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Mama Deb
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Thoughts on Hogwarts

Reasons behind Hogwarts

About a thousand years ago, the four witches and wizards began a great experiment. They founded a boarding school for young witches and wizards of all social classes. Everything about this is revolutionary for that time and place. Why did the Founders choose to go this route? Are there any other purposes for Hogwarts besides simple education and training? I suggest that there are four reasons (although none correspond to any of the Founders and one, as we know, objected strongly to one of those reasons.) These reasons are Education, Indoctrination, Socialization and as a Marriage Mart.

First, we have to look at education during this time in British History. We don't know the exact time of the Founding, but Professor Binns, in Chamber of Secrets, which took place in 1993, said it was over a thousand years ago, which places the Founding in 990s. (As a side point, this means that the Longbottoms and the Weasleys, who are very old families indeed, would very likely have had students in the first classes, while the Malfoys, whom I believe came with the Normans in 1066, would have been somewhat later. I have no clue about the Blacks. But I digress.) Education, if it happened at all, happened inside convents and monasteries for those with religious vocations and/or sufficient family wealth to pay for the education, or in the keeps of nobles and the homes of still-new merchant class. That is, for those with money and/or rank. And even then, it would mostly be for boys other than those girls in the convents. Everyone else learned only what they needed to earn a living from parents or masters - and that usually didn't include reading. Hogwarts, as an essentially secular school dedicating to educating children of all classes and both sexes, would be unheard of.

So why start it? The reasons, according to Professor Binns, were because of increasing persecution of wizards and because young wizards and witches needed to be taught - the Founders may have differed on who deserved it, but they agreed that it was needed.

I can only conjecture about preHogwarts wizarding education, and that would depend a lot on the resources and background of the parents. For this purpose, I'm going to use the terms Wizardraised and Muggleraised, because, as Harry's experiences have shown, it's not in the nature but the nurture.

Children raised in wizarding households would, of course, be taught the basics by their parents, who would also get them their first wands. I can see young wizards sitting by the hearth, being taught potions by one parent, while young witches are taught hexes out by the apple orchard by the other. Except that as the need for secrecy grew, they might not be under the apple tree. Eventually, these children would be apprenticed to some witch or wizard who could teach them a specific skill (probably just before puberty - say at age eleven.) Or they'd stay at home and learn their parents' profession. Pretty much like Muggle children, really.

And, just like their Muggle counterparts, the wealthier ones would have private tutors, with the difference being that witches would receive the same education as wizards. I was going to say that there probably wouldn't have been convents or monasteries, but that doesn't make any sense, given the Fat Friar. What makes more sense is that there were, and probably *are*, Wizarding orders within the Church, and so there would be abbeys to send kids who had callings or who needed the sort of discipline a convent could bring. So, again, not so different from Muggle children. However, it would mean that truly talented wizards born to poorer families might not get the training they needed and it certainly would make a patchwork of education in general.

Muggleraised children, on the other hand, would face a nightmare. No one would know how to train their abilities, so they'd be self-taught at best. This, of course, is assuming they would be allowed to use their powers, or ever got in control of them. They'd certainly not receive wands. They would probably be dangerous to those around them as their uncontrolled magic would flare during moments of anger or fear or high emotion of any sort. We've seen this with Harry, even after he went to Hogwarts.

However, I'd think they'd be in more danger from those around them. A child manifesting those abilities might well have been cast out or even killed - although I suspect that the children's magic might have protected them. Again, conjecturing from Harry - his aunt and uncle never hit him. Aunt Petunia once aimed a frying pan at him, but he'd ducked and that was that. That does seem out of character - perhaps they tried to hit him when he was very small, and his magic fought back, and the Dursleys decided not to chance it again. Then again, Dudley hits him. So, who know?

If they weren't killed but were cast out - if they survived on their own to adulthood - I'm not sure what would happen to untrained adult wizards, but it may not have been very pretty. They'd end up alone and frightened of themselves and the world. On the other hand, such children may have been fortunate enough to be found by a kind wizard or a witch to bring up. Others, well. May have been unfortunate enough to have been found by a not-so-kind wizard or witch.

