Keith Hawk (KH) John Granger (JG) Carrie Birmingham (CB) Letty Nardone (LN)
KH: This lesson of MuggleNet Academia is brought to you by Audible. Please visit AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleNet for your free audiobook download.
[Show music begins]
Eric: Hey! Josée! Wait up!
Josée: Oh hi, Eric! I'm sorry, I really can't talk right now. I'm running late.
Eric: Late? Late for what?
Josée: Oh, it's because I have to go meet Keith and John Granger. I'm actually going to listen to a Harry Potter literature lesson at MuggleNet Academia.
Eric: Oh cool, that sounds awesome. Can I come with?
Josée: Yes, of course you can. Just come with me.
Eric: Okay. Let's go!
[Show music continues]
[MuggleNet Podcasts promo begins]
Harry:[yawns] Good morning, you two. What are you up to?
Ron: Hey, Harry. Hermione and I found this wireless sitting here in the common room.
Hermione: We can't decide what to listen to, though.
Harry: Well, have you two heard of Alohomora!? They always come up with interesting new ideas and theories about the wizarding world, and invite their listeners to participate in the discussion, on and off the air. They even talk about things we do here at Hogwarts, like magical creatures, wizarding history, Divination...
Harry: Yes, me... I mean, what? No! No, no, no, they don't talk about me. A lot.
Hermione: Well, I've really been enjoying MuggleNet Academia. The show goes into an in-depth analysis of the wizarding world and what impact it has made on Muggle culture. They invite guest speakers and students on every episode to discuss classic and modern works of Muggle literature, and further examine why the wizarding world, as Muggles know it, has made such an impact on them.
Ron: Well, we have the day off, so I want to listen to Audiofictions. The MerMuggle Readers tell new stories written by Muggles. I love hearing what the Muggles think about us! Not only that, but listeners can request which stories they'd like to hear, and participate in contests to have their own stories read. I've even heard a few stories about the three of us.
Hermione: Well, these all are great suggestions, but which one should we listen to?
Harry: Chosen One gets first dibs!
Ron: Hey, I found the wireless! I get to choose!
Hermione: You two have homework to do! I'm done, so we should listen to my show!
[Harry, Hermione, and Ron bicker]
Neville: Good morning, you three. Err, what are you doing with my wireless?
Ron: Neville? This is your wireless?
Neville: Yes, I've been looking for it everywhere. I don't want to miss MuggleCast. They're always up on the latest wizarding news.
Harry: Oh. Well, we were hoping to listen to Alohomora!
Hermione: MuggleNet Academia!
Neville: Oh, sorry. But you three know you can just download those shows to listen to whenever you want, right? Anyway, thanks for finding my wireless!
Michael: The magic lives on with MuggleNet's new podcast family.
Caleb, Kat, and Noah: Open the Dumbledore with Alohomora!
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Eric: Get the latest news and excitement from MuggleCast.
Michael: Find every member of the MuggleNet podcast family on iTunes to subscribe and download the latest episodes today. With hundreds of episodes available, the choice is up to you.
Ginny: Hey, you three. Mum just sent her old wireless over to me. Isn't it great?
Harry, Hermione, and Ron: Ginny!
[Ginny, Harry, Hermione, and Ron bicker]
[MuggleNet Podcasts promo ends]
KH: Welcome back to another edition of MuggleNet Academia. This is Lesson 18: Did You Survive Your Hogwarts School Years? On our last show, we had Chris Gavaler in Lesson 17 and we discussed whether or not Harry Potter could actually be compared to a comic book superhero. John, do you have any final thoughts on that show before we get into this new one?
