when he was younger, corresponded with wizards across the world. There seems to be a real, heavy emphasis on the learning by doing, and the very nature of magic is something that comes down to inquiry, like you were saying, Alison. [It’s] just your own gall and your own ability to question it with a full understanding of the risks that you could blow yourself up, like Luna’s mother.
Eric: I know, I know. And I am not saying she was unskilled for doing that, but there'[re] real accidents that occur when you’re meddling with that stuff, and so I guess maybe Hogwarts exists as your general, quite a lot of ways into all the different realms of magic, and then if you want to pursue it further, do so at your own risk. This is a controlled environment, but everything that we have for you that’s above this level is going to be dangerous, and you want to make sure that you really want to get into it, and then when you do, that it’s going to be self-taught. Or maybe there are internships. We mentioned Auror training. Here’s the full quote from the Lexicon on Auror training, which I think is the closest thing…
Alison: Wait. Sorry, before we go on to that, because we’re talking about inquiry, the thing about inquiry is, a lot of times it fosters innovation. But I’m thinking about the textbooks that they’re using in their classes, and I’m like, “Wait, Newt Scamander published Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, for example, in 1927, but they’re still using it in the ’90s.”
Carla: It’s a great book.
Alison: Well, it’s a great book, but I’m curious as to why. And Bathilda Bagshot, right? She’s ancient, and they’re still using her History of Magic, but I think it stops before everything that went down in Godric’s Hollow. So I’m curious, then, why they use such old textbooks. Why is there not a new…? Unless there'[re] new editions of these books all the time, every single year. So would that mean The Standard Book of Spells, Grade Three would have been different for the Weasley twins than it was for Harry, Ron, and Hermione because they updated it?
Haley: I think that’s one of Hogwarts’ problems, though, [is] that they are very stuck in the past with a lot of things that they do. And I feel like that would include the magic that’s being taught in schools. I mean, I feel like this is silly, but the thing that I thought of when you said that [is] in A Very Potter Sequel when he’s like, “This was written by who? Merlin?”
Alison: “They still refer to Dementors as Ringwraiths!”
[Alison and Haley laugh]
Haley:“You think you’re smarter than Merlin?” No, that’s what it makes me think of, is that that’s one of the problems that Hogwarts has as a school, is that they are teaching dated magic. In a way, I mean, what makes Snape one of the smarter teachers is that he’s teaching them things that he has figured out for himself. It’s not just old potions that people usually get.
Eric: So it’s sort of like your dad taking you by the hand and being like, “This is the way life is,” right? Versus “we’re going to read this old dusty book.” I’ve never thought about Snape in such a light before.
[Alison and Haley laugh]
Carla: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, and I feel like that’s probably another one of the results of the population just being so small because I mean, there’s Snape, who could update the advanced book of potion-making and just perfect it, but he’s not going to do that. That’s just not something he would want to do.
Eric: He’s got so much else going on.
Carla: He’s got so much else going down. He’s a little…
Haley: He’s thinking about Lily.
Eric: He’s thinking about Lily most of the time.
Carla: I wonder if Harry took his annotated version of that book and published it later on. That’d be awesome.
Haley: That’d be great. That’d be smart.
Eric: It warrants further study, yeah. But Snape is a perfect example of bettering oneself. He discovered spells that did not exist before. He’s the first person to use Levicorpus, and because he does, it catches on and is a fad for a few years. The fact that new spells are being discovered, new potions! The one that allows Lupin…
Eric: Yeah, thank you – did not exist when Lupin was young. You could still have made it, but nobody had, and so nobody knew about it. Pretty cool stuff. But there is formal Auror training, we mentioned. I’m just going to do a real quick read-through of the Lexicon’s paragraph on it:
“Training to be an Auror takes three years after leaving Hogwarts; the Aurors ask for a minimum of five N.E.W.T.s, with nothing under ‘Exceeds Expectations’ grade. Apart from Defence Against the Dark Arts, the recommended N.E.W.T.s include Charms, Potions (particularly the study of poisons and antidotes), and Transfiguration.”
So we talked about how Charms and Transfiguration, there was sort of some blurred line there. Potions, poisons, and antidotes, that makes a lot of sense. And then Defense Against the Dark Arts makes all the sense for being an Auror. Also:
“If a candidate for Auror training has the required academic qualifications, he or she must pass a background check for a criminal record and must pass ‘a stringent series of character and aptitude tests at the Auror office.'”
So I’m guessing some personality profiling going on, making sure that you can handle high-stress environments, maybe a ropes course type thing, a magical ropes course. I love the idea of police academy, but for Aurors.
Carla: Police academy with magic!
Eric: Magic! And also, the further disciplines we mentioned, like “Stealth [and Tracking],” “Concealment and Disguise” is specifically a subject that Aurors learn. So Disguise strikes me as being a Horace Slughorn and the couch sort of thing – right? – where no part of that was a face or a human part, but he was hiding. So that’s pretty cool. He did what Viktor Krum failed to do. And also, “Stealth and Tracking.” Tracking, I feel, probably has the most relevance for being the least mentioned of all specific disciplines that exist in the wizarding world. I say that because they’re tracking all wizards for the underage use of magic. All underage wizards are being tracked to prevent the breakout of wizards from the Muggles. And I guess owl magic is probably something to do with that as well. How is a person’s being manifested? What traces does it leave? And I guess when you’re talking about the Caterwauling Charm and Hermione and Harry and Ron on the run in Book 7, they have to do a lot of this sort of Auror-level disguise and concealment, which I’m assuming Hermione really just takes the lead on in teaching them how to make themselves so that they’re not emitting those signs and so that they are untrackable.
Carla: Yeah, and the big question for me was always also when Harry turned 17, Voldemort can find him at his aunt and uncle’s house. How do you find just one person, so to speak? But yeah, that all goes back, again, to the self-study, where basically everything you need, you learn the basics at Hogwarts, and then you apply them as needed to a specific situation where you perfect them there. “Concealment and Disguise,” I always imagined, would be taking what you learned in Charms and Transfiguration and combining it to be applicable for the situation, yeah.
Eric: Applying it to yourself. Yeah. There’s a fantastic list here – I really want to know who compiled this – with students [who] actually did go straight into professions out of Hogwarts.
Haley: That was me.
Eric: Oh, well, nice work. Because it’s really great. I’m surprised there are this many to actually note. But there actually is an example of… College isn’t missing the way I thought it was at the beginning of this discussion. All of these students left Hogwarts [and] pretty much get jobs right away. But actually, would you like to go through and read about them since you did the work?
Haley: Sure. So I picked a bunch of different people who had different professions to see the different range of what people could do out of Hogwarts. So first we have Oliver Wood, and I have a quote from Goblet of Fire for him. It’s Harry when he meets him at the Quidditch World Cup.
“Oliver Wood, the old Captain of Harry’s House Quidditch team, who had just left Hogwarts, dragged Harry over to his parents’ tent to introduce him and told him excitedly that he had just been signed to the Puddlemere United reserve team.”
I love Oliver so much. [laughs]
Eric: He got drafted!
Haley: Yeah, he got drafted right out of Hogwarts. And also, on the same level, you can think of Krum, who’s been playing professionally since he was in school, which is weird to think about. He’s playing at this World Cup that they’re at.
Alison: Quidditch feels like baseball in that regard: where kids will get drafted right out of high school to play baseball, but usually they’ll be on the Triple-A team instead of the major-league team.
Haley: I wonder how long you can play Quidditch for.
Eric: Well, and I don’t think Harry had an experience where scouts from professional Quidditch leagues were coming to… Did we meet anybody from the England Quidditch team [who] sits in on Hogwarts games?
Alison and Haley: No.
Eric: Who scouted Oliver Wood? Who was like, “This guy…”?
Alison: I wonder if they go to training camps or something. Or maybe there were scouts there; we just didn’t hear about it.
Haley: Because Lucius Malfoy came to a game once. Or is that just a movie-ism?
Eric: I think it’s legit in the book, but I couldn’t tell you for sure.