This was not a good state of affairs - the Wizardraised getting this unorganized, stratified and secretive education, probably full of misconceptions and folk wisdom, and the Muggleraised not getting much of anything at all. Clearly the Founders thought it bad.

By creating a central school, they solve a number of these problems. It creates an organized curriculum so that children's progress can be judged and rated and perhaps helped along. Because there would be several teachers, there would be a wider range of subjects available to each student, not just what their parents or their tutor knew. And as it would be open to all students of all classes - class doesn't seem to have been a factor in the arguments among the Founders - all witches and wizards would be able be educated and on the same level.

There are other benefits. Because it would be secret, the students would have a chance to safely practice skills that would be too dangerous to do in the home village. More than that, since they'd be supervised by knowledgeable people, they'd be able to build these skills properly.

Most importantly, it would give the Muggleraised a fighting chance, provided they could be identified. I do believe many would have been killed as, well, witches, before the founding of Hogwarts and the discovery of some way of identifying magical children. And they get the training and tools they'd need to be proper wizards and witches. (And, again, this is pure conjecture, but somehow, I imagine it was Helga Hufflepuff who created the detector. She was the only Founder who just wanted to teach them all, so she'd be the one most concerned about the Muggleraised. Helga is rapidly becoming my hero.)

And this leads us to Indoctrination. Indoctrination would be most important for the Muggleraised, who would be entering an entirely different world - one similar but not identical to the world they left. They would be introduced to the society through their Housemates and lessons and just the general school society. The school would also create a great deal of loyalty to itself as well as the Houses and the society in general. It seems to work - look at Hermione, who thinks of Muggles as "they" and who chose to spend all of her holidays with the Weasleys instead of her own tolerant and loving parents. She fully identifies as a witch, even if a portion of the wizarding world considers her beneath them.

But it also works for the Wizardraised kids. While it's clear that they never lose loyalty to their families and that the values of their families determine, to some degree, their Houses (Malfoys are always Slytherins; Weasleys are always Gryffindors; Sirius bucked a longstanding family tradition by going to Gryffindor), it's also clear that House culture also plays a role in shaping the students. Hermione, who would have been fit in quite well in Ravenclaw as she was in the beginning, is as reckless as any Gryffindor now.

There probably was some idea that a unified education for all across class and blood lines would create a unified set of values for the Wizarding world, but that would have failed. The Houses keep the differences alive, and Wizardraised children would keep to their own families's values and ideals.

However, it does lead into Socialization. It's the thing that brings all of Wizarding Britain together - members of all classes live, eat and learn together. This would go for all the houses - just because Slytherin only accepts full and halfblood students doesn't mean they're all of the same social class. We know this for a fact - Draco Malfoy, of family, property and wealth, was sorted into the same House as Tom Riddle, who was a Muggleraised half-blood with nothing at all. And could have taken Harry Potter, who is also a Muggleraised half-blood, and who didn't even know he had money until a month earlier.

The way I see it, the Sorting Hat takes into account two criteria - does the student fit the mandate of the House and does the Student want to be in the House? And it weighs the second one more heavily than the first. We've seen this with Hermione, who had to argue to be Sorted into Gryffindor, but who won that argument handily. It does not take family background into account, other than the need for Slytherins to be at least half-blood, or rearing or money.

So, from the very beginning, students from all walks of life were put together in a situation that creates strong and probably lifelong bonds among age and House lines. More than that - in three of the Houses, Muggleborn would be included in those bonds, and so they'd be a part of wizarding society. They'd have connections that would enable them to find their way in that world to make up for the ones they lost or rejected when they left the Muggle world. That is, they can assimilate properly.

It also creates a bond among pretty much all British wizards and witches, because most of them spent at least five years in Hogwarts (I assume that students who fail to get any OWLs simply do not return for the last two years, although it's possible that they can retake them in their sixth year and then take NEWT level classes their last two. This is probably what happened to Marcus Flint.) After all, all wizarding children, other than Squibs, get a Hogwarts letter, and while I assume some go to Durmstrang or Beauxbatons or maybe Salem, or are taught at home, most would go to Hogwarts. So, any group of witches or wizards of any combination of ages can reminisce about the school, at least to some degree. For example, Binns has probably taught multiple generations. Shared memories can create strong bonds even between strangers.

