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Mama Deb
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US Wizard Education

ladysorka started a discussion about Wizard education in the US, and neotoma also made a post on the subject, so I thought I'd join the fun.

But first, I think I need to make US education a little more plain because it's so different from British.

Public school = publicly funded education. Parents are not directly charged for tuition or books, although they're expected to purchase supplies such as notebooks and writing supplies for their own children. There's been an increasingly movement towards having students wear uniforms in some areas, but this is very new. For the most part, children attend in their own school district or catchment area. A district can have several elementary schools, fewer junior high schools and one high school, or the high school maybe shared among several districts (or towns) or even serve an entire county (administrative area smaller than a state) if the population is low enough. This is why Americans get very confused - the British meaning of "private, exclusive boarding schools" makes no sense to us. All children are eligible for a free public education. If they have special needs, the local school district has to provide for these. If it cannot do so itself, it has to find a place that can do so. Special needs do not include religious restrictions, and technically there is no religious education permitted in the public schools.

Elementary school is either K(indergarten)-6 or K-5, depending on the school district. There may be some K-4s as well. Curricula is decided on the state (the minimum requirements of basic knowledge for advancement) and district (what extras they want/can afford) levels. Kindergarten starts at age five, and the kids are supposed to master some subset of basic skills, such as colors, alphabet, writing their names and counting to some specific number. Elementary school classes have one main teacher, who spends most of the day with them and teaches most of the required subjects, although, depending on the finances of the district, there may be specialty teachers for science, art, music, reading, computers, and languages. The physical education - phys. ed. or gym - teachers are always trained for this subject. Depending on the subject and the school, students may stay in their main classrooms or get herded to a specialty classroom. All students are expected to master reading, writing, social studies (history, civics, community) and mathematics to certain levels. These are tested via standardized tests of the fill-in-the-dot variety. Special help is available for students with problems and extra funding is given for this.

The next level is junior high school. It can also be called Intermediate School or Middle School, but they refer to the same thing, more or less. Again, depending on district, it can begin as early as fifth grade and as late as seventh, and it can end as early as eighth grade and as late as ninth. The only true generalization I can make is that 7th and 8th grades (more or less ages 12 and 13) are always included. In my experience as a student, I moved between 7th and 8th grade to a different state, and from 7-9 JHS to a 6-8 JHS. I felt like I'd lost a year. In my experience as a teacher - *sigh*. Not a time of life conducive to learning.

These schools are organized like high schools - there is generally a homeroom (usually first thing in the morning) for daily attendance, handouts, pledge of allegiance, and general announcements before the students go off to their daily classes - each subject in its own classroom with its own teacher. Depending on the size of the school, students have either individual schedules to suit their needs or go with their classes as a unit.

Again, there are state minimum academic requirements - usually English, history, math and science, with a phys ed requirement. I think daily schedules (the same classes in the same order every day) are most common, but I've experienced weekly schedules (more like in Hogwarts, when you had different subjects in different orders on different days of the week.) There will probably home economics (sewing/cooking) and shop (woodworking, etc) classes and computers.

In HP terms, Harry begins at junior high school age.

High school is usually 9th -12th grade, although there are some 10th - 12th schools. We also call those years freshman, sophomore, junior and senior. It's possible to "drop out" at age 16, but it's highly discouraged. At this point, students start making some decisions about their futures - if they intend to go to college (note: college and university are interchangeable at this level. The major difference between them is that universities can grant degrees beyond bachelors. So can some colleges, though.), they usually take the "college prep" track, with classes on levels and subjects that colleges want to see in their applicants. While it's possible to double up on some courses - I took two sciences, for example - there is no further specialization at this level. A student wishing to major in English in college will take pretty much the same classes as a potential future engineer. Students who are certain they do not want to go to college can take technical tracks or even attend specialized high schools to get training in technical/service careers. However, even these high schools have to follow state and local academic requirements.

This one reason many USans are shocked that Hogwarts seems to have no academic subjects besides History of Magic. While we understand the rigor needed for magic classes, it feels to us that these kids are being short-changed - even more so for students like Hermione and Percy. Even our least academic tracks/high schools have that.