Alison: Yeah, I feel like things like that might be open. Or you could make arrangements with Madam Hooch.
Carla: Because also, this is not in the books, but Ginny also is on the Holyhead Harpies for a while before she becomes a reporter.
Eric: That’s a good point.
Alison: I wonder if Madam Hooch sets stuff up.
Alison: If she has contacts and she’s like, “Hey, we’ve got this really good kid. He’s a really great Keeper. He’s been a Captain. Come take a look at him.” And they do, and they’re like, “Oh yeah, we want him.”
Carla: Yeah. Well, because sports in Europe don’t work like in America. There’s no drafting for soccer, for example. It’s more like you can join a team and you get traded, and there’s no sort of real draft. So I can imagine that he would have gone to Puddlemere or gone to tryouts for a couple [of] teams. Either that and they host tryouts, or there are actually scouts and they’re like, “Hey! Want a contract?”
Haley: Because it does say he was signed.
Carla: Yeah, exactly. So either they were looking for people and then there were tryouts…
Eric: Or he could go to them.
Carla: Exactly. And he goes to the tryouts and he’s like, “I want to play for this team!” or “I want to play for every team!” and does every tryout.
Alison: [laughs] He would.
Carla: I see Oliver Wood spending a month and just going to Quidditch tryouts. I do.
Alison: He goes to every team.
Haley: Every single team.
Alison: He’s like, “I’ve got to play!”
Eric: Like, “I’m friends with Harry Potter. Let me in.”
Carla: “I won the Quidditch Cup at Hogwarts!”
Alison: “I finally did! I did! I was the Captain!”
Haley: He probably stole it from Hogwarts from the trophy room.
Alison: [laughs] He’s carrying it around with him.
Haley: Oliver is such a good character. I love him.
Alison: He keeps it tucked next to him in his bed like a teddy bear.
Haley: Well, the second one that we have is Fred and George Weasley together. And while they didn’t complete their NEWTs – they zoomed off during their last year of Hogwarts while Umridge was there – they start a very successful joke shop in Diagon Alley, with Harry’s Triwizard Tournament money, of course, and at age 18, they become on their way to being the richest of all the Weasleys!
Eric: That’s for sure.
Haley: So it’s the question: Do you really need your NEWTs? Because also, Harry and Ron, they don’t get their NEWTs.
Eric: Well, he’s Harry freaking Potter.
Carla: And that goes back to the lack of structure. Harry and the other champions had no exams in the fourth year. In the second year, all exams were canceled.
Alison: [laughs] Exams were canceled! What about the kids?
Carla: And the biggest question there is what about the OWLs and NEWTs?
Alison: Well, but they take those earlier.
Carla: That’s true. I think that’s the explanation, but still, they’re very lax with exams.
Eric: Oh, that’s such a good protection because I was like, “Man, if you were a fifth or a seventh year in Harry’s second or fourth year, you got the shaft.” [laughs]
Carla: Oh, no, in his fourth year, everyone else had exams. Harry just didn’t…
Eric: Oh, he just didn’t. Okay, great.
Carla: … because he was special. [laughs]
Eric: Oh, fantastic. But yeah, Fred and George become proprietors of their own shop. Now they’re also the perfect example of independent study because as you mentioned, Carla, they had their experiments all throughout, both in Hogwarts during the year and at home. When Harry goes to the Burrow and there’s just explosions coming from their room…
Eric: … and smoke, and it’s like, “Oh, that’s just Fred and George.” I mean, they really – I think – through doing, through practicing on each other, too, they’re not afraid to try their spells out on each other and themselves, which is very dangerous but also very bold and brave and Gryffindor-y. You get this idea that they’ve put in the hard work, the leg-work, of learning more about magic, and they’re able to offer a more concrete product. Their trick wands, or rubber wands, last longer than any other joke shop rubber wand. And it’s the same with their other products. They’re cornering the market on actually really superior items and then selling them, capitalistically, for profit.
Carla: Yeah. Even the Ministry has legitimately bought something they created as a joke item.
Alison: [whispers] I love that.
Eric: I forgot about that.
Carla: And then the Ministry is like, “No, these are legitimately good-quality products. We want a whole set for our Aurors.”
Haley: I feel like they’re also a really good example to the question “Does standardized testing really grade how good you are?” They only got three OWLs each! I think they’re extremely smart. Even Hermione says that when she goes to their shop; they are extremely smart, these two.
Carla: Yeah, they’re the perfect example of someone who has all the smarts but doesn’t test well, [someone who] just needs something that they’re interested in, something to motivate them, to focus their intelligence, I guess.
Alison: And they’re entrepreneurs. That’s what they are. They don’t care much about education. There'[re] a lot of people who… Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, dropped out of college, right? They’re almost like that situation, right? Where they didn’t need that, but they went on to create this great thing just because they had that kind of savvy.
Carla: Oh my God, you guys, the American Dream.
Eric: Fred and George: The American Dream. I love it. Also, I think Fred and George could have gotten more OWLs, but it was their tremendous focus, right? Their narrow focus on what… Unlike all of us, they already knew what they wanted to do when they grew up. So it’s like, “Hey, we don’t even need to pay attention to this.” I don’t even know if they attended some of the classes.
Carla: They probably skipped class all the time.
Haley: They made something to get you out of class. Like their Puking Pastilles.
Eric: [laughs] There’s probably that one really naïve teacher who feels really bad and is always writing Mr. and Mrs. Weasley for like, “Fred and George are so sick all of the time. You must just be so upset. They never come to my class. I feel so bad for them.”
Alison: And Molly is just like, “Oh my gosh.” Molly loses her mind.
Eric: Yeah, the one teacher who doesn’t know about the Skiving Snackboxes who’s just like, “Oh, this feels bad!”
Carla: They’re probably best friends with Madam Pomfrey.
Alison: Hey, she was probably a really good resource, though.
Carla: 100%! Oh my gosh, now I want a small fic.
Haley: Buddy comedy!
Carla: Exactly. Like a little short story about them going to her and she’s just like, “Oh, come on. You again.”
Carla: “What is it this time?” Offering suggestions on how [to make it work] better.
Haley: Yeah, it would be funny.
Carla: Anyway, off topic. [laughs]
Haley: Moving down the line to another Weasley, we have Percy Weasley who, right after leaving Hogwarts, began working in the Department of International Magical Cooperation, right under Barty Crouch, Sr.
Eric: There you have an example of… [It’s] not nepotism, but his dad works for the government, so he gets a government job right out of high school. Maybe there would be more steps, traditionally, between working in a department… Sure, a Senior Undersecretary of the Apprentice of the Apprentice of the Apprentice of the Minister [of] Magic, but that happens in real life where if you have family in a profession, they can get you in.
Alison: Yeah, it’s like an internship. I always felt like that’s what Percy was doing because he was doing such dull, boring things. He’s doing an entry-level internship where they’re like, “Here’s all the grunt work, [and] here’s a kid who can do it.” Paperwork.
Haley: But I mean, I think Arthur doesn’t have… People know him in the Ministry, but I don’t think he has that much leeway because his job… He thinks it is, but some people don’t think it’s that important.
Eric: I agree. I don’t think it got Percy all that far.
Haley: Because he was Head Boy, though, Percy. I’m sure that got him somewhere.
Eric: Oh, yeah!
Carla: I think maybe what got him far is that Arthur probably talked about his sons at his job, and then Percy kept coming up as this shining star, model student, and that impressed someone, maybe.
Eric: Percy was probably valedictorian of his year. I know that’s not necessarily a thing, but…
Alison: And I can see him going to the Ministry and going to different departments and…
Eric: … shadowing.
Alison: … dropping off a résumé to some extent.
Haley: He would.
Carla: Making contacts already, yeah.
Alison: Yeah. Where he’s like, “Hello, I’d like to come intern for you. I’m Percy Weasley.”
Haley: Be like, “Hey Dad, I’ll come to work with you today,” just to see what’s going on in the Ministry.
Eric: Schmooze with your higher-ups.
Haley: Back to what I was saying, I do think that being a prefect and being a Head Boy or Girl really does have some leeway in the wizarding world. But if Percy’s book… What [was it]? Ministers That Were Prefects or something like that.