Beyond that, most wizards know pretty much everyone their own age, and everyone within a couple of years of their age in their Houses - plus whoever they got to know in the various clubs and societies and Quidditch teams. There are no strangers in the adult wizarding world - just people who know each other far too well.

Which is why Hogwarts' fourth role is that of matchmaker. This is a mixed school - boys and girls share the building, the Houses and the classes. How radical is this? Well, in early 20th C New York public schools, they had separate boy's and girl's classes - even a Boys High School and a Girls High School. In one room school houses, the boys sat on one side and the girls on the other, and it was a punishment to be forced to sit with the other sex for an afternoon. We still think of private schools as single sex, and certainly we think of British public schools that way. Smeltings sounds like it's single sex, for example.

But what is more amazing, at least to me, is the shared Houses. We have teenaged hormone factories sharing the same Common Room, virtually unsupervised other than their own peers. Charmed stairs or no, this is asking for problems. It is also creating a situation where romances will form, either within or between Houses. Thus far, in fact, most of the romances we've seen have been interHouse - Percy and Ravenclaw Penelope, Hufflepuff Cedric and Ravenclaw Cho, Harry and Cho, Ginny and Ravenclaw Michael. Only at the end of OotP do we see intrahouse relationships - Ginny and Dean; Cho and Michael. Still. Ravenclaws do get around, don't they?

James and Lily married right out of school. No one seems surprised at that. And why should they be? Everyone at Hogwarts knows that they know everyone their own age, and therefore every potential marriage partner unless they marry someone from abroad or out of their immediate age group - or choose to marry a Muggle or maybe a Squib. This doesn't mean there aren't arranged marriages, of course, but they're probably going to school with those arranged spouses anyway.

And this is, I believe, on purpose. The wizarding population is very small and spread out, with what seems like fairly low fertility other than the Weasleys. The Blacks, with two and three children in a family, are practically record setters. It's also highly inbred because of the small population.

Hogwarts, by mixing everyone together, helps limit at least local inbreeding, although I think some families, especially those in Slytherin, would discourage relationships with nonpurebloods. It would not, I think, eliminate class problems, although Arthur Weasley, who seems to be of the gentility, did marry Molly Prewett, who seems lower class. This is probably less then common, given the British class consciousness.

Also, because Muggleborns would be part of the whole by the time they leave school, they would be considered as possible marriage partners by all but the most particular of purebloods. No one, for example had any problems with Pureblood Percy dating Muggleborn Penelope. His siblings thought it was funny, but they *would*. And they wouldn't have met if it hadn't been for Hogwarts, any more than the pureblooded James would have met the Muggleborn Lily. Or Andromeda Black met Ted Tonks. By fostering these relationships, Hogwarts has enabled the Wizarding world to survive, since, as Ron said in PS/SS, if it weren't for Muggle blood, they'd have all died out.

Hogwarts main function is to educate young witches and wizards so that they can control their powers and contribute to their society. This is as important today as it was 1000 years ago. However, it also serves to protect young Muggleraised witches and wizards by giving them a place of safety and training, and it helps to assimilate them into the Wizarding world. It also creates both the memories and the families of the wizarding world, as the students form bonds with the school and their Housemates, and marry the people they met there. It is, in fact, the glue that holds Wizarding Britain together - the thing most of them have in common. It's more important than the Ministry, in fact, which has less of an impact on the day to day lives of the ordinary witch or wizard. This makes Dumbledore the most powerful wizard in the country - more so than I'd thought before writing this essay.

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::fangirls your brain.::

This is fabulous. Utterly fabulous. The Muggle children of 900 were being apprenticed as young as 7, I can see wizards going the same route. Or even the Fostering route: sending children to live (at very young ages) with other families (usually ones with opposite sex children of similar ages)

And Ravenclaws get around. It's to be expected. "Geniuses and supergeniuses make their own rules on sex as on everything else."