JG: Well, I tell you, it... I'm still... even though it was a month ago, Keith, I'm still trying to put my head around it because I had never thought of Harry Potter as a comic book superhero. And yet, Chris was right. We've always talked about Harry Potter as sort of a mythic figure. And what is, really, the medium or the genre for myth in our culture? It's superheroes. Still, it's a wonderful perspective on the series and actually gives me a whole new idea of how to think about all the books, as much as any of these characters are mythic, whether it's Tris Prior in the Divergent trilogy or Katniss Everdeen or Bella Swan or whatever. All of these characters are somehow mythic and we're going to see bleed from Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Fantastic Four, into this literature because that's... it's colored our way of seeing the world and how we approach literature. So yeah, that was a show that very much surprised me, Keith. I didn't expect it was going to be that good, but boy, I'm still swirling.
KH: Well, I knew it was going to be good. It was going to be interesting for sure just based on our synopsis and the questions that we had for Chris. But you're right. Even after the show, I was a little bit more towards, "Yeah, okay, I can see him being a comic book superhero," but at the same time I was like, "Hmm, there's just portions of it that just don't make sense."
KH: But anyway, I want the fans to tell us whether or not they think Harry Potter is a comic book superhero, so if you have not listened to Lesson 17 or any of our other past shows, all you have to do is go over to MuggleNet Academia on the MuggleNet website and all of the shows are listed under the podcast section. You can also get all of the shows off the mobile devices. All you need is our app. We have the MuggleNet Academia mobile device app on the iOS devices; all you have to do is download what's called "Podcast Box App." That is free. Then search for MuggleNet Academia and it's $1.99 to get the podcast app. But then you'll also get a whole bunch of bonus features as well. For Android devices, you just go to Amazon and download it directly. So anyway, that's that. I do want to share with you, John, one of the feedbacks that we got. It was really well-received. It's from Tim in California, and this was over on iTunes. He says:
"I am not ashamed to say that this show is the main thing that made me realize that I want to be a Literature major."
KH: Yeah, exactly.
"The show's content is consistently informative, and quite frankly, mind-blowing most of the time. I am always eager to hear what hosts Keith Hawk and John Granger have to say as they dive into the heavier side of 'Harry Potter' analysis. It made me go and buy one of MuggleNet's books on my Kindle, and John's book is next."
There you go, John.
"This has been a great companion to have for college - it compliments my studies nicely and acts as comfort food type of audio in times of stress like other MuggleNet shows. Keep up the good work!"
JG: Wow, Keith. That was the perfect letter. If anybody out there wants their letter read on our show, you do everything that Tim in California just did: mention how good my books are, and MuggleNet's books, and that you love the show. And it's mind-blowing almost all the time. Keith, aren't we mind-blowing all the time?
JG: For your next letter, mention that we're mind-blowing all the time.
KH:[laughs] Well, you know what, I'll say this. If you want to get your letter read, you could either do it that way or be the exact opposite.
JG: That's right.
KH: Because I do like the controversy as well.
JG: That's right.
KH: Just be respectful when you do it.
[KH and JG laugh]
KH: If you want to send us your feedback, just go onto iTunes in the iTunes Store, look up MuggleNet on the Podcasts, and there's a place there where you can write reviews and rate the show. We certainly do like your ratings to be 5.0 stars...
KH: ...and your reviews to be very influential for other listeners out there. Or you can go to the MuggleNet Academia section and leave it there. John, I am excited about today's show. We're going to be talking about high school years and I'll tell you, for you and me, it's been a long time...
KH: ...since we've been in high school. But for a lot of our listeners, they're going through it right now or have just completed it, so it's going to be interesting feedback from what we have to talk about. So, why don't you introduce our special guest today?
JG: Well, our special guest today is Professor Carrie Birmingham of Seaver College at Pepperdine University. I'm not embarrassed to say that I think of Carrie as a good personal friend here. I've known her since 2005 when Carrie was among the first academics - and at a school with Christian affiliation, no less - to come out not only in favor of Harry Potter, but to compare Harry Potter with some of the best works in English literature. Her essay, Harry Potter and the Baptism of the Imagination, was really a landmark book. It came two years after Looking for God in Harry Potter, but I was not writing from within the academy and I was considered something of a freak at the time. Carrie speaking in much more measured tones than I ever could or ever will, [laughs] she delivered a broadside back to the Harry haters and the Potter panickers that were at that point lining the turrets of the castle. And since that time, Carrie has not only used Harry Potter in her classroom, where she teaches teachers - this is a teacher of teachers on here for this subject today - but she's even got a website now. Carrie, what's the name of the website? Because I'm going to mess up.