Eric: Prefects Who Accomplished Something?
Alison: Yeah, something like that.
Haley: And then to a darker side, we have Tom Riddle – Voldemort – next. After Hogwarts, he first asked the Headmaster – Dippet, at the time – if he could teach Defense Against the Dark Arts right out of Hogwarts, age 18, “Let me be a teacher,” which sounds strange. And he was declined.
Eric: Wow. Do you know why?
Alison: I think he told him he was too young, right?
Carla: Too young, I think, yeah.
Haley: Yeah. It said, when I was reading – I think on the Lexicon or HP Wiki or something like that – that he said it was for undisclosed reasons, that he would tell him “when he was older,” like, “You just don’t understand yet.”
Eric: [laughs] I’m surprised Dippet was not murdered by Tom in a rage.
Haley: I know, right?
Alison: That’s actually a good point. [laughs]
Haley: And that’s when he traveled to Albania to get the diadem, kill a peasant, [and] make the Horcrux. And right after he makes the Horcrux, he returns to Britain, and then he’s offered a lot of positions in the Ministry because Slughorn has been talking him up a lot to people, but he turns them all down and he decides to work at Borgin and Burkes.
Eric: So you can work at a specialty shop as a… Well, he became, we know, like a connoisseur, a traveling – what is it? – acquisitions sort of dude?
Haley: Almost like what Bill does.
Alison: Yeah, they say he was very good at…
Eric: Yeah, like an ambassador of sorts on behalf of the company.
Haley: They said on there that he was very good at his job at Borgin and Burkes; they liked him a lot even though it’s like, “You’re smarter than this. You could be doing other things.”
Eric: “You could be better.” Yeah.
Alison: Yeah, he was able to get people to part with things because he could charm them, right? So that’s why they sent him to Hepzibah Smith, because they wanted…
Eric: And in the case of Tom Riddle, you have an extremely gifted student. He probably could have been a teacher right off the bat. At age 18, he could be teaching 11-18-[year-]olds to do some of the stuff. Because if you really look at his record, he created a Horcrux when he was 15, which was something no other wizard has done more than one of, ever, and he did it when he was 15. He also opened the Chamber of Secrets and all of that stuff.
Haley: [laughs] I feel like he didn’t put that on his résumé, though.
Eric: No, no, no, no, no! Okay, yeah. Surely not, but…
Alison: Can you imagine?
Eric: His magical skill is so exceeding everyone else’s, and the teachers know it. You know when you hear McGonagall talk about the Marauders in Book 3 and how really talented James and Sirius were, she’s not necessarily talking about their egos, always pretending they’re great; she’s seen their work, she’s seen their homework, she’s seen whatever result their actual coursework is providing, and it would be the same with Tom Riddle. Slughorn – to him – Tom was the student [who] really got it, the student [who] always asked the right questions and always wanted to know more. And so through that reputation… But also, Voldemort, young Tom Riddle, really reaped those rewards and really understood and accomplished a lot even while he was still at school. So when it comes to facing the wider world, he is an immediate choice for positions in government, in school, being a teacher, training others to do what he’s just basically just got done learning… He’s immediately qualified for any of those future positions because of how good he was at school.
Haley: And then again, of course, later he asks Dumbledore for the position, and it is turned down once again. And then after Voldemort, we have Severus Snape. And it seems there is no record of him actually having a job apart from being a Death Eater straight out of school, so that was his job.
Eric and Haley: He joins a gang.
Haley: They really like him. He’s really popular. Until he switches back over and he begins teaching at Hogwarts as a Potions Master in 1981 when he’s only 21 years old, which is also – I think – pretty young. And also, I find very strange that that means it would be four of the years that he’s teaching, he went to Hogwarts with them at the same time.
Eric: Oh, that is weird!
Haley: He’s teaching kids he went to Hogwarts with.
Alison: Oh, bizzare!
Haley: They’re a little far away, but I’m sure he’d know them!
Alison: But I guess that can happen at the university level. I feel like I know people [who] are TAs for classes with people they’ve had classes with. I guess that’s a little bit different than…
Haley: When you were in middle school, high school. Yeah, and especially the fact that what I’m thinking about relationship-wise when we see in “The Prince’s Tale” that Lucius is in fifth year, and he welcomes Snape in and becomes friendly with him, so it would make sense that he would know these kids pretty well. Especially the Slytherin ones; he’d probably be really lenient with them.
Alison: Was he Potions Master, though? I think we’ve talked about this before. If there'[re] multiple teachers in each subject? Or there can be multiple teachers.
Haley: There is for Divination.
Carla: I don’t know.
Alison: So I wonder if he did an internship, like if Slughorn was still there and so for a couple years, he and Slughorn taught, so it’s almost like a teaching…
Carla: He took over the first years, maybe?
Haley: Didn’t Slughorn leave because of Voldemort?
Haley: He left a while ago, I think. I know he left sometime either right after Voldemort was destroyed because he was… I forget. But I don’t know if he was actually there. I’m going to look it up real quick.
Alison: I don’t remember that. Because I always got the feeling he “retired” after a while, but I think he was there for a long time.
Carla: I think he just retired but then he disappeared from his retirement home and went on the run because he was worried when Voldemort came back. Is that it?
Alison and Haley: Yeah! Yeah!
Haley: I found it here. It says that he was a Hogwarts Potions Master until 1981, so that means that Snape took the position from him and he was the teacher.
Alison: Oh. Where’d you find that?
Haley: It’s on the Harry Potter Lexicon.
Eric: I would love to know what the circumstances were. I trust it a lot more on the Lexicon.
Alison: Do they have a source for that, though? Because I feel like on Pottermore it talks about McGonagall learning from Dumbledore in the Transfiguration Department.
Eric: Wasn’t that a special circumstance because he wasn’t Headmaster yet?
Alison: No, and so he was still teaching and she was learning from him, but she was teaching too.
Haley: But then again, this is another one of Dumbledore’s “Snape is an asset. I need him here right now to be a teacher.”
Alison: But I mean, he still could have done that, but he could have been like, “Horace, you want to retire soon, right? I’m going to bring on a new guy for a while. Teach him what you know.”
Eric: Yeah. I mean, I think in the case of Snape, too, it would have been very evident to the teachers that Snape was very gifted in Potions. So he’s a natural fit for that class, but the fact that he got the position as quickly as he did and as a young as he did is an indicator of Dumbledore strategically placing Snape. Because he left Hogwarts, joined a gang, joined the Death Eaters. I mean, basically that’s it, right? It’s a gang. Or the mafia if you want to call it organized crime.
Alison: It’s almost more of a cult.
Eric: Yeah. Joined organized crime, and then it’s like, “Yeah, you can be a teacher.”
[Alison and Eric laugh]
Eric: But it’s a natural fit, Potions, because he’s so good at them.
Haley: Definitely. You always forget how young Snape is in the books when you have Alan Rickman in mind.
Eric: It’s true. As much as I love Alan Rickman, it’s one of the failings of the films, I think.
Haley: Yeah. Oh, that’s so off topic, but I just hate how old they made James and Lily in the films. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves.
Eric: Well, because it has to correspond, right?
Haley: Yeah. Or it’d be weird. It’d be like, “He was in love with her?” And “She’s so young!” Yeah. And then, okay, moving right along to Professor McGonagall, this is a quote that comes from her Pottermore story:
“Upon graduation from Hogwarts, Minerva returned to the manse to enjoy one last summer with her family before setting out for London, where she had been offered a position at the Ministry of Magic (Department of Magical Law Enforcement).”
So she, like Percy, got a job right off the bat at the Ministry.
Carla: But I think she had excellent grades, didn’t she? Wasn’t she top of her class as well?
Alison: Yeah, she was a star student, she had played Quidditch…
Haley: She wanted to be a Quidditch player, but she got hurt in her last year.