We have nothing analogous to O- or A-levels. At 10th grade, college bound students will take the PSATs, and in 11th and 12th, they'll take the SATs, which are standardized fill-in-the-dot tests (the SATs just this weekend gave their first exam with an essay portion.) These have no bearing on their grades or their coursework - they're a tool administered by a private firm given during non-school time to be used when applying to colleges. PSATs are also means of getting college scholarships. Students pay to take them and they are administered on Saturday mornings - non-school hours. They test knowledge of language and mathematics and nothing else, and one can take SATs more than once. There are more specialized boards, but these also only have meaning for college entrance committees, not for grades.

This is one reason I'm looking forward to Book 6 - I haven't the faintest idea as how classes would be organized after OWLs.

Just as Wizarding Britain has a lot in common with Muggle Britain, I assume Wizarding US has a lot in common in with Muggle US. In fact, I assume it has *more* - that American Wizards have found ways of incorporating or copying technology into magic. Those magic globes used in St. Mungo's? American Wizarding invention. There may be more contact between wizards and Muggle relatives.

I'm going to assume there is a reason why magical training doesn't begin until age eleven, even if I don't know what it is. So.

The children of wizarding families would go to wizarding elementary schools because they *do* have magic and it's just safer that way. These schools would be functionally identical to standard US private elementary schools - basic state curriculum plus whatever extra the schools wanted/could afford to teach. If there were standardized tests to be given in that state, the wizarding kids would also take the test. At the age of eleven, they'd go to one of three schools - East, Middle and West. East is, obviously, Salem. They probably have a choice as to which one to attend. And they'd be boarding schools just for logistical reasons. They'd also meet fairly often for mixers and quodpot and Quidditch games.

Muggleborn kids would get their letters at the beginning of summer, and they'd be offered a chance to go to a summer camp where they can get introduced to magic and the wizarding culture, so they wouldn't be so lost at the beginning of term. There would also be support groups for their parents and shopping expeditions into wizarding areas.

The schools would have to meet state academic criteria as well as magical requirements, although some classes might be able to do double duty. There would be no OWLs or NEWTs - just the same sort of tests and grades and homework as the other subjects. There would also be at least one wizarding university, with graduate school, law school and medical school attached. Possibly another, but I really don't see the population supporting more than one - maybe a two year institution or a small college for those who prefer such things. There would also be the possibility of entering Muggle institutions - I suspect there are wizard clubs in the major ones, plus they'd get summer credit from the wizard college.

Hmm, maybe that's what Salem is.

And US wizards? Do NOT wear robes except for formal occasions. 


Excellent piece. I would just add that in the Midwest it is more common to take the ACT than the SAT. In some regions, especially the South, there are programs through universities to identify early talent before it gets itself killed by the schools. My seventh grade daughter just took the ACT this year. She'll take it again in 4 years (spring of her junior year) for effect.

I like your idea of stealth wizards at major universities.

I think Salem might require the robes for class, but allow street clothes most of the time.
The midwestern school (which I see as somewhere in the Black Hills) would be less formal and wear a lot of parkas (when that Dakota wind gets going in December we're talking frozen mercury thermometers).
The West Coast school (Berkeley?), well for them formal means "wearing clothes." (Sorry, California is so laid back formal means "wearing a shirt")

I meant robes in general, though. Just as the ordinary British adult wizard or witch wears robes for daily wear, US witches and wizards do *not*.

Unlike British wizards, they don't want to be separate. There may be more half bloods, too.

i dont know how i feel about that. it seems like once ppl find out they're wizards, they cut themselves off from the muggle world. hogwarts seems to be independant of britan's standards and such.

Perhaps, in that case, American Wizarding society might be something more akin to the Colonial or post-Revolutionary culture? In that case, I'd see them making heavy emphasis on a good education in Latin and Greek, and practical tinkering of the sort that would make Arthur Weasley green with envy. It's pretty much a given that Ben Franklin had to have been a Wizard.

However, I can't see American wizards being able to cut themselves off from the rest of society as completely as British and other European wizards, not in the days of westward expansion. When there are so few people spread out over such a broad expanse of land, you probably wind up socializing with whoever's there to socialize with, whether they're Wizard or Muggle.

Now I'm getting mental images of wizards in the California Gold Rush. Wizards taking the Oregon Trail. Wizard steamboat captains up and down the Mississippi.