They'd wait to about eleven, I'd think, because that's apparently when the full powers manifest. Wouldn't want to do it earlier.

Yep. Ravenclaws *rule*.

you rock. can i link this in my LJ?

Wow. Blush.

Thank you.

I'd be honored.

Excellent essay.

I still think the hat was going to put Hermione in Slytherin, though.

She's Muggleborn. I can't see the Hat Sorting a mudblood into Slytherin. I'm surprised it Sorts Half-bloods.

Even though she'd do well there.

This is most interesting; thank you for thinking it out so thoroughly, and posting. The really sad thing about Hogwarts is the grossly inadequate way it carries out the indoctrination/assimilation task. (Yeah, I'm working on a fic that relates to that issue.)

A number of people in various places have commented on Hogwarts as marriage mart, often saying things like 'how dreadful to be condemned to marry someone you knew in school'. The wizarding world is very confined; I can't help thinking that Beauxbatons and Durmstrang must also be participants in a Europe-wide marriage mart, just to restore some element of the new and exciting for individuals who can't find a partner at school, as well as to widen the gene pool and keep up international contacts, so vital for such small 'racial' groups.

The really sad thing about Hogwarts is the grossly inadequate way it carries out the indoctrination/assimilation task.

I have to say, I think they're pretty good at getting Muggle-raised to identify the Wizarding World as their culture. Hermione hasn't spent any length of time with her parents for *years*, and Dean is keeping things [ie Voldemort] from his parents.

They're not so good at getting the witchborn to *accept* the Muggleborn, but I don't think they're trying very hard either. I definitely get a 'you must give up your old culture' vibe. If Muggle Studies wasn't such a joke of a class, I might feel differently, but as is, the curriculum is slanted to make Muggle culture look inferior.

very cool analysis! i'll add that i see salazar slytherin representing a bit of the class argument and rowena ravenclaw as more the religious education type. over time, of course, these stances would be warped to fit the modern contexts through which they passed....

you know, one narrator-character who hasn't been questioned much is the sorting hat. what biases might it have?

I get the feeling it's not thrilled with the job at the moment. :)

And it allows the students to do the actual choosing.


Adding this to memories.

Re the idea of a marriage mart:

Sure. Isn't that what Muggle schools often are? Certainly at the university level; often at the high school level.

But I can't help but feel that while the schools we've seen are the cream of the crop, there have to be smaller, possibly less formal and certainly less well perceived schools, just because of the number of witches and wizards in the world.

(Counterargument: many witches and wizards live significantly longer than Muggles. Therefore we see more of them, accounted for by many more years' worth of graduates.)

I mean, we see so many magical folk whose education seems to be, um, inadequate, that one wonders if they ALL could have conceivably completed even OWLs at Hogwarts (or Beauxbatons, or whatever the school is named at Santa Fe...).

With regard to the intra/interHouse dating concept, it seems to me that one's House is one's family; this would be a level of intimacy approaching incest. If it does happen, there's LOTS of potential for drama. And the tearing apart of a House. Hence, discouraged, to say the least. (And Ravenclaws get around because otherwise we wouldn't see them in the stories at all. Witness poor Hufflepuff and its attendant invisibility. Let's face it: Ravenclaws are more interesting, and I'm not just saying that because it's my House :-D

I'll have to go back over this tomorrow, when I can think better (in between the launch in the morning and the debate at night, and doesn't THAT suggest song lyrics!?), but I think that there's a great deal more to be said both on the subject of Sorting and of class. Later, though.

There is one Wizarding school in Britain. So sayeth JK Rowling. The population is small right now, but these are the children who were born and conceived during the last war, so it's not surprising. HOwever, Wizards do have an extended lifespan and seem to be, if not invulnerable, at least more resistant to ordinary injury - and they have better medicine. So they would live longer. This is probably also why they have such low fertility.