Alison: So I’m sure someone gave her some…
Eric: I mean, that’s got to be it, right? Recommendations, like, by owl. Absolutely, like, “Let me recommend this person for this position. Whether she trains or shadows first is entirely up to you, but I can recommend.” And that’s got to be how it’s done. Old school correspondence and recommendations. So we talked about Dumbledore and Voldemort, and this is a slight change of subject. Actually, I’m trying to remember what my tangent was in bringing this up, the thread, but the origins of Azkaban… So we were talking about Voldemort and the independent study aspect of, I guess, going to a forest. I don’t know why Albania is so darn popular…
[Alison and Haley laugh]
Eric: … but Quirrell goes there. It’s a vacation destination for people interested in the Dark Arts, I guess. But sitting in a forest, communing with nature or snakes or whatever it is we think that Voldemort truly did to discover elements of the magical world, there’s also this element of higher magic that leaves traces. And so I wanted to bring this in on the education discussion because it’s the extent to which humans can wield magic, and if it’s not taught, why is it not taught or is there an institution around it? So not getting off to origins of Azkaban, but when Dumbledore in the cave scene is feeling the wall and muttering in a different language, the question is, how the heck did he learn this language? How do you actually learn to feel the air around you to know that you’ve got to reach and grab an invisible chain to pull a boat out? Now, some of that was Dumbledore knowing Voldemort as a person. He was able to intuit what Voldemort would have done. I get that. But there’s very legitimately in Book 6 in the cave scene, too, a feeling that Dumbledore understands the way that the spell itself is working just by thinking hard about it and being extra perceptive.
Haley: Yeah, it’s a big blank spot in the case of Dumbledore’s knowledge. I mean, hey, maybe we’ll learn something in Fantastic Beasts! That would be nice.
Eric: That’d be great.
Haley: Yeah, I mean, I guess you assume… You have the thing where he corresponded all the time with great wizards. Maybe Nicolas Flamel taught him something. That would be nice. I’m sure he’s learned a lot these years.
Eric: Yeah, nothing like a mentor who’s 500 years older than you. I mean, think about independent study, how much time Nicolas Flamel had to do that.
Carla: No kidding. [laughs] As to why they don’t teach it in school, or don’t offer it, I think it’s probably because that’s just something not everyone can handle. I feel like that’s so advanced that it’s best if only those who really know, [who] could even come up with the idea that this is a thing, that you can feel magic in the air and then are willing to dedicate themselves to learning that, to discovering it, are the only ones who get a grasp on it or are introduced to it. Because I feel like it’s something that not everyone could handle.
Eric: But there are these disciplines, though, like stealth and concealment, that you learn once you become an Auror. That’s formal training, so why isn’t there a tertiary education? Why isn’t there a college that teaches more advanced than the seven years at Hogwarts for all departments? And for instance, why is there a restricted section in the library at Hogwarts? What are those books about?
Alison: I think they said… Aren’t those mostly used for NEWT students? They’re the advanced things that they’re like, “Yeah, we don’t need 11-year-olds getting their hands on this.”
Eric: So in a normal seventh year at Hogwarts, which we did not experience, you would think that maybe people would be doing theses and working on higher-theory books, so that’s why it’s… But you could also just accidentally cut your arm off if you say the wrong word if you’re not already having the six years of Hogwarts training behind you. So that makes sense. Also on that topic, it reminds me that Dumbledore himself banned the topic of Horcruxes from the library. And teachers weren’t allowed to talk about it.
Haley: Even though you could just [Summon] it from his office.
[Alison and Haley laugh]
Eric: That’s the worst. Yeah, so that’s an instance of the Headmaster setting the curriculum. Or a Headmaster censoring what topics can be taught at the levels. So I guess censorship is something that the Headmaster certainly has powers to do. But back to really high magic, when I was thinking about this, I remembered on Pottermore the bit about how the prison, Azkaban, got started. I’m going to read a small excerpt on Azkaban right here:
“[Azkaban] has existed since the 15th century and […] never appeared on any [map, Muggle or wizarding].”
The original inhabitant of the island was a Dark sorcerer named Ekrizdis, who lured unsuspecting sailors into his lair and tortured them. After Ekrizdis died, the Ministry of Magic discovered the island and found it was “infested with Dementors.” Minister [of] Magic Damocles Rowle later decided the island was a perfect place for a new prison, and he wanted the Dementors to become the guards. So Dementors in the wizarding world are a very interesting species. I think there was speculation, if it wasn’t in fact all out confirmed, that you can create them, in a very weird way?
Alison: No, they’re created from… No, that’s how they multiply.
Eric: She actually answered this, didn’t she? Just recently on Pottermore, now that I’m thinking about it. How are Dementors…? When a mommy Dementor and a daddy Dementor…
[Alison and Haley laugh]
Alison: They grow like mold or something, like fungus. There’s something that has to do with fungus.
Carla: They definitely breed.
Eric: Oh, actually, no, they don’t. According to Google, “Dementors do not breed. No, there’ll be no sweet, sweet love in Azkaban tonight.”
[Alison and Haley laugh]
Eric: I don’t know who wrote this. I just googled “How are Dementors created?” Okay, so it says, “But rather grow like fungi under certain conditions. They multiply by feeding off human despair…” – it’s sort of like osmosis, I guess. But specifically human despair – “… unhappiness [and] hopelessness and are akin to depression. They are pretty insidious creatures.” My whole point in bringing this up now is, whatever Ekrizdis did to torture unsuspecting people, not even necessarily wizards… Did it say “wizards”? No, just “sailors.” So that act of torturing humans that creates such suffering that essentially a black hole is torn open in space and you have this island [that] is particularly forever marked, right? “Magic always leaves traces,” says Dumbledore to Harry, and Azkaban is an example of this very Dark sorcerer who did unspeakable acts, and it’s a permanent home for just darkness and evil. And so learning that that was the basis for the prison, when the government’s just like, “We have this piece of land we’ve discovered. We don’t have any ideas on what else to do for it. Might as well make it a prison. It feels that way anyway.” They’re actually buying into the existing ether of “this is the only option that this place has to be based on what has happened there in the past.” And the idea that any human can really affect the world in such a way that, centuries later – 500 or 600 years later – Dementors are drawn to this space. And it’s such a home for despair. It’s really interesting.
Alison: Well, the way it’s written on Pottermore is actually fascinating. It says, “The very walls of the building seemed steeped in misery and pain, and the Dementors were determined to cling to it. Experts who had studied buildings built with and around Dark magic contended that Azkaban might wreak its own revenge upon anybody attempting to destroy it. The fortress was therefore left abandoned for many years, a home to continually breeding Dementors.” So there’s almost this sense of, like, magic can leave such strong traces, even, that inanimate things that have been strengthened with magic enough can do things like enact their own revenge.
Eric: Or become sentient.
Alison: Which is crazy!
Haley: That’s insane. Ahh!
Eric: Yeah. And this is all within the realm of capability for a single wizard. A single witch or wizard human can affect the world in such a huge way. So yeah, it exists in canon that there are just these insane extensions of what human beings can do to the world around them in-universe. Which is why it was important, I think, to talk about education because how much is being done to protect younger wizards? And really, if you are interested – as I would be, I think – in learning the mysteries of the universe, where do you go for that and who[m] do you seek out? And at what point do your instructors no longer offer you what you need, like what happened with Voldemort?
Haley: I wonder if there’s anything in the Department of Mysteries, at the Ministry, that you can study. Don’t they study the veil down there? Or they did at some point?
Alison, Carla, and Eric: Yeah.
Haley: That could be one place to do something.
Eric: Yeah. No, that’s a good point.
Carla: I always thought that St. Mungo’s probably has some labs where they can experiment, for example, on dragon’s blood. Maybe they rent out the lab to young…
Eric: Yeah. No, I’m so glad Mungo’s was brought up, too, because yeah, if you become a Healer, if you just want to be a Madam Pomfrey, like a school matron, where’s your training to be a doctor? To work at Mungo’s? What does that training look like?
Haley: I wonder if she used to work there before Hogwarts. It’d make sense.
Eric: Yeah. Just like the Auror office, I feel like Mungo’s would have a three- or five-year program of studying specifically medicinal and healing-type magic.
