It is no secret that I think Hogwarts is a place that doesn’t care about its students’ safety, and that its environment is morally reprehensible—Hogwarts has slaves, after all. But what about the curriculum? At the very least I should be able to say that Hogwarts provides a kickass education. After all, Hogwarts is the best magic school around, or so we’re told.
Well, about that… Hogwarts education is… lacking. Sure, it might be a great place to go to if you want to learn how to do magic, but not so much about anything else.
When students arrive at Hogwarts at the age of eleven, they spend the next seven years of their lives learning all about magic and the different types of spells. There’s Transfiguration, Potions, Herbology, Charms, History of Magic, Astronomy, and most notably Defense against the Dark Arts, plus a few electives here and there. Altogether, it seems like a good education that provides its students with the skills necessary to live in the wizarding world. Unfortunately, the wizarding world is not the world. Any student going to Hogwarts misses out on opportunities to learn about how to live in the Muggle world, even though that’s where a good number of students are from, and even though the Muggle world is so vast and overreaching that it’s impossible for wizards and witches to live their lives without any kind of interaction with it. To Hogwarts’s credit, it does provide an elective called Muggle Studies. However, given how little wizards who are interested in Muggles, such as Mr. Weasley and his son Percy, actually know about them, it’s pretty safe to say the class isn’t very good. Even worse, after the Death Eaters have taken over the school, Muggle Studies becomes mandatory in order for the Death Eaters to indoctrinate students into believing they’re superior to Muggles.
Other than the Death Eater issue, misinformation and a lack of proper education about Muggles might not seem like too bad a thing, since most Hogwarts alumni are probably going to look for jobs in wizarding society anyway, but the severe lack of options they are presented with is noticeable. Any child that wants to live and work among Muggles will have very limited choices—they’ll be hard pressed to get a college degree to expand those choices—and to be honest, we don’t know much about what job opportunities an education at Hogwarts will provide. We know that becoming an Auror takes extra training, but what about other jobs? Did someone like Rita Skeeter, in order to become a journalist, have to take classes on writing and English? After all, knowing magic won’t help her be a decent writer if she doesn’t have basic grammar skills, which is something Hogwarts wouldn’t have taught her. Do doctors at St. Mungo’s understand psychology? Do wizard business men and women learn economics? As Harry is the narrator, we only learn about the Auror training program. What would happen if someone like Hermione decided after her education that she wanted to be a dentist like her parents, a profession most wizards and witches have never heard of? Is there a wizard pre-med program? Why the hell is Madame Pomfrey expected to know how to cure everything that has ever happened to the students? Is she just a general healer, or do specialists exist? And for that matter, does anyone at Hogwarts even know CPR or basic first aid?
Think about what Hermione’s parents must think about her education, or even Lily Potter’s parents. From a Muggle parent’s perspective, Hogwarts education must be horrible—not only do Muggle parents know very little about wizarding society in order to fully understand what’s in store for their child’s future, Hogwarts doesn’t provide the essential education that they’re used to. Their children come home every summer having spent the school year learning nothing about economics, mathematics, science, English, literature, or other important information, and they’re not allowed to do magic outside school either. So they can’t even show their parents what they did learn because it’s illegal. Furthermore, the subjects we study in Muggle schools are important, regardless of whether or not someone can do magic. Hogwarts does a disservice to its students by not teaching them those. Because, as I pointed out earlier, even students who wish to remain in the wizarding world need to learn economics and English.
While the children are learning to do spells, they are not learning when not to do them, or why they should or shouldn’t do them. They don’t receive too many problem-solving challenges in class. They don’t receive any kind of lessons to make them think about a given situation or what is morally reprehensible or not. When they learn about love potions, they don’t discuss whether or not they should be illegal, and no one thinks to go, hey, isn’t that rape? (Yes, it is.) Students at Hogwarts don’t have any kind of sexual education either. That seems like a poor decision on the staff’s part, considering that it’s a boarding school filled with horny teenagers—have they never read fanfiction? Actually, to make that question serious, they probably haven’t, because the arts don’t seem to be a big part of their education either. What kinds of fandoms exist in the wizarding world? Do they have famous fiction-writing authors? Do they have their own J.K. Rowling figure? We know they have bands, but they don’t have a music class. Who paints all the portraits hanging around the stairwells? What kinds of crafts do the students like to do? Hogwarts doesn’t seem at all concerned with exploring its students’ more creative talents or cultivating them.