JG: "Harry Potter Goes to School," and if you are interested in anything of the pedagogical content of this series, you need to go to school at "Harry Potter Goes to School." Anyway, Keith, this is going to be a great show because of the subject, and you're going to introduce our student guest, Letty, whose letter really spurred this whole subject.
KH: Yeah, we decided to bring on Letty because she wrote to me and requested this subject. And it was an interesting subject to say the least. I sent it over to you, John, you loved it, and you said, "I have the perfect person for this." And I said to you, "Hmm, how about we bring on Letty as our student?" Even though Letty is not a student.
KH: Letty Nardone has a Masters of Library Science degree from the State University of New York at Albany, and she's currently working at the Byram Hills High School library media specialist. So, Letty, tell me. What inspired you to write this letter to me?
LN: Okay. Well, about a month ago I was reading this article in New York Magazine. And the cover story is, "High School is a Sadistic Institution." So, that really grabbed my attention.
LN: Yeah, really.
JG: You don't want to think of yourself as working at a sadistic institution, Letty?
LN: No, no. And trust me, that's not what Byram Hills... I can only speak for the wonderful high school that I work in as the librarian. With 865 students, we are a school about an hour north of New York City in Westchester County, New York. So, I'm reading this and it's about teenagers, or it's about that age of 15 to 25 years old, and how you never really leave high school. And who you are in high school, you become that person when you are an adult. And just that one little paragraph, or part of it, I thought to myself, "Wow, that's Severus Snape!" [laughs]
JG:[laughs] That's great.
LN: And most normal people would think, "Wow, you're pretty odd," but I would think that amongst us kindred spirits, no, that's not such an odd thing to be reading something in 2013 and relate it to a Harry Potter novel, which I do pretty much on a daily basis.
KH: I think we all do that.
[JG and LN laugh]
JG: If you're on this show, you do.
KH: Before we get into too much more, because we're going to save it for the main part of the show...
KH: ...I wanted to ask you this, though. You created your own Harry Potter Jeopardy game, huh?
LN: I did.
JG: Forgive me for laughing because somebody else I know has created a Harry Potter Jeopardy game.
LN: I did.
KH: I wonder who that is, John.
JG: Gosh, Keith, would it be you?
KH: Yeah, I think so.
[CB and JG laugh]
KH: In fact, it's going to be coming out of the closet again here soon.
KH: So before we kick off the show, I do want to bring up a couple of quick announcements as to what's coming up around the corner for us here on MuggleNet Academia, as well as on the MuggleNet site. March Madness will be kicking off in just a couple of weeks. We had this last year, where we pitted characters against each other in the brackets, the same way as the NCAA Tournament.
KH: A lot of fun. Fans vote and determine the winners, and each winner moves on to the next round until we have a final. This year we are going to change it up a bit. Instead of having characters battle each other, we're going to have Harry Potter book chapter titles battling against each other. So, we're going to throw it up a little bit different this year and see how that turns out. On March 24th, I want you guys to write this down on your calendars. March 24th, there will be a live podcast show with the audio fan fiction's team. They are definitely going to be a lot of fun, it's going to be a lot of laughs for people. This is the people who, if you listen to our show, do the commercial for all the different podcasts, and they do the voices of Harry, Ron, Hermione, Neville, Seamus, Parvati, Padma, et cetera. It's a wonderfully talented team. They are the ones who read your fan fictions that you write in those voices. So, they are going to have a live show on March 24th. Very excited for that. Two other announcements: The Quidditch World Cup is right around the corner. April 13th to 14th in Kissimmee, Florida. If you have not made your arrangements for traveling yet, please do so by going to AllAboutGroupTravel.com, look up the Quidditch section. They are the official travel agency for the International Quidditch Association. We had a bunch of tournaments in the last couple of weeks to determine bids for the World Cup. There's going to be 80 teams participating...