This is interesting ... I'd pondered this question a while back and figured that american wizarding schools were started by Ben Franklin. (Discovering electricity my butt -- no one who wasn't a wizard would be flying a kite in a thunderstorm.) He ensorcelled an island in middle of the Schuylkil River to make it invisible and built a school there called the Franklin Institute of Magic, and them promptly made a Muggle version in the city as well. :-)

Magic may have existed in Salem, but I'd see the organized education of American witches and wizards starting in Philadelphia, and of course it'd be Ben Frnaklin who started it -- he started the post office, the lending library, and the fire department there as well. Given that he was constantly inventing and playing with gadgets, he'd be a natural for the founding father of American wizardry. :-)

I can see school houses (Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, and Madison), only you don't get sent to a house, you have to "pledge" a house, and you can pick which one you pledge. (Madison House was going to be named Adams House, but since Frnaklin and Adams got along like oil and water he decided to name it Madison instead, which pissed off Adams to no end.)

Ditto on the American magical community's love of technology as well. They'd know as much about cell phones and computers as they would spells and charms.

This is fun!

American schools wouldn't have houses, dear; the reason Hogwarts has them is that most European boarding schools are set up that way. American boarding schools generally aren't. It's not a *magical* thing, it's a *British* thing. *grin*

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three schools - East, Middle and West. East is, obviously, Salem

I'd guess the West is either San Francisco or somewhere in the New Mexico desert with heavy Native American influences.

And now I'm suddenly picturing voucher programs for wizarding schools, and LNWB (Leave No Witch/Wizard Behind)

San Francisco Bay Area, in the south bay Santa Cruz mountain area. You could hide an entire wizarding university in one of the little valleys. I've seen aerial views of a decent-sized town up there, and you can't even see it. There are lots of old rail lines dating back to the logging days, which would be how students get there.

Somebody's fic had the equivalent of Diagon Alley just off Haight-Ashbury, where nobody even noticed the wizards; I like that idea.

There HAS to be a Southern wizarding school. I simply cannot see Southern Confederate-era wizards going to a Northern school. Least of all in Massachusetts.

That said, it would be in Savannah, chartered sometime in the 1750s. Williamsburg is much too stuffy, and New Orleans is too "unchartered" to be the proper place. Savannah is centralized to the south, and makes a much more practical spot. Besides, anyone who has walked downtown and seen all the cemetaries, monuments, and the spanish moss hanging down in front of the mansions with huge front porches and columns knows it's a magical place. ;)

Interesting thought.

I'd agree with you about separate Northern & Southern schools. I'm not sure about Savannah; I might think closer to Virginia nearer where the first colonists landed.

But would such a school be integrated? If we're taking the long historical view, I doubt it.

Therefore, I might promote the notion that there are (or were) two Southern wizarding schools: one for blacks and one for whites. I'd place the other school in New Orleans (which had different attitudes than the slave south, due to its French background) and it might have a bit more Voudon influences...

You're making me want to write historical American fanfic...

Mamadeb, I realize this comment has the potential to bring racial nastiness into your journal, so if you want to delete it feel free.

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I think there would be at least six wizarding schools in the US. One is probably in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania serving the northeast, one in Charleston, South Carolina serving the coastal and low land south, one in the Appalachians serving the Appalachians, one Saint Louis, Missouri serving the midwest, one in Texas, serving Texas and to hell with everyone else, and one in California, probably in San Francisco.

I tend to think of Salem as more of a social club for witches, but I could easily see it being an all girls school while Boston has an all boys school, bringing the total up to eight. However, there is no way in hell that Rhoda Island wizarding families would have allowed their children to attend school in Massachusetts after around 1789, so if the Northern school(s) were in Massachusetts instead of Philadelphia, then Rhode Island would have its own school.

Of course, the case could be made for each of the Thirteen original Colonies having their own school, plus one in Florida, one in Saint Louis, one in California and one in Texas.

Then again, there could be two. One in Texas, and one in the rest of the US.

But I promise you there's one in Texas.

one in Texas, serving Texas and to hell with everyone else

Oops, y'all. We forgot about Texas! Seriously, though, how hilarious is this?

