Monday, July 23, 2007

J.K. Rowling And Government Meddling In Education

Most of you have probably heard enough about Harry Potter - but I have to tell you how delighted I am that J.K. Rowling is making certain views known through her writing.

I recently saw the movie "Order of the Phoenix", and was I quite intrigued with Rowling's portrayal of government (Ministry of Magic) meddling in a private school (Hogwarts). Of course in the movie, Dolores Umbridge is placed at Hogwarts School for Wizardry and Magic by Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, for the purpose of "reforming", or as Hermione defines it - "interfere with" - the school's curriculum. Umbridge eventually has the power, as the Hogwarts' High Inquisitor, and later headmistress, to fire teachers and torture the students. She begins to strip away the right to assemble, as well as a host of other freedoms from the young wizards by invoking repressive edicts. The story line eventually portrays how damaging government meddling in education can be. Dolores Umbridge manages to water down the curriculum that was originally designed to teach students to defend themselves against the "Dark Arts". The young wizards ended up learning nothing and they decide that the skills are so necessary that they must "school themselves" in stealth. They were essentially "homeschooling". The criticism of the "nanny state" and government bureaucracy and control is quite apparent.

This from an article by Benjamin Barton, entitled "Harry Potter and the Half-Crazed Bureaucracy":
Consider this partial list of government activities: a) torturing children for lying; b) utilizing a prison designed and staffed specifically to suck all life and hope out of the inmates; c) placing citizens in that prison without a hearing; d) allows the death penalty without a trial; e) allowing the powerful, rich or famous to control policy and practice; f) selective prosecution (the powerful go unpunished and the unpopular face trumped-up charges); g) conducting criminal trials without independent defense counsel; h) using truth serum to force confessions; i) maintaining constant surveillance over all citizens; j) allowing no elections whatsoever and no democratic lawmaking process; k) controlling the press.
With that said, I am delighted to share this amazing and delightful quote from J.K. Rowling's latest and final book in the Harry Potter series:

"Of course, nearly every witch [magical girl] and wizard [magical boy]in Britain had been educated at Hogwarts [a privately run school under the watchful eye of government workers], but THEIR PARENTS HAD THE RIGHT TO TEACH THEM AT HOME or send them abroad if they preferred." ("Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows", p. 210, Copryright 2007)

Pretty cool huh?
Parental rights in education mentioned in HP.
School choice mentioned in HP.
Maybe with all the millions of kids and parents reading the series they will get a smattering of the notions regarding freedom in education, parental rights and educational choice free from government control. They may even recognize how government bureaucracy, and too much government control can be detrimental. Parts of the fantasy world of HP certainly mirrors our own life.

J.K. Rowling is wonderful.
But we all knew that.

(H/T for the quote: A. Arias)
By the way: Great piece about "Order of the Phoenix" by Elisheva at Ragamuffin Studies