It is entirely possible that the best known secondary school in the world is fictitious. It doesn’t exist, at least not in the same sense as Harrow and Eton. But, to borrow a phrase, just because Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry exists only in the imaginations of millions of Harry Potter fans “why on earth would that mean it is not real?”
I am a die-hard Harry Potter fan, as readers of this blog may know. Earlier in the year I composed an essay on “Wisdom from Wizards about Death” and now I have one on “Hogwarts Education”. I think I am in the process of writing a full-length set of reflections on the worldview of Harry Potter by which to get a perspective about our own Muggle world.
To see if you are a Harry Potter fan just ask yourself, (1) do I have an opinion about whether Luna is more imaginative than Myrtle? (2) Does Dudley have any pets? Fans know that Luna Lovegood is probably the brightest student in her year and second only to Hermione, and Dudley Dursley can’t even keep his solid steel possessions whole, so he’s never been given a puppy and besides his mother’s a neatness freak.
If you, too, are a Harry Potter fan who has read the 7 books and seen the 8 movies I would direct you to the essay. Find it here: Hogwarts Education. Feel free to skip the rest of this blog.
If you are not a Harry Potter fan let me cut to the chase.
I believe that the most important aspect of educating young people between the ages of 10 to 20 is character development. This is apparently not widely identified as “most important” because few schools measure student character development and presume to have any responsibility for it. It is on no report cards or transcripts.
Forging ahead with my little contribution on adolescent educational philosophy, I think there are two basic aspects of character development: SOCIALIZATION and INDIVIDUATION.
Socialization involves acquisition of (1) appreciation of human diversity, (2) disdain for artificial qualifiers for respect and dignity, (3) concern for the disadvantaged, (4) commitment to the general well-being.
Individuation is the process of becoming able to distinguish one’s self from one’s context and from confusion about self. I contend there are four indicators of success: (1) sensitivity to a transcendent and aesthetic dimension of life, (2) resourcefulness, namely skill in application of intelligence and imagination, (3) strength to overcome adversity, (4) discovery of self (one’s authentic identity).
The individual student, parents, and school are in a 3-way partnership to achieve these goals of secondary education. The partners must be clear about how each partner is independent and yet cooperative, otherwise character development will fail to be an educationalundertaking. Character will develop even if one or the other of the partners is not functional or if certain elements are missing, but the end result will not be as complete and multi-faceted as it could be.
Finally, suppose that character development and spiritual formation are, as I have suggested, the most important educational undertakings of the adolescents of the world for their own worth and for sustaining humanity and suppose that we are not intentionally doing it. What could we expect except that great battles will take place to make up for this fundamental failure of civilization? I personally hope we can quit having these culture wars and stop making schools the battle grounds.
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.