Is a Hogwarts education deficient?

At the High School of the Performing Arts depicted in Fame (and, I am sure, at such high schools in real life), the students spend only about half their class time developing their artistic talents. They spend the other half studying more academic subjects – math, science, history, English.

At Rowling’s Hogwarts School, on the other hand . . . although the students are put through very intensive courses, they appear to study absolutely nothing that is unrelated to magic – with the arguable exception of “Astronomy,” and somehow I doubt that course includes any astrophysics. All the students were literate by the time they arrived for their first year at Hogwarts, so they must have been through some kind of general primary education that covered the three Rs. But at Hogwarts . . . well, the graduates may know all about divination, charms, potions, and defense against the dark arts. But what do they know about Newton’s laws of physics, the Pythagorean theorem, the periodic table of elements, Plato’s philosophy, the Romantic period in English poetry, or the Peace of Westphalia?

Rowling’s wizards live in a self-contained underground society and rarely pay more attention than necessary to Muggles and their ways and their events and their vast store of non-magical knowledge. Are they foolishly depriving themselves? Could their society not benefit from such Muggle learning?

And how self-contained can their society really be, anyway? We know the food at Hogwarts dinners does not just appear on the tables magically, it is prepared by the school’s house-elves – but where do the elves get the raw ingredients? Some wizards are in the business of growing herbs for magical uses, but there does not appear to be any such thing as a wizard farmer who simply grows food for market. It would appear all wizards buy their food, ultimately, from Muggle farmers – which means wizards, or perhaps just a few specialized wizard grocery companies, must have some mechanisms in place for discreetly converting wizard currency into Muggle currency. Which means what happens in the Muggle world does affect them, after all, in some ways – instability in Muggle food markets would also affect the price wizards have to pay for their food. And it is probably the same for a wide range of commonplace products and commodities wizards use but do not make. And then there are Muggle wars, which are bound to have some disruptive effect even on the wizards’ world. So isn’t Muggle knowledge something they sometimes really need?

I think you should ask Rowling herself.

FTR, they do study magical history (their most boring class, according to the books), which conceivably could include basic philosophy, etc., although I’m not sure even that’s necessary – I didn’t run into Plato and company in a formal academic environment until college. I also assume that magical history would include any major intersections between the wizard world and major muggle historical happenings.

I’m not sure physics classes would be terribly important to a group of people who routinely defy the laws of physics.

A certain amount of mathematics would be required for Potions. And Hermione takes Arithmancy.

I’m most surprised by the lack of mention of literature classes. One would think that Rowling, herself a novelist, would want the kids exposed to literature.

As for economic effects – perhaps the number of wizards in the world is simply too small to noticeably affect world commodity prices? And I’d imagine wars, etc, wouldn’t upset their supply of goods too much – Floo powder could certainly circumvent foriegn occupation.

Although you raise interesting questions. What did the wizard community do during WWII? We know from the novels that the Ministry sometimes meets with the British Prime Minister; they were certainly aware of the situation. And while they remain apart from muggles, Britain is still their home – why not stop the blitz?

Don’t forget, there are also wizard businesses – and some of them, such as Gringott’s Bank, must have to deal with some very complicated financial decisions. Yet the Hogwarts curriculum does not appear to include any courses in bookkeeping, accounting, economics, or business administration. Is it because they leave all that to their goblins? Doesn’t sound wise – Rowling has dropped hints that the goblins are sometimes restless under the domination of human wizards.

During World War II the wizarding community was in a war of its own against the Dark Wizard Grindelwald, IIRC. Whether he was in any way related to the Muggle war I don’t know.

Somehow the world managed to function for centuries without formal courses in bookkeeping, accounting, economics or business administration. It’s called on the job training.

Which book is that in? It’s been awhile since I read 1-4.

The kids get out of Hogwarts at what, 17-ish? Basic knowledge is one thing, but I didn’t really know anything about economics or Plato through high school either. How much I know about them NOW is questionable, but if I was going into a field where I had to know either, I would have learned them. College professors often seem to feel the need to re-teach you a lot of stuff anyway, since they probably doubt a high school teacher could possibly do it right.
I don’t think it’s ever come up, but there’s probably little reason to doubt there’s a wizarding college. Plato and economics might seem easy compared to magic.