Carla: Spending a certain amount of time on each floor with the different maladies and illnesses.
Eric: Yeah. Well, and before we move on, too, I want to bring up journalism. For the huge role that the Daily Prophet plays in the mindset and well-being of people at large, what qualifications does somebody have to [have] to be your next Rita Skeeter? We know she’s a hack. We know she’s awful, a vindictive person who’s let loose and allowed to continue her reign of completely fabricated terror. But what are her qualifications? Did she go to school for article writing? Or did she just wear a cool outfit and a lot of people take… What exactly is that?
Haley: Xenophilius, too, with the Quibbler.
Eric: And his is independent.
Alison: Well, his is self-published.
Eric: Yeah, self-published. You can do that.
Alison: I wonder. I’m sure it’s just writing skill. I’m sure maybe she started out with editorials or something or sending things in. Maybe she got, again, an internship kind of thing where she was basically just copy editing or something and writing on the side. Or maybe she wrote a book first, and then that’s how they found her.
Carla: Or you can submit articles, and if you get a certain number…
Haley: I bet they don’t have a school paper at Hogwarts.
Carla: Maybe they do and Harry just never…
Alison: Do they not?
Haley: I don’t think so.
Eric: The Flying Pig.
Carla: I’ve never heard of one.
Alison: I thought I read somewhere there was one, but maybe I’m just…
Eric: There are organizations within Hogwarts. Clubs, right? The Gobstones Club and choir. Well, that’s a movie-ism.
Alison: Yeah. Well, there’s something. There’s something because somehow Hermione finds that thing on Eileen Prince, right? She finds an article that mentions she’s the captain of the Gobstones [team].
Carla: Was that not [from the] Daily Prophet?
Alison: There’s got to be some sort of recordkeeping or newspaper or yearbook or something at Hogwarts.
Haley: Yeah, but the Daily Prophet is weird, and they cover Hogwarts Quidditch matches and stuff like that. Or Harry’s dating life.
Alison: They do?
Haley: Yeah. [laughs] They cover really like, “why do you know this stuff?”
Alison: That’s because it’s Harry.
Haley: They cover stuff about Hogwarts a lot, which is strange.
Eric: That’s interesting.
Alison: Well, I think maybe the big things that happen at Hogwarts they cover because it’s such a small community, and pretty much everyone went to Hogwarts.
Eric: Or has kids there.
Alison: Yeah. So I mean, I guess it’s a staple in that community. It’s a touchstone, so everybody is invested in what’s going on at Hogwarts.
Haley: Yeah. I think that clip about Eileen Prince may have been from the Daily Prophet.
Carla: It doesn’t say. It just says “a very old piece of newsprint.” Oh yeah, here, no: “The library. There’s a whole collection of old Prophets up there.” Okay. There we go.
Eric: Old Prophets. Okay. It was the Daily Prophet. So the Daily Prophet functions not only as a national newspaper but [also] as a school newspaper. I mean, I guess if it is the only school in England…
Haley: … you’d want to know.
Eric: … that you go to if you’re a wizard, then it makes sense. Germany and France probably have their own newspapers.
Haley: Well, yeah. In Fantastic Beasts, there’s the German newspaper. I was on SpeakBeasty this week also. We talked about…
Eric: Oh, really?
[Eric and Haley laugh]
Haley: Yeah. There is a German newspaper that comes up at the beginning of the film. There’s the American paper that comes up. So each country has their own big one.
Eric: There you go. You’re double dipping your podcasts this week, Haley.
Haley: Yes, I am.
[Alison, Eric, and Haley laugh]
Eric: Well, we would be completely remiss if we did an episode on education and didn’t talk about some of the people who instruct our young ones. We’ve had so many teachers throughout Harry’s six years of attending Hogwarts, both good and bad. And we can talk a lot about this, but I did want to ask because Carla, you mentioned having this focus on trust. Can you about what, specifically, you researched?
Carla: Yeah, definitely. So the thesis itself went a little f[u]rther in that it compared and contrasted compassion, trust, and motivation in teenage students in regard to their teachers. And I’ve trimmed it down, I guess. [laughs] Basically, trust is very vital in any learning situation. It’s something you need, to trust your teacher, [and] you need to trust your parents in order to learn from them. But the problem with the student-teacher relationships is that they are very asymmetrical, so the teacher has more power than the student. And because of this, it’s hard to get trust going because you have to risk the other person’s betrayal when trusting someone. So the risk is greater for the person with less power, in this case, the student. So they’re not going to trust from their side. So the trust has to come from the teacher. The teacher has to initiate the trusting relationship, and then it can be reciprocated, and then we can get to learning. So based on whether a teacher shows trust or trusts their students makes a huge difference in the Harry Potter world. I’ve noticed what kind of teaching style, what kind[s] of teaching goals they have, how much the students learn, the environment… [I’ve noticed] about everything, because there'[re] three components, three things I want to get into: if a student trusts their teacher, what it results in. They can trust the teacher’s competence in the knowledge of the subject, they can trust them to mark their work fairly, treat everyone fairly, and they can trust them to not be negative in the feedback that they give, so they can trust their teacher enough to dare to make mistakes and give wrong answers. And all of these, if they have all three trusts, if they trust in all three aspects, then students are most likely to be motivated and to learn most. And it’s most likely going to be a positive relationship. And I’ve noticed that you can apply this to the different teachers of Hogwarts really nicely. And for example, McGonagall is a great example, Umbridge is a great example – one in the positive, one in the negative. I don’t know if we want to just go through the teachers and I can throw in…
Eric: Yeah, well, Alison, as an educator yourself, Alison, how do you feel about this model in looking at the trust relationship? Because actually, when talking about a student-teacher bond, there is a very implied but also earned bond.
Alison: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s incredibly important. It makes teaching more difficult when you have that lack of… What it really boils down to is trust and respect, even, and when that’s not there, nothing else happens. It’s one of the biggest things that you have to establish right off the bat; you have to establish that trust and that respect and start building that so you can get to content. Otherwise, everything is just shot, and there’s no way you’re going to do anything. So yeah, no, I think that’s really important, and I think you’re right. You made a note here about Hagrid; they like [and] they trust Hagrid, and so they will pay attention in his class; they will stand up for him to other students. But the other students don’t have that loyalty to him, so they see his teaching style and… Even Hermione, who does have that loyalty to him, is like, “Hmm, he’s not great.”
Alison: But they still will participate and try in his class and do things for him because they like him [and] they respect him. Whereas, [with] Lockhart, by the end, they’re all like, “You’re a joke. None of us want[s] to be here. Why are we here? This is dumb.”
Carla: Exactly. And it’s just that complete lack of trust in the teacher to know what they are doing and to do it properly. That just completely makes it impossible to learn, basically.
Eric: Yeah, and if you look at Harry, the classes that Harry learns in least, I think the top one is History of Magic. You have a teacher [who] does not engage his students.
Haley: Literally dead.
Eric: It’s very… because he’s dead, but also…
[Eric and Haley laugh]
Eric: … he could if he wanted to. He answers questions; he’s able to talk to the students. But you have a very poor relationship. Something fails there. If you had to identify or diagnose, where’s the trust fail in Professor Binns in History of Magic? Because these students are not engaged. I don’t know if anyone does well in History of Magic. Harry certainly doesn’t.
Carla: Hermione. [laughs]
Eric: Hermione, right? But that’s because she is, in general, more capable and more engaged to listen no matter what. She has the trust that Binns knows what he’s talking about. But these other students, especially Harry, need something more out of Professor Binns if they are to learn.
Carla: It just completely… It’s already in the… Because trusting is a social interaction, and there is just no interaction there. So there’s no… You can’t trust if there’s no interaction. There’s no chance at all [laughs] for any kind of trust. That’s why it fails.
Haley: I feel like the way that this goes, [it] also relates for me, as a student, the teacher makes the class. Because I’m an English minor and I love English classes, but I had some English teachers, and it’s like, “I can’t. I can’t. I love this subject; I can’t do this class. I hate it so much.” And also, that’s how it is for Harry, because he hates Snape and he doesn’t do [well] in Potions. I mean, yes, he has the book in the next year, but even in his OWLs, he ends up getting an Exceeds Expectations. He wasn’t that bad.