As for the education the students do receive, even then, it’s not that good. Dumbledore seems to be allergic to hiring decent staff. With the exception of maybe McGonagall and Flitwick, Hogwarts staff is horrifically incompetent, and it doesn’t have nearly enough teachers for a school with allegedly over a thousand students. To this day, I still can’t wrap my head around why Lockhart was ever hired. It could be argued that maybe the Board of Governors wanted Lockhart hired, or even that there were no other applicants—and those are certainly legitimate arguments—but they’re not the reason. According to Pottermore, Dumbledore hired Lockhart to expose him as a fraud and because he wanted the students to learn what not to do. Those are horrible reasons to hire someone. Learning what not to do is only good if students also learn what to do as well, have decent examples to follow, and are told ahead of time that they’re learning what not to do. Otherwise, they run the risk of thinking the bad example in front of them is good. This also means that Dumbledore prioritized exposing Lockhart at his students’ expense.
It also doesn’t help that Dumbledore allows abusive assholes like Snape and Filch anywhere near children. While Snape may be one of the most talented Potions Masters ever, that doesn’t make him a good teacher. Dumbledore has to be aware that Snape spends his day antagonizing students, and he also has to be aware that that kind of environment is not conducive to learning. For God’s sake, Neville is so terrified of Snape that Snape is his fucking boggart. That’s fucking disgusting. Very few students are leaving Hogwarts with adequate knowledge in Potions, and what they know about Defense against the Dark Arts, arguably their most important class, is laughable.
Furthermore, Hogwarts encourages an environment where toxic rivalries are seen as commonplace and acceptable. If it didn’t, both the Marauders and Snape would have been expelled long before James and Sirius had the opportunity to undress Snape against his will in front of everyone during their fifth year. And somehow no one got expelled then, either. The wizarding world has such a strict policy on magic that Harry Potter gets called in for a legal hearing at one point in time for using magic in front of his cousin. This is because it’s illegal to do magic in front of Muggles, but what the hearing didn’t seem to particularly care about in Harry’s instance was that the magic was done in self-defense. I should also point out that his cousin already knows about magic, because the laws regarding keeping magic a secret don’t apply to Muggle family members. While what happens to Harry here was largely due to a corrupt government trying to get rid of him for saying things they don’t like, Harry almost gets expelled from Hogwarts in his second year because Dobby cast a levitation spell in his house, so we know severe punishment for breaking the rules is not uncommon. You would think Hogwarts would also have a strict policy on what spells students can and cannot use outside class. The wizarding world is one where using magic to save your life at home is considered a near inexcusable offense deserving of legal retribution, while using magic to sexually harass someone at school isn’t even expulsion-worthy. Even Harry himself is a victim of sexual assault. Romilda Vane attempts to roofie him with a love potion, Ron almost dies in the process, and there are no consequences for our would-be rapist.
The more I think about Hogwarts, the more the school seems worse and worse and worse. There are a lot of problems with wizarding society, and Hogwarts may just be part of that, but it’s a huge part. Unfortunately, as it is, Hogwarts is sending people with awesome magical powers out into the world, but not making sure those people have the skills necessary to function in said world. It’s also not teaching these magically enhanced humans when they should use their abilities—which is why the school has rampant problems among its students and so very few wizards and witches know how to be responsible with their powers.
Sadly, even if I knew all of this when I was eleven, I would still jump at a chance to go to Hogwarts if an owl brought an invitation to my doorstep. When your options are between a decent education and learning magic, there’s really not much of a choice.