There is some interaction between the Muggle world and the Wizard world, although it may be quite tacit. Don’t forget, in one of the books, Hermione’s parents (both Muggles) are in Diagon Alley before the start of term, changing their Muggle money into Wizard money at Gringott’s, so Hermione can buy her supplies for the next school year. And it’s either Seamus or Dean who keeps on putting up posters supporting Muggle soccer teams.

Obviously, Hermione returns to a Muggle life during the summers, as does Harry, and presumably Seamus or Dean (or both?). The Weasleys do not, neither does Malfoy; all being pureblood wizards who live in the Wizarding world for the most part. Of course, the underage wizarding prohibition on magic would affect all of them, but while Mrs. Weasley could easily conjure up a meal, Aunt Petunia would have to get the ingredients to make it the old-fashioned way; thus Harry would have to know about such things as grocery shopping and how to use money.

The point though, is this: that while telephones, automobiles, mailboxes, supermarkets, and subway trains may fascinate the Weasleys and the Malfoys, they are second nature to Hermione, Harry, and the others who lived the majority of their lives with one or two Muggle parents. These students may be a little lacking in literature and physics, but they are on familiar territory in the Muggle world. If they choose to stay in it, their existing knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic will do them fine; if they no interest in living in in the Muggle world (like the Malfoys and Weasleys), their Hogwarts education will see to it that they are just as fine. Rowling never explicitly says, but it would seem to me that regardless of mixed- or pureblood, most Hogwarts students would be expected to live in the Wizard world after graduation, making a lot of Muggle knowledge unnecessary.

I seem to recall that certain societies–the Amish perhaps, or maybe Hasidic Jews too–allow their children just enough regular education to meet the minimum standards required by law. Then the children are expected to work or study according to the traditions of the society. Perhaps this is what’s happening here also–Hogwarts students may not know Shakespeare or British history, but they have enough knowledge to get by in the Muggle world if necessary, while being extremely well prepared for their life in the Wizard world.

Okay, I’ve checked - looks like I made most of the stuff about WWII. :slight_smile: Dumbledore was credited on the Famous Wizards trading cards in the first book with defeating the Dark Wizard Grindelwald in 1945 - I just thought that there was something behind that date coinciding with the end of the war.

I guess Grindelwald had to have been doing lots of terrible stuff during the time of war - you don’t get the title “Dark Wizard” for nothing.

We had a thread that dealt with this subject a while ago, but there are so many Harry Potter threads I can’t find it. Ah well.

I agree that the Hogwarts curriculum doesn’t seem very well-rounded. They seem to do a decent job of history and science (not just astronomy, but herbology and potions too), and I suppose Muggle Studies and perhaps some DADA and Magical Creatures lessons could count as social studies. But there is no mention of art, music, or literature. Students seem to write essays fairly often, but they don’t get any help in improving their writing skills. Aside from Hermione’s arithmancy class there has been no math, and certainly no required math. And while we saw in Goblet of Fire that there are foreign wizards who do not all speak English, Hogwarts isn’t even up to American public high school standards when it comes to foreign language instruction.

As others have mentioned, the absence of philosophy, economics, politics, or medicine in a junior high and high school setting is not in and of itself surprising. However, the British wizard community has nothing in the way of formal post-secondary education. It’s not like the kids are going to pick up the heavy stuff when they go to Uni.

I haven’t read Order of the Phoenix yet, but in the first four books we haven’t seen much of what goes on in the adult wizarding world. It’s possible that there are a lot of apprenticeships and intense on-the-job training. Or, as someone whose name I can’t remember argued in the thread I can’t find, it’s possible that the educational system really is inadequate and this is the reason for some of the trouble in the wizard world. It was obvious early on that their political system is unstable and full of corruption, and I expect this theme becomes even more apparent in book 5. We’ve already seen that wizard society relies heavily on the labor and magic of house elves. Despite (or perhaps because of) their magic, the wizard community is in many ways far less developed and less efficient than most Muggle societies of the past few centuries. Their isolationist policy may have done them as much harm as good.