Eric: Yeah. When we look at failings, too – the extreme opposite end of that for me – and I think if we had to poll ourselves, who’s our favorite teacher at Hogwarts? Some people might say McGonagall, which is fine. Some people might say Flitwick. He’s underrated; it’s great. But my favorite is Remus Lupin. And I think, if you look at it, if you break it down, all three of these trusts exist between Harry and Lupin.
Carla: Yeah, 100%. Just going off that, it’s interesting to note that all of them may… I would argue that [with[ McGonagall, all these trusts exist as well. It’s just on a completely different scale. For example – I’m just going to dive right in here – McGonagall is… She gives a little bit of trust by laying down the rules. In their first lesson, she says, “This is how it is. This is what I expect from you, and I trust you to succeed. I trust in your abilities to do this.” And then, they give a little trust back by following. And then it spirals. It grows and grows and grows when she follows through on all of her fairness, on her rewards, on her punishments. And someone like Hermione does really, really well in that environment; that is exactly the type of environment that she needs to learn. Neville, on the other hand… McGonagall is completely confident in Neville. She tells him, I think in the fifth book, “Yes, even you Mr. Longbottom, you can get an OWL too.”
Carla: “Your only problem is confidence.” She knows a piece of Neville.
Alison: Well, she tells him in the sixth book too. She stands up for him too. She says, “No, you have an ability in Charms…”
Carla: Do it.
Alison: “… so I’ll drop your grandmother an owl and tell her just because she failed Charms…”
Alison: “… doesn’t mean it’s nothing you mustn’t do. You’re going to take Charms.” She knows their individual strengths, so she’s going to put them in the right direction.
Carla: Yeah, but her style just isn’t something Neville can thrive in. But in Lupin’s class, he probably gets really, really, really good marks. We don’t know what he gets [on] the final exam, but he just blossoms in that class, while Hermione, on the other hand, she… In the final exam, we see her running out because the boggart got to her, right? So that’s probably not particularly the environment… I mean, for Hermione’s standards, she doesn’t do as well as with McGonagall.
Eric: That’s a really good point. So making…
Haley: It has to do with emotion, and Hermione is not good. She wants to know the rules of how to do something. That’s how she learns.
Carla: Exactly. And so it really depends on how you learn, how you would like to learn, how you learn best, that makes your favorite teacher.
Eric: Yeah. Yeah, and Lupin had the very practical classes. You think about [not only] the boggart, for instance, but also a recurring theme between… whether it’s McGonagall or Lupin, the attention to the individual. And class sizes facilitate that, I think, which is another huge whole thing when talking about the real-world education system. The teachers – the good teachers – are able to make time and have time for each of the students in their class, and I think it might be a mark of a failure of Lupin that Hermione did so poorly against the boggart, but it also just might be her own personal… The possibility that she failed a test, she can’t separate it from reality because she’s also very heavily insecure. But Lupin, I think, for the most part, gave each of those students what they individually needed, and I think that shows in his anticipation of what their boggarts will be, pulling Harry out of the opportunity, regardless of why he says he does it, is a safe thing because he knows that Harry is particularly horrified of what’s going to happen.
Haley: And the way he gives Neville confidence at the beginning with telling him to put Snape in his grandmother’s clothes. [laughs]
Carla: That’s exactly it, yeah. Exactly that last one, that daring to make mistakes, students are allowed to make mistakes or just try something new without a fear of making a mistake, that Lupin excels in that.
Eric: To create a really safe space.
Carla: Exactly, a really safe… He gets the perfect… I don’t the word in English. It’s one of those official terms that I learned in German. But there’s this comfort zone. You got your comfort zone and then you’ve got a zone around that, that’s [an] optimal learning zone or something like that. You want to push yourself outside your comfort zone but not so far that you’re going to completely fail, so to speak.
Eric: Yeah, there’s motivational fear and then [there’s] unproductive, “Oh my God, I’m going to die” kind of thing.
Carla: Yeah. So you want to push yourself to that point where you’re pushing yourself to learn because you’re doing something completely new and something you’ve never done before, but you’re not going too far, and Lupin is able to push every student perfectly to that point.
Eric: What is the word in German? I’m curious.
Carla: I honestly can’t remember it now. [laughs] I’ll think of it, but…
Haley: On the other side of the fear thing, there’s, of course, again, Snape with when “Okay, Neville, do this right or I’m going to kill your frog.” [laughs]
Eric: Yeah. Your frog will die. You will poison your frog.
Haley: Oh my gosh. I couldn’t believe that.
Eric: And one could argue – right? – that Snape is at his wit’s end because he’s like, “I can’t reach this boy. Maybe this will motivate you.” But it’s all an excuse.
Haley: If we’re switching down the line, [since] I just switched forward to Snape, while I agree he’s not good at connecting with the students and stuff, like I was mentioning earlier, I do think he’s a good teacher in the fact that he knows what he’s talking about and he’s teaching them what they need to know for their OWLs and stuff. Because in the end where it’s like, “Yeah, Harry did horribl[y] in his class and he wasn’t good, he wasn’t a fair grader or anything,” Harry still got an Exceeds [Expectations]. He learned something. It worked. It wasn’t very fun, but it worked.
Eric: Yeah, I guess. I guess. Snape has none of the individual… If you’re not in Slytherin, he has no time for you. But furthermore, even worse, he has no patience for you. He will make an active joke out of you in class if you screw up. And that does not foster trust.
Carla: No, it does not.
Eric: Being a bully does not… I’m surprised that Harry learns [as] much as he did, and I think most of it was out of spite, really, which you could argue, how will you retain that knowledge of how to brew a potion a certain way?
Alison: Spite and Hermione.
Eric: And Hermione, thank God, pulling all of the weight. So much about Potions is delicacy, and the environment being as hostile as it most of the time was in Potions class is not a good learning environment, I don’t think.
Haley: I found a quote from Half-Blood Prince. And on that note, I think that Snape is a better Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher than he is a Potions teacher. And I mean, of course he wanted that, but one of the lines that stood out to me is when Harry and Hermione leave the first class where they do the nonverbal spells, and Hermione says… What she’s saying is that Snape and Harry are very similar in their teaching styles, where [she’s] saying, “Yes, when you were telling us what it’s like to face Voldemort. You said it wasn’t just memorizing a bunch of spells, you said it was just you and your brains and your guts — well, wasn’t that what Snape was saying? That it really does come down to being brave and quick-thinking?” So it was interesting, I thought, that Hermione would compare Snape’s teaching of Defense Against the Dark Arts. Where a lot of people would compare Harry to Lupin a lot in his teaching, Hermione is like, “No, you and Snape are actually quite similar in your teaching.”
Eric: [laughs] I have the same reaction to Hermione’s comment that Harry did.
Eric: “Ugh! Get away from me, Hermione.”
Carla: Yeah. But I agree that Harry isn’t like Lupin, because Lupin builds his lessons very well. He explains the theory.
Carla: He does it with a boggart, exactly like with the Dementor. He explains the creature, and then he explains how the charm works and what it is and then you practice it, and Harry is just like, “Okay, I’m going to demonstrate and then…”
Haley: “… do it!”
Carla: “You’re going to try it, and then after a while, I’m going to demonstrate again and sort of correct the details, and then you’re going to do it again.”
Haley: And this also reminded me of the scene that they’re learning nonverbal spells, people were like, “Why did…?” He just says, “Okay, now duel each other.” But it also reminded me of how they learn how to Apparate, where they’re just like, “Here are the three D’s.”
Haley: “Now go do it, kids!” [laughs] That’s the way to learn magic, I guess. [laughs]
Carla: Yeah. Some things you just got to learn. I don’t know how learning to drive is in America, but here in Germany, it’s like, “Okay, you can go to theory first, but you can also just go in the car. That’s the gas pedal, that’s the clutch, [and] that’s the brake. Let’s try this.”