KH: ...and it's going to be an event that is just unlike the others because in past years it was who can show up.
KH: This year it's all about winning the bid to get into the tournament. If you're not good enough, you don't go. So, it's going to be the best of the best, and I'm looking forward to that Quidditch World Cup. I will be there along with Kat Miller from MuggleNet, and she and I will be reporting on it, and it will be a lot of fun. John, I understand you have an announcement to make?
JG: I do. I'm going to be speaking on the 6th of April at UNC Charlotte's PotterWatch 2013. The Harry Potter fans and pundits at UNC Charlotte have put on a show for the last two or three years. Amy Sturgis, a friend of this program, was there, keynote last year. I will be keynoting this year talking about ring composition in the series, where it comes from, how Rowling uses it, et cetera. So, that promises to be a lot of fun. If you can get to Charlotte, it's central to the whole East Coast and it promises to be a lot of fun there the first week of April.
KH: That's great, man. Speaking of keynoting, you and I are going to be the keynote speakers at MISTI-Con convention, May 9th through 13th in Laconia, New Hampshire. The Academia team was asked to be the keynotes and we're bringing along with us Janet Scott Batchler, an author over in California, and she is somebody who has done screenplays, including Batman Forever. So, we are going to be talking about translating the books to films at MISTI-Con. Please make your reservations as they are running out fast. There's only a little bit longer to go and we will be there at MISTI-Con. Can't wait to see you all there.
JG: It's going to be a blast.
KH: It's going to be a great time.
JG: And will the Jeopardy game be there, too?
KH: I will be bringing MuggleNet Jeopardy.
KH: I will be bringing MuggleNet's Family Feud.
KH: The Alohomora! podcast will be live. So, MuggleNet is heavily involved.
[Show music begins]
KH: Actress Ellie Darcey-Alden who played young Lily Evans is going to be there with us along with her brother Joe, her younger brother Joe. Both Ellie and Joe were in Doctor Who's Christmas Special - The Snowmen. So, if you are a Doctor Who fan or a Harry Potter fan, make sure you make it over there and meet them. I think that's it, John. You ready to kick it off?
JG: Yes indeed. Can't wait.
KH: All right, let's kick off the show. From MuggleNet.com, my name is Keith Hawk.
JG: I'm John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor and author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures.
CB: I'm Carrie Birmingham, Associate Professor at Pepperdine University.
LN: And I'm Letty Nardone, Byram Hills High School librarian.
[Show music continues]
KH: Before we get into our lesson today, I would like to take this moment to thank our sponsor, Audible. If you are not familiar with Audible, Audible is the Internet's leading provider of spoken audio entertainment with over 40,000 titles to choose from. If you have a genre you prefer to listen to, such as the immensely popular young adult genre, they will most certainly have the right selection for you to choose from. If you go right now to AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleNet, that's AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleNet, you can get yourself a free Audible book to download when you sign up for their service. And if you're wondering which book to get with your free audiobook download, I would suggest perhaps The Magicians or The Magician King by Lev Grossman, a book that will certainly appeal to almost every Harry Potter fan. Or if you have already finished listening to the Lev Grossman books, then perhaps you'd like to dive into some JRR Tolkien with The Hobbit, as Tolkien is certainly discussed on many of our lessons here on the show. If none of those tickles your fancy, then don't worry. There are still over 40,000 titles left for you to choose from. So, once again, go to AudiblePodcast.com/MuggleNet and get your free download today.
