Education Letter to the Editor

Potter on Reform? Give Me a Break

December 06, 2005 1 min read

To the Editor:

In response to Arthur E. Levine’s satire on Harry Potter (“No Wizard Left Behind,”Commentary, Nov. 9, 2005.):

The Harry Potter books are not curriculum, nor are they meant to guide school reform. Give me a break.

Mr. Levine misinterprets and misuses the books to issue a series of outrageous comments. What he does admirably is to discount the lessons that the Harry Potter books provide to this veteran educator (37-plus years). Specifically, Mr. Levine ignores any mention of the following positive aspects of schooling portrayed in the books:

• Hogwarts serves a diverse group of students.

• The curriculum is varied and demanding, and the short- and long-term expectations are clear to students, especially the upper-year students.

• The students are divided into groups, or houses, which serve to break the school down into manageable subgroups led by advisers who encourage competition. The advisers also help students craft yearly coursework schedules.

• Classroom time includes lectures, many hands-on experiments, and various other strategies designed to engage the students. Teachers consistently check for comprehension.

• The school library appears to be extensive, accessible, and full of students doing their assignments.

• Harry, Hermione, and Ron are a study group (there are others). They push and help each other and take their homework seriously. Hermione’s class notes are the envy of the school.

These three have also broken the “school system” code. They know how the school is managed and structured. They also realize the strengths and weaknesses of the teachers and administrators. In short, they know what to expect and what is expected of them. They know they are in school.

• The teachers are a varied lot, vis-à-vis content knowledge and the pedagogy they use. But I wouldn’t consider any of them to be a total loser. Off the wall, perhaps.

Readers who appreciate what J.K. Rowling has created would never consider burdening her with the need to issue prescriptions on how to fix America’s many failing schools. I invite Mr. Levine to start anew with the first Harry Potter book and draw lessons from all of them for his own work. It might help keep him from falling behind.

Gil Narro Garcia

Harpers Ferry, W.Va.