And I don't think the Twins are alone in leaving before NEWTs. I do suspect that if someone didn't get sufficient OWLs, they wouldn't return for sixth year. Which is why in one recent story of mine, Crabbe and Goyle didn't show up.

The Sorting has been taking a very long time in the last couple of books, so I suspect that classes are larger (of course, we have no idea how long the Sorting was in Harry's Second or Third years.)

I do think that it can't be common to date inside one's House - at least, not those close in age. They've done studies about this - kids in Israeli kibutzim used to be raised in age groups instead in families. They reacted to their agemates the same way one would relate to siblings.

The situation isn't the same - Hogwarts starts with eleven year olds, not babies, for example, and people are very conscious of their true family, but there is probably a similar effect. Even when Ginny decides to date inside inside her House, she chooses Dean, who is at least in a different year (and not an adopted member of her own family.)

I have noticed we don't see many Ravenclaws - in Harry's year, Gryffindors only share required classes with Hufflepuffs (Herbology) and Slytherins (Care of Magical Creatures and Potions.) And none have showed up in Harry's elective Divination. I suspect they're all at Arithmancy then.

Hufflepuffs aren't all that invisible, though. They do share one class, and Harry had more antagonism with Zacharias Smith than he did with Draco Malfoy. Draco, poor kid, is fading into the background.

I'll see this after the holiday, then. :)

Actually, a NEWT - (Anonymous)   Expand  


I liked your essay very much, and I think you're right in a number of things, but i wanted to ask you a question. You say:

This is a mixed school - boys and girls share the building, the Houses and the classes.

How do you know that? I don't mean that it's not true, it might be and then all your conclusions are correct and so is your opinion about the radicality of it, but I always thought that, as everything does, Hogwarts changed over the years. It's probable that the early days they kept boys and girls in separate buildings and that the castle as we see it now were built later. The wizard world could not, as muggles did, suppress women so much, because their powers are eveident, so I believe they did teach girls as early as the beginning of the school, but I'm not so sure about the mixing Houses.

It's a guess, based on the fact that there are four Houses, and none of the criteria proposed by the Founders discussed gender. Salazar wanted ambition and purity, Godric wanted bravery, Rowena wanted intelligence and Helga just wanted to teach. (I adore Helga.)

If there was separation, it probably was on the classroom level. There are Orthodox Jewish day schools in the US who do that today. The kids share the building but not classes.

Rowling says there have been as many Headmistresses as there have been Headmasters.

Just plain awesome. I've gotta put on my historian's hat and think about this some more, but I find your arguments very persuasive.

Thank you!

Here via daily_snitch

This is wonderful. I love how you examine the reasoning behind the formation of Hogwarts--the "Marriage Mart" section was especially revelatory, as I had never thought of the school from that perspective before. Considering everything (even the apparent architecture of the building itself), wizards were centuries more advanced than their muggle counterparts. Which makes it seem almost rude that they didn't share any of this, until you think about how poorly their different opinions would have been received.

Out of a certain rabid curiosity:

How do we know that Lily and James got married right out of school? I can't remember that it was in the text anywhere...is it something J.K. Rowling has said? And if so, do we know how old they were when Harry was born?

And yes, Ravenclaws certainly do get around...

How do we know that Lily and James got married right out of school? I can't remember that it was in the text anywhere...is it something J.K. Rowling has said? And if so, do we know how old they were when Harry was born?

I don't think it's ever been actually said, just assumed. JKR said during an interview when GoF came out that Snape was "35 or 36." Since Lily and James were of an age with Snape, that would make them very young parents. (If MWPP/L/S were 35 to 36 when Harry was around 14 this would mean that James and Lily were around 21 or 22 when Harry was born.)

OTOH, no one really knows if JKR meant that Snape was 35 or so during PS/SS and not GoF; or if it was another case of "Oh dear, maths." In which event James and Lily could have been older when Harry was born.

*blink* I never would have thought of that. SO intelligent.

It's just things I've been thinking about for awhile.