All right, welcome back to MuggleNet Academia. This is Lesson 18: Did You Survive Your Hogwarts School Years? We have the perfect professor and Potter Pundit to share her thoughts on this very subject. Pepperdine Associate Professor of Education, Carrie Birmingham, who is out in the beautiful Malibu, California, teaches the teachers how to teach at the college level, has taught children and young adults kindergarten through eighth, middle school, and in high school as well. On the topic for tonight's conversation, she has published articles about the Harry Potter series, spoken at fandom conferences, and frequently uses Hogwarts examples in her Seaver College-Pepperdine classroom. In tonight's conversation with Professor Birmingham about the lasting influence, both good and bad, of our high school years on our individual and collective psyche, we'll be discussing what makes a schoolboy novel work, whether Hermione - and JK Rowling by extension - are the happy girl survivors of the school gauntlet, why Dumbledore chose to be Hogwarts Headmaster instead of Minister of Magic, and what reasons the Dark Lord had for wanting to join the faculty at Hogwarts, as well as Harry and Tom Riddle's parallel experiences as adolescents and whether Hogwarts in the end is really anything like the schools we all know. We have all been or are currently adolescents and the great majority of us both love Harry Potter and love/hate what happened to us in school, for better or for worse. Order up a Butterbeer or Firewhiskey from Aberforth, pull up a bar stool, and join us for conversation about the effects of secondary education in the Hogwarts saga, our own lives, and schoolboy fiction.
So I want to thank you both, Carrie and Letty, for being here and joining us to talk about what education does to adolescents and what we can learn from this in the Harry Potter schoolboy novels. But the first question that we always bring up to every one of our guests is a straight autobiography. How did you guys meet the Boy Who Lived? Was it love at first reading? Letty, let's have you go first since you were so kind to write the letter to us to start this show off.
LN: Well, thank you very much! I... it's been ten years, the summer of 2003. Order of the Phoenix, that's what got me started. I had some idea, I believe... I can't believe there was a point in my life where I had just a little idea of who Harry Potter was. I just really wasn't clued in to it. I had twin babies that were born...
LN:[laughs] Oy! So, I was a little busy and... but I was also a librarian. And, of course, I needed to know what everyone was reading. So, I picked up Order of the Phoenix and I didn't borrow it from the library. I bought it, which is something I don't do. I don't buy books, I borrow them. But I bought this one and... wow, ten years later. Here I am, still immersed.
JG: Letty, you started at Book 5? You jumped right into the middle of the book series?
LN: I did! I... you know what?
LN: I don't think I was even aware that there were four books before that. I was really...
LN: ...that out of it.
JG: And that one! The most depressing...
JG: ...mind numbing... and you loved it. That's great!
LN: I didn't put it... well, I put it down to change diapers and that sort of thing.
LN: But while they napped - while my two girls, about two years old, napped - I sat in the backyard - with the baby monitor on, but with the book - and I only put it down when I absolutely had to. And that's what... and that was my introduction to Harry Potter.
KH: Now, which book was it that really convinced you that this is it?
LN: Wow. Gosh, that's a tough question. I really... I find it difficult to answer that question. I really can't put my finger on it, exactly. It's just such a wonderful story.
JG: Letty, did you go back from "5" to "1"?
LN: Yes, I did. Immediately, I went to Barnes and Noble and I bought Books 1 through 4. Which is something I also never do. First of all, I never buy books and then I never buy multiple books at the same time.
JG: So you went "5", "1", "2", "3", "4", "5"...
JG: ...and you had to wait with the rest of us for "6". You had to stand around...
LN: I had to wait for "6". And that's when I... yeah, and it was around that time period after that, or shortly after that, when I discovered that there was even a fandom. I had no idea what that meant. So, I was able to enjoy the whole community of Potter for pretty much Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows.