Eric: All those manual transmissions over in Europe.
[Alison and Carla laugh]
Eric: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. And then you get the polar opposite. Umbridge is a horrible teacher for a hundred reasons, but she has no practical, hands-on anything. Whether she truly believes that useful information can be gleaned 100% from books remains to be seen.
Haley: I don’t think so.
Eric: I don’t think she believes it.
Carla: I don’t think so.
Alison: I don’t think she does.
Haley: She was just trying to make sure that they weren’t being warriors, that they weren’t being trained in battle. That’s what it was.
Alison: Yeah, she was just trying to keep them bored and passive.
Carla: She does not want them to learn. And that’s why she’s, for me, a perfect example of distrusting, because she fulfills none of the trust requirements and uses that sort of asymmetrical relationship as a tool to prevent learning. She legitimately prevents learning, and she has no trust in her students to learn and she doesn’t want to treat them fairly, and so in turn, they have no trust in her competence, no trust in her being fair, and they don’t want to make any mistakes and they don’t learn.
Eric: She actively pits students against each other.
Haley: Yeah. With her Inquisitorial Squad.
Eric: Slytherins in the Inquisitorial Squad, yeah. And that’s her style, but it’s also because of the circumstances surrounding the year that she is that way. I wonder if she ever taught before.
Alison: No. [laughs] No.
Alison and Haley: I doubt it.
Eric: She was just a career politician who was like…
Carla: Don’t you have one of those in America in education?
Haley: Right now! Our Secretary of Education has no educational background. It can happen here.
Carla: Yeah. I just made that connection.
Alison: Well, yes, there’s that. But they also, in the state I’m in, just passed a law where you don’t have to have an education degree to teach anymore. You just have to have experience in the field. And it’s causing all sorts of problems.
Carla: Oh, by the way, I found the German words: Komfortzone, Lernzone, [and] Panikzone.
Eric: I guess I’ll ask you later how to spell them.
Eric: But one of them is the motivational fear, one of them is the fear too far, and then the other one’s the sweet spot?
Carla: Well, no, one of them is the comfort zone, Komfortzone. That’s literally spelled “comfort zone” with a K at the front.
[Alison and Eric laugh]
Carla: Yeah. Then there’s the learning zone, basically, is the perfect zone you want to be in. And just too far is the panic zone, which is also spelled “panic zone” with a K instead of a C. German and English are sometimes very similar. Turns out.
Alison: Yeah. That’s because English just beat up languages and pulled them in.
Haley: It’s a Germanic language.
Carla: Yep, yep. No, I thought I had a different word that I thought was describing that, but I didn’t. Anyway.
Eric: Okay, so we have two left to go through here real quick, but it’s cool. There’s a sort of progression. With Horace Slughorn, you have a teacher who I think is probably pretty good. He inspires. He knows what’s cool. At least in Year 6, you get to deal with potions that are actually really cool, and he knows it. So he does a good job of inspiring his students. There’s definitely, I think, a trust there in his competence. There’s a trust there in his being fair, although that comes into conflict with Slughorn as a person, who is recruiting students for his special club. I mean, he’s hoarding his students. I don’t want to say “abusing,” but he very clearly is forging personal relationships with students that exceed the traditional “I will teach you something” agreement, contract, whatever you want to call it between a teacher and a student that they normally have. But also, he’s in it for personal gain as a result. So his own students’ individuality is a commodity to him, which is very unique, I think, for Potter, but also, not that unique when you look at the real world and certain things that happen and certain teacher relationships that you have. Teachers are people too, and so having a personal relationship with a teacher, whether it’s 100% educational all the time, or if it’s social, if one teacher’s also your coach, it’s all different and muddled and more nuanced than that.
Haley: Yeah, I think Slughorn is a great teacher. I think he’s definitely, in the books… Well, he has a questionable moral code sometimes. I think he’s one of the best Slytherins [whom] we see in the books, and I really like him as a character, but I mean, I remember in the Doc saying because some of the students aren’t in the Slug Club, is that a bad thing? I don’t think the Slug Club itself is a bad thing. I think that some of the students who get there, get there for the wrong reasons, like Belby or McLaggen, just because he knows people in the Ministry. But I think people like Ginny, who[m] he sees in the hallway and is like, “She’s smart, I want her in my club,” I think that’s a good idea to have a club about kids who are…
Eric: For her, it’s an opportunity to thrive. If something like the Slug Club gives you more opportunities for the real world, if it looks good on your résumé or anything, if it’s going to help give you placement… Because I think that’s what Slughorn is offering too. He has contacts and can actually place you in a career based on contacts if he likes you. I mean, teachers, again, being human, there’s a bias. Teachers have favorites. Parents have favorites. [laughs] Everybody has favorites. But the personal bias a teacher may show also has a negative effect on learning, though, because characters like Ron feel excluded.
Haley: And Arthur too. Because Molly talks about how Arthur didn’t like him very much because he wasn’t in that club.
Eric: Yeah, exactly. And if you look at the negative effect of Slughorn’s approach on learning and education and you get a situation where, for Arthur Weasley, in his school years, it was probably pretty tough, especially [since] Horace wasn’t just a once-and-done, one-year teacher. He was the Potions [professor] for seven years. So Arthur would’ve really not done well in Potions if he didn’t personally relate to Slughorn. If Slughorn didn’t like him or didn’t think he was anything special, that would end up having potentially long-lasting implications on Arthur’s education.
Haley: Yeah. I mean, I wonder if he would’ve gotten a higher position in the Ministry if he [were] in the Slug Club.
Eric: [laughs] There you go!
Carla: Probably, yeah. That’s the thing with Slughorn. I feel like those who are in his Slug Club, they definitely profit. They learn a lot. And those students like – I don’t know – Justin Finch-Fletchley – I don’t know if he’s in the Slug Club – I feel like he can probably… It’s not as important to him and he can still learn under Slughorn whether or not he gets recognized for it, let’s say, but someone like Ron, exactly, is…
Haley: It’s a sore spot for him too, being overlooked. It’s his Achilles’ heel in the whole series.
Carla: Yeah. Yeah. Because of course Harry and Hermione are recognized again and he’s overlooked once more, and so of course he’s going to transfer that as well into his Potions class, which is unfortunate. But overall, I think, there'[re] so [many] positive results for those in the Slug Club and as a teacher, for those even [who] aren’t in the Slug Club but don’t care. Overall, I think he’s a good teacher.
Eric: So it’s a perfect segue, though, into Dumbledore because Dumbledore is completely exclusive. The studies, at least at the time that Harry is attending Hogwarts… I know Dumbledore used to be the Transfiguration teacher, presumably for all ages a long time ago, but the independent study that Harry receives from him, I don’t think a lot of students really resent the relationship that Dumbledore and Harry have.
Haley: I don’t think they know it’s happening.
Alison: Well, I don’t think a lot of them know.
Haley: I think they would if they did. I think a lot of people would.
Eric: They would if they did?
Haley: Oh yeah. People like…
Alison and Carla: I don’t know.
Carla: Of course, because he’s the Boy Who Lived. At the point in the sixth book where he gets the private lessons, everyone’s like, “Okay, yeah, Voldemort is back, and Harry Potter…”
Haley: I mean, you don’t think the Ravenclaws would want a personal class with Dumbledore?
Eric: That’s a good point! Because Dumbledore is the most brilliant… I mean, objectively, he’s actually the smartest person in the room anywhere he goes. And that comes from his long life experience and I think, his now readjusted, healthy moral code because so much tragedy has befallen him. Older Dumbledore, mentor Dumbledore, is really that perfect character who[m] you would want private lessons from. That’s actually a really good point about the Ravenclaws. [laughs] I wonder if they applied, if they reach out to him and they’re like, “Hey, can you show me something?”
Alison: But he has a different role at the school by that point. He’s the Headmaster. He’s in charge of so much more.
Haley: Oh, I agree he couldn’t do it, but I’m saying…
Alison: I don’t know. I feel like at least…
Haley: … if they heard that Harry got this, they would be like, “Uhh, excuse me. Where’s my class?”