I think this is the key. Hogwarts is like a technical institute in magic. Then when they get out, they find jobs and get on the job trainings, which will help them in whatever field they are in. It’s basically a trade school which could care less about math and art.

Dumbledore’s chocolate frog card mentioned him defeating that wizard in 1945. That was one of the beginning chapters of book one.

About as much as I do.

HA HA HA HA HA!! Oh god, I should write these down!

Wait, I guess I did.

I’ll put this in a spoiler for those who haven’t read Order of the Phoenix

I appears that the first 5 years at Hogwarts are spent in a general magical education, with the last 2 years being spent in more specialized education tailored to the profession you wish to have. (Imagine how much different your career path would have been if you had to choose it at age 15!) I think it looks like most post-secondary education is of the on-the-job variety. When Harry is given career advice by Prof. McGonagall, she tells him that in order to become an Auror, “it would mean a lot more study even after you’ve left school” and “unless you’re prepared to take even more exams after Hogwarts, you should really look at another [career].” But these sound more like aptitude tests, rather than formal education"

However, I agree that the magical community could learn from the non-magical community. Everytime someone sticks their head in a fireplace, I can’t imagine what they have against a simple telephone. Plus, as others have metioned, the magic world is full of government corruption, prejudice against non-human intelligent beings, slavery, shoddy journalism, severe human rights issues… I think they could do with a few social studies and humanities classes, as well.

I think you’re missing one point, that could explain away alot of these issues. Since alot of the wizarding world defies traditional physics, mathmatics (think of all the spacial anomolies), biology, chemistry it mightbe counter-productive for them to teach those subjects. Perhaps it would make flying, apparating, levitating, potion mixing and what-not very difficult to do if you understood too well why they shouldn’t work. A self-defeating mindset if you will.

Also, alot of the subjects mentioned here aren’t high school subjects in even the best of schools. I think true Philosphy classes are quite unheard of in typical High Schools. Art and Literature are important, but usually are fairly minimized in most schools and often are elective only. Literature is less commonly taught as an “art” in High School and more often is merely a tool to enable the teaching of writing and speaking skills, as well as improving one’s vocabulary and ability to think freely. All those skills could likely be honed using the various magical courses, who’s to say there’s no required reports in the History of Magic course, and if I recall there was a public presentation in Divination.

Don’t be so sure Rowling didn’t mean it - after all, there are some very true stories of the Nazi High command engaging in certain unsavory occult practices…

perhaps the murder of the Jews was really a mass human sacrifice to try and ensure victory, but Dumbledore killed Grindelwald and thats why things fell apart so quickly in 1945 - not only were the Germans outnumbered and outgunned and being attacked everywhere, they actually lost all of the mass magical support that subtly helped them defeat their foes. Dumbledore probably first began his movements against Grindlewald in 1943, so as to help the Russians defeat the German armies threatening Moscow…

May have my dates wrong a bit. :slight_smile:

No, I don’t accept that. It seems that this would make things far easier - not so much to learn a specific trick like “wave your wand like so and say ‘Wingardium Leviosa’ to levitate something”, but to figure out new techniques. And of course, knowing the theory behind something doesn’t make it any harder to learn how to do it.

Because although it may be magic, it is still affecting and redirecting natural laws. Those don’t just vanish because someone used magic.

If Hogwarts was in America, they’d be forcing them to bus in muggles to increase their ‘diversity’.

A wizard did it! :smiley:

*Don’t know much about (Wizard) history
Don’t know much herbology
Don’t know much about potions books
Don’t know much about the Charms I took
But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you loved me too
What a wonderful world this would be

Don’t know much about Divination
Don’t know much Transfiguration
Don’t know much about Magic Beasts
Don’t know what a skeert is for
But I know that one and one is two
And if this one could be with you
What a wonderful world this would be

Now I don’t claim to be an O student
But I’m tryin’ to be
Oh, maybe by being an O student, baby
I can win your love for me*