How many of us wanted to learn magic as a child? Magic is just so… magical. And let’s face it: if magic were real, the world would be so much more fun to live in. One of the reasons Harry Potter was so captivating was because of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. I didn’t know a single person growing up who wouldn’t have rather have had an education there than at a boring Muggle school.
Reading about Harry’s adventures at Hogwarts was one of the best parts of my childhood, and I will always love the series for that. After all, Hogwarts has moving staircases, talking sentient pictures that exist to serve the people who painted them, household slaves who’ve internalized their subjugation, a class system that encourages segregation, and a student mortality rate that can rival a Game of Thrones episode. Wait, what?
Yeah, looking back, Hogwarts is nowhere near as wonderful as it first seemed. In fact, it’s actually a really horrible place. The professors, most notably Albus Dumbledore, did not implement magic in a way to be beneficial for any student’s safety. And all the horrible things that happen at Hogwarts could have been avoided had magic been used more responsibly.
As the Malfoys constantly like to tell us, Albus Dumbledore is the worst thing to happen to Hogwarts. I’m inclined to agree. While we can certainly argue that Dumbledore has a good heart and wanted to do the right thing, he fails more often than the other characters realized. And I’m not so certain that I even want to argue that deep down Dumbledore is a good person. Regardless of his intentions, his actions are rarely thought through and it’s hard to believe that the safety of his students is even his priority. Many of his decisions put them in danger, and had Dumbledore been more responsible and logical with using magic, numerous travesties could have been avoided.
It doesn’t take long before Dumbledore’s irresponsible behavior rears its ugly head, and when he misuses magic the results can be deadly. We can see this in how he handles the Philosopher’s Stone in the first book and in the reason behind planting the Whomping Willow years before the series even starts.
During The Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore decides to hide the aforementioned stone at Hogwarts, knowing full well that Voldemort is after it. By taking the stone to Hogwarts and not somewhere else, Dumbledore inadvertently lures one of the world’s most dangerous wizards to a school filled with children—and I have a hard time believing that Dumbledore didn’t suspect that would happen. The wards Dumbledore places to guard the stone are all but ineffective against a wizard as smart and powerful as Voldemort. But even worse, those same protections are outright deadly to the students. Dumbledore brings a giant three-headed, man-eating dog into the school and only uses a lock that any eleven-year-old child can easily magic her way through. This exact thing happens when Harry, Ron, Hermione, and Neville are hiding from Filch and Hermione uses a simple spell to get through the locked door leading to the dog. They’re almost eaten as a result.
This entire situation could have been avoided by Dumbledore hiding the stone literally anywhere else. Voldemort is not omnipotent; he doesn’t know what Dumbledore is thinking, and Dumbledore has access to numerous resources that could help him in hiding the stone. Instead, he chooses the most obvious place. The situation is eventually resolved when Dumbledore and Nicholas Flamel decide to destroy the thing. This leaves me wondering why they didn’t just do that to begin with.
Then there’s the Whomping Willow: a giant murderous tree that attacks people in the middle of school grounds. I have spent years trying to figure out why the hell anyone ever though planting this tree was a good idea, and the reasoning we’re given is pretty shoddy. The Whomping Willow guards the entrance to an underground tunnel that leads out of Hogwarts. When Dumbledore accepts Remus Lupin, a werewolf, as one of his students, he plants the Whomping Willow so that Remus can go someplace else once a month and no other students would run the risk of being bitten.
Those other students do, however, run the risk of being mauled by a tree. In fact, we hear of one student who almost loses an eye to the Whomping Willow. It’s hard to believe that a violent Whomping WIllow was really the best way to keep everyone safe. Dumbledore could have solved this problem by just locking Remus in a room away from all the other students during the full moon (and using a magical lock that no eleven-year-old child can break). But instead, like with the Philosopher’s Stone, Dumbledore’s solution was superfluous and potentially deadly to innocent bystanders.
None of this is that surprising considering Dumbledore’s other bad decisions. During The Chamber of Secrets, numerous students are injured from basilisk attacks. While the basilisk’s presence is not Dumbledore’s fault, allowing the attacks to continue by not shutting down the school and sending all the students home is. Instead, Dumbledore only considers closing Hogwarts. His bad decisions also affect his students’ home situations—he leaves an infant Harry on the Dursleys’ doorstep in the middle of the night, which was needlessly endangering. Then, when Harry is older and it turns out his guardians are abusive, Dumbledore just leaves him there. In the last book, Dumbledore even admits that he knows that Harry and Harry’s cousin, Dudley, were both abused, and yet he did nothing about it.
On top of that, Dumbledore doesn’t hire decent staff. Professor Binns is horrifically incompetent, as are numerous DADA professors, and then there’s Severus Snape, the potions master, who runs around the school verbally attacking and abusing students. Again, Dumbledore does nothing about this.
Dumbledore might not actively try to be a bad person, but he certainly doesn’t try to be a good person either. His decisions and use of magic show a genuine disinterest in consequences or practicality. He really is one of the worst Headmasters to run Hogwarts. And one thing is certain: while Dumbledore is headmaster, Hogwarts is hardly the greatest school of witchcraft and wizardry.