Is Arne Duncan really Dolores Umbridge? Parallels Between the Potterverse and Today's Educational Policies & Practices
Cathy Leogrande & Crystal Ponto
Education is a central theme in the Potter series. Both in an out of school, traditional schooling and real-life experience are shown as critical to growth. At the same time, education is as politically dominated in the wizarding world as it is in the muggle world. This presentation examines various aspects of education and the parallels and discrepancies that can be used as a source of discussion for teachers and students.
The source of this work is the experience of the presenter using the Potter novels and films as common texts and therefore, examples in teacher education. Throughout the undergraduate and graduate program at a small liberal arts school, the presenter has been able to cause preservice and inservice teachers to question past and current issues and trends in American education by using passages and clips from the Potter series. From No Child Left Behind to IDEA 2007 to President Obama's Race to the Top, education and government have been conjoined halves of a political hot potato. The novels and films are more neutral material, and foster greater discussion since they are fictional.
The presentation provides examples of activities and assignments that have been used over the past five years to successfully generate debate and reflection. Topics include the following: compulsory education, homeschooling, standards, curricula, examinations, ability grouping, character education, effective teaching, teacher and student evaluation, rewards and punishment for academics and behavior, school administration, governmental control, social stratification and cliques, bullying, career guidance, vocational education, and equity issues.
The presentation is divided into two main segments. The first explores the larger issues relative to education as a political process within the wizarding world. Issues of a larger scale, such as relationship of educational and governmental institutions are discussed. In the second section, issues of a specific school level, such as how specific Hogwarts classes relate to educational theories and practices, are examined.
Interactive discussion will be held with the audience participants during the final portion of the presentation in order to create opportunities for further analysis and dialogue.
Cathy Leogrande is an Associate Professor at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY. She developed a graduate education course entitled Harry Potter: Multidisciplinary Perspectives that is in its fifth year. From video games to comics and graphic novels, she promotes all aspects of new literacies as avenues C87of teaching and learning for all ages. She would like to thank everyone at HPEF for saving her son from a sterile and passive educational environment and showing him that magic does exist at least once a year.
Crystal Ponto has taught in alternative education for 13 years, and uses her own brand of magic to motivate her students. She is an adjunct professor at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY and helps future and current teachers develop and hone their skills. Although she has been mistaken for Bellatrix Le Strange on more than one occasion, she swears she did not kill Sirius Black. Really.