Eric: Yeah, but I wonder what his day-to-day really looks like.
Alison: Well, yeah. And maybe I’m thinking [about] it from an American school point [of view], but it’s the kids [whom] the principal and the vice principals know, [and] you’re like, “Mmm. Trouble.” [laughs] They’re the trouble kids, right? And that’s why they’re there.
Haley: True, yeah. They probably think he’s in detention, honestly.
Alison: Yeah, so maybe they wouldn’t. And I mean, I know a lot of teachers [whom] I know say they don’t want to become administrators. Because administrators, principals, headmasters, they lose a lot of that direct contact, being in the classroom daily with their student[s]. It’s a different kind of relationship you have to have.
Haley: This is such a stretch, but there was an episode of New Girl [laughs] that was like that, where she becomes the principal and all the students…
Haley: … don’t want to talk to her anymore. [laughs]
Eric: [laughs] Yeah, there’s this disconnect, right? There’s this applied extra level or layer. And I’m sure you can explain it away. [laughs] Harry is the Chosen One. Dumbledore is the one with the plan to defeat Voldemort, and they need to be having these classes. Nobody – I don’t think a single soul – would argue that that’s not valuable and important. But Dumbledore, I guess, also just has a lot of qualities of being a good teacher anyway. Partly because he was one, but Dumbledore has got an extremely analytical mind. And I mean, he actively pretends that he doesn’t know that Horcruxes is the answer, but he’s able to…
Haley: [laughs] He knows.
Eric: … completely illustrate to Harry why and how they are, right? He’s able to start it [on] Day 1 and over the course of a year, really show how and why he’s pieced these things together and made the conclusions that he has. And it ends up being 100% correct.
Carla: While at the same time giving Harry the tools to think of analytically…
Eric: And the confidence. Yeah.
Carla: … the confidence, the ability, showing him what… helping him learn to hone his skill and thinking analytically. That can’t be overlooked.
Eric: And what Harry doesn’t have of Dumbledore that Dumbledore does, what Harry doesn’t have that in… [That] knowing Tom Riddle when he was young shared experience, Harry makes up for with the scar connection. And the fact that he’s able to literally see into Voldemort’s mind.
Carla: Yeah. It’s a dream team.
Eric: Dream team, yeah. But Dumbledore, I mean, we don’t really get many examples of him as a teacher other than that.
Haley: I feel like Minerva seemed to have liked him, just with the little you hear.
Eric: Yeah. Yeah. And I wonder if that’s their shared connection over Transfiguration or whether they just… I think they click on an academic level because they are both just very intelligent. But knowing that they have such a nice adult relationship of trust and… They’re in Chapter 1 of Harry Potter. It’s so special. Gives me all the feels. Does anybody have anything else to say about education in the magical world? Did we go through all of the teachers you wanted to talk…? Did we talk about Flitwick enough and say how cool he is? Because Flitwick is great!
Haley: Also, I love that he has…
Carla: No, we didn’t talk about Pomona Sprout enough.
Eric: Pomona… Professor Sprout.
Carla: Professor Sprout!
Eric: Well, okay, what do you think her teaching…?
Carla: #HufflepuffRepresent! [laughs]
Eric: What do you think her teaching is? She’s kind of quirky, right? But she’s also… You get your hands dirty in that class. It’s very practical.
Alison: Yeah, she’s very down to earth. I think she’s very down to earth, very practical…
Carla: Very hands on.
Haley: Her class is very practical. They’re usually…
Alison: Do it!
Haley: … potting plants every class, it seems. So they’re just learning how to feed or take care of strange plants.
[Alison and Haley laugh]
Eric: I wonder if that’s more vocational. I wonder, too, if they meet as often for Herbology as they do for other classes.
Haley: Do they for Care of Magical Creatures? I feel it would be the same level where you would go to it.
Alison: I forgot what their timetables look like.
Carla: Do they ever have double Herbology? It doesn’t sound like a…
Alison: I don’t think so.
Haley: I don’t think that their timetables make any sense. Honestly, I don’t think they [would actually] make sense if you put them all together. I think she’s just like, “We’ve got to go see Snape. Double Potions!”
Carla: “I want Harry and his friends to suffer. Double Potions, double Divination, double History of Magic…”
Haley: I feel like they always had double Potions.
Carla: I know. With the Slytherins.
Eric: J.K. Rowling sets the curriculum at Hogwarts.
Eric: Nobody else. [laughs]
Carla: Oh, the poor guys. The poor students. Oh no.
Eric: Well, guys, I think that may wrap up our main discussion on magical education in Harry Potter. I think we covered it dead. I really liked that.
Haley: Yeah, thank you.
Carla: That was awesome.
Haley: We covered quite a lot.
Carla: Under three hours.
Haley: Yeah, we did it. [laughs]
Eric: Yeah, we hit the goal, everybody.
[Alison and Eric laugh]
Haley: Thank you, Carla, for coming today. You did such a good job of providing a great outlook on this conversation.
Carla: [laughs] Thank you. Thank you for having me. That was a lot of fun. Definitely.
Alison: Hey, we should also probably thank Haley for…
Eric: Yeah! Thank you, Haley!
Haley: You’re welcome.
Alison: [laughs] We didn’t do that at the beginning. Haley is one of our MuggleNet staff members who…
Haley: I’m on the Content Team.
Alison: … filled in this week.
Eric: Content. Woo-hoo!
Alison: So yeah, thank you, Haley, for that. And next episode, our next topic is going to be old theories.
Eric: I’m really excited to talk [about that]. I think I’m leading the discussion on that episode as well, and I think it’s going to be a good one.
Haley: I hope you talk about…
Eric: Very old school, like what could have been.
Carla: Oh, I can’t wait to tune in.
Haley: I hope you guys talk about the Ron/Dumbledore thing.
Carla: [laughs] Oh, gosh. Oh my gosh.
Eric: Just because you brought it up, I think we have to… I’ll work it in. Ron is secretly…
Carla: I think you’re going to have to [unpack] your old copy of What Will Happen in Harry Potter 7, eh? [laughs]
Eric: Yeah, and Ultimate Unofficial Guide to the Mysteries of Harry Potter.
Eric: Love it.
Carla: [laughs] Awesome.
Eric: Well, if you would like to be on the show like Carla was, you actually just have to go to the main Alohomora! website, alohomora.mugglenet.com, and you can actually choose the topic that most interests you. So essentially, our submissions… You write a little blurb about yourself. There are instructions on submitting an audio file, which we just check for audio quality, so you notice there’s no fan going or big, large machinery happening behind Carla. Thank you, Carla, for turning that all off beforehand. But you just need a set of Apple headphones. It can be as simple as that; no fancy equipment. But just go in and submit the topic and let us know [that] you want to be a part of the show just on our website.
Haley: And if you want to contact us, we’re on Twitter at @AlohomoraMN, with the “MN” capitalized. You can reach us on Facebook at facebook.com/openthedumbledore. Our website, of course, is alohomora.mugglenet.com. And sadly, there is no more audioBoom. It seems they have done away with the record-and-send-in feature, and we’re all very sad about it.
Eric: It’s in [all caps].
Carla, Eric, and Haley: WE ARE SAD!
Eric: We are sad. And also, this is one more reminder. Check out our Patreon, which is patreon.com/Alohomora. There is a bonus discussion that is going up on the trolley witch from Cursed [Child].
Alison: [laughs] It was a good one.
Eric: It was a good one. And definitely, you can become our sponsor for as low as $1 a month. It is worth it. We want to thank, again, the sponsor for this week’s episode, which was Ali F. And yeah, just go check it out [and] see if it’s for you. See what the rewards are, the tears, all that stuff over at patreon.com/Alohomora. Awesome. Thank you all for sticking around and listening and having such a great, lovely discussion on education.
[Show music begins]
Eric: I’m Eric Scull.
Haley: I’m Haley [Lewis].
Alison: And I’m Alison Siggard. Thank you for listening to Episode 216 of Alohomora!
Eric: Open the Dumbledore!
[Show music continues]