I'm not sure, to be honest, where I'd put the schools myself, as that would depend HEAVILY on how large the American wizarding population would have been during key periods in American history and how thoroughly that population would have assimmilated with American Muggles. I think it's safe to say they would have done so to a far greater extent than foreign wizarding populations (ditto Australia and New Zealand, I'd argue, because of similar circumstances and the frontier mentality), and I'll also throw in an argument that the U.S. probably contains a great deal more schools than do most other nations. Partially I'd justify this population-wise, but I'd also note that the comprehensive system of higher education - with college places for nearly everyone in the population who wants one - was a U.S. "invention" that many nations in Europe only picked up later in the twentieth century. Everyone's heard of Oxbridge, and Bologna, and the Sorbonne, so to speak, but Europe didn't manage the equivalents of Northwestern, Stanford, the state uni system, liberal arts colleges, or the like until after the U.S. - and arguably still hasn't.

- Madox

And US wizards? Do NOT wear robes except for formal occasions.


I think it would make more sense to have each of the 13 colonies have their own wizarding school.

Since we're modeling the American Wizarding experience on the American Muggle experience, then just for purposes of comparison:

Nine American colleges were founded by 1776 (dates refer to earliest establishment, not current incarnation): Harvard (1639, MA), William and Mary (1693, VA), Yale (1701, CT), Princeton (1746, NJ), Columbia (1754, NY), University of Pennsylvania (1755, PA), Brown (1765, RI), Rutgers (1766, NJ), and Dartmouth (1769, NH). So in the colonial era there is only one college in any Southern colony, whereas New England has four, and New Jersey has two.

These schools enrolled students beginning at ages 12 or 13 so they are a reasonably close counterpart to Hogwarts et al.

Public (in the American sense) schools of any sort remained uncommon in the Southern states until late in the 19th century. I'd be surprised if there was a Wizarding school in any Southern state except Virginia until well after the Civil War.

(/American social historian geekiness)

*here from the Snitch*

This discussion has been *highly* entertaining to read.

I'm curious about what brought you to some of your conclusions. I'm especially interested in your ideas that
(1) children from wizarding families attend wizarding elementary schools instead of attending Muggle schools or being home-schooled as (according to JKR) they are in the UK, and
(2) wizarding schools must meet the academic criteria of the states where they are located, since the curriculum of Hogwarts is not at all similar to the curriculum of present-day state or private (in the American sense) UK schools.

Just as Wizarding Britain culturally resembles Muggle Britain in many ways, Wizarding US would resemble Muggle US - and I am postulating a greater amount of contact between the two.

So. 1. Homeschooling (and I've always hated that term, but we're stuck with it) is a very recent developement in the US. Culturally, Americans have always sent their kids to schools, even in colonial days and even the very wealthy. Parents who wanted to teach their kids at home themselves had to fight for that right in the courts of many states. I see the wizards as absorbing that.

2. Americans (and so American wizards) do not specialize in high school unless they're going for a trade. As someone said up thread, Americans have always had colleges and universities, and didn't assume they were just for the wealthy or upper classes. I'm assuming that American wizards would also want their children to have a college education if they want it - and to have a choice of either the Wizarding university or a Muggle one. You can't do that without an accredited school.

Hi! I'm an Australian here from daily_snitch. This is a very interesting post for the information on the US school system alone. I'm in shock over the amount of multiple choice tests though; I don't see how that could really assess anything.

You lost me when you got to the US Wizarding society though. Why would the magic lightbulbs be American wizarding inventions? Why wouldn't American wizards wear robes? I feel sorry for the poor magical children who are learning all about magic on top of Muggle schooling.

The US educational system has run on standardized tests since the fifties. And it's worse now - teachers teach to the tests.

I'm basically extrapolating from US culture for the others. British wizards seem to be happy using pre-electric technology for the most part - lots of fire (including, to be fair, using fire for transportation and communication), quills and parchment and ink, which all adds an aura of romance to them. But Americans are less romantic and more practical, and probably less isolated. They see how nice central heating is, and found a magical solution. They saw how bright and useful and non-smoky electrical light is (and, you know, they did call Edison a wizard...)

If you wear robes, you stand out, and there's always been a push for assimiliation in the US - too much, from my point of view, but that's a personal thing. They may well wear formal robes, but I suspect the Eastern schools wear uniforms like the ones the movies put on the Hogwarts students, as oppoosed the robes they actually wear.