Well, I'm here via the daily snitch.
I had never, ever thought of Hogwarts like this - it's actually a very interesting point. I wonder if we'll ever learn more about this in the books. The wizarding community must amazingly small, and wizarding children, unless they attended muggle primary schools, would be extremely isolated...it sounds like the Weasleys pretty much stayed at home to be homeschooled and met no other children - ron doesn't seem to know any of the other wizards in his year personally.

A couple of very minor points:

Slytherin accepts muggleborns (remember on J K Rowling's website - the infamous Weasley cousin was the daughter of a muggle and another muggle - an accountant)

Hogwarts education lasts for 7 years. It's based on the English school system: 5 years for the OWLs, or GCSEs, 2 years for A-levels, or Newts in HP. So Marcus flint might re-take his is owls in Lower Sixth and upper sixth, year seven in Hogwarts. It's very unusual for students to stay in school for extra years. Remember that JKR said the whole Marcus Flint thing was a mistake.

From what I've heard about mixed sex boarding schools - one of my friends attended one - sex was allegedly pretty common among years 10-U6 (14-18) so Hogwarts is amazingly lax in this area if they allow girls into the boys dorms. In aforementioned school, apparently (and all school stories should be taken with a hefty pinch of salt) the pupils just sneaked off into the woods.

From my own experiences living in a sort of boarding school environment (cadets' billets) girls and boys were heavily separated: ie, I had to go about half a mile to reach the boys' billets on one of the military bases I stayed at.

British class conciousness....well, for people like myself who attend private schools, thiISis heavily re-inforced. Had I not attended cadets and met other people outside school activities, I would have mixed almost exlusively with the local public boys' school - all of middle class upwards. Cadets includes people outside my social class - so possible romances could form there. But most of my classmates only go out with boys in the local private boys' schools, unless they know other boys from their state primary school which they keep in touch with.

BUT: Hogwarts is not like this. Everyone, regardless of class, attends Hogwarts. So apart from the super snobbish like the Malfoys, I don't think that in the modern age class would come into romances in Hogwarts. Molly Prewett does not sound working class: she sounds like hard-up Middle class. You could be stinking rich and lower class. Her lack of an accent (JKR typically shows accents when they are notable: Dean is shown with an Estuary london accent, for example) shows that she speaks with a middle class accent. Her darning and making of clothes...these smack of the hard-up middle classes to me. Also 'the interfering middle classes' - totally Molly.

It's very unusual for students to stay in school for extra years.

It's actually becoming more common. In my current year (U6) more than 10% of the students are staying on for an extra year.

I surmise that Stan might be one of those wizards of little talent who drops out of Hogwarts after O.W.L.'s. This seems to be quite rare - it's quite a shock apparently when Fred and George do it - but I think maybe some witches and wizards who don't have much talent or intellect and who only get a few (if any) O.W.L.'s drop out and take menial jobs.

Fred and George left before their N.E.W.T.'s but they are brilliant and, moreover, have a business plan. I doubt they'll be starving or doing the wizarding equivalent of waiting tables or mopping floors anytime soon.

Makes me wonder what will become of Crabbe and Goyle?

One thing that's bugging me. There simply aren't enough people. We know of three major employers in the Wizard World- Hogwarts itself, the hospital (the name of which is completely escaping me at the moment), and the Ministry. Gringotts could be included, but most of their employees seem to be goblins. From the number of people each of these places employs. We know the Ministry alone has to have hundreds of employees. To all appearances the Wizarding World is a bustling place. This is where my problem is. My town had approximately 80,000 residents and we had about 4,000 students in high school alone at all times. This works out to about 1,000 a year, so the Hogwarts equivalent would be 7,000. I seem to recall seeing JKR say in an interview that Hogwart had approximately 400 students in each year. I don't see how the population of Wizards in England can be that small and still have so many people employed by the employers we know about, as well as having other citizens for those places to service.

Arthurian Connection

Your mention of the probability of religious orders for wizardlings makes me think of the line in the Arthurian corpus that Morgan LeFay was 'put to school in a convent' where she learned witchcraft.

I wonder if the convent was headed by the the Reverend Mother Helga or the Reverend Mother Rowena?

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