KH: Yeah. See, for me it was definitely Goblet of Fire that did it for me. Simply because Movies 1 through 3 were out before I read the series. Half-Blood Prince had just been released, and actually right after the midnight release is when I really started getting into the books. And I read through, and when I got to Goblet of Fire and didn't know what was going to happen... because I had seen the movies and knew what was going to happen in those. But in Goblet of Fire, I had no clue. And as soon as Cedric got killed, I was done.
KH: I was sucked in right there. That's the scene that... I was in tears for Cedric. I mean, I absolutely had tears flowing.
KH: I still do once in a while when I read them. How about you, Carrie? When was your love interest of the Boy Who Lived?
JG: Whoa! Look at you!
KH: An original!
CB: Yeah. Maybe 2000. Anyway, my son was in second grade and his teacher started reading aloud Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to the class. And he would talk about it every so often. And then he stopped talking about it, and I asked him, I said, "What happened, Ben?" "Oh, she doesn't read it anymore." And so finally I had a chance to talk to the teacher, and she had parent complaints and had to discontinue reading Harry Potter to the class. So, I think it was probably that summer, so to be honest, maybe like 2000 when I started, when I picked it up. I read it myself and then I read it to my kids. So, Ben was finishing second grade and my daughter was getting ready to go into kindergarten. So, I read it to them. They loved it. My daughter, who was four at the time, sat and listened. I was very impressed how grown up and mature she was. It was probably just the quality of the book. But I do remember when Harry and the kids were in the Forbidden Forest, and the Quirrell/Voldemort thing was drinking the blood of the unicorn, she just broke into tears and ran out of the room.
CB: I felt a little bad.
JG: Good response.
CB: Yeah. It felt like... good parenting there, Carrie....
[JG and LN laugh]
CB: ...reading such disturbing things to your children. But then I realized that if there is anything that is going to be horrifying in that book besides Quirrell's head, then that's it. So, I was kind of pleased with her response. So, then I was poking around in the bookstore and saw Galadriel Waters' book...
JG: Oh my goodness.
CB: ...and picked it up. And it looked interesting, and I bought it. I'm the kind of reader that an author can just lead around. You can take me anywhere and I don't really make many inferences. I don't solve mysteries. I just read it for the present. And Galadriel Waters saw those connections and the mentions, the foreshadowing, and I was just fascinated by all those things that she saw, or that the author saw in Harry Potter. And so, I just went on from there and I think... John, I think Hidden Key perhaps is the first one I picked up of yours, and I thought that was really...
JG: It's the first one I wrote, Carrie.
CB: Okay. All right. So, that must be it.
JG: And you were in correspondence with me almost immediately.
CB: Yeah. It was really captivating. And so, of course, I also started looking online. I found MuggleNet and I think for a few years I read everything that MuggleNet put out until it got to be too big.
KH: Not the too big part.
CB: Oh, right. Yes.
[JG and KH laugh]
CB: But anyway, so that's it. So thank you, Mrs. Horowitz, for trying to read that to Ben in second grade.
KH: I'm sure she's listening right now.
JG: What I love about that story, Carrie, is that you probably wouldn't have read the books except they were controversial.
CB: Right. Uh-huh.
JG: If the second grade teacher had finished the book, who knows when you would have picked it up.
JG: That's fascinating.
JG: I was very much the same way, as you know. Anyway, so we have the full spectrum. I picked it up about the same time, a little after, early in the year 2000.
JG: And you guys are relative latecomers here, Keith and Letty. But you've come on with a vengeance.
JG: Let's... I haven't read Letty's letter out loud to people. Maybe I should start off by this subject, where Letty wrote to Keith... do you mind if I read part of your letter, Letty?
JG: Because you said some wonderful things.
LN: Thank you.
I'm a big fan of MuggleNet Academia. May I make a suggestion for a show topic?"
See? It works, folks. You write in these things, we listen.
"The high school experience and Hogwarts: how we can never shake the high school experience from our lives.
In a recent article in 'New York Magazine', 'Why You Never Truly Leave High School' by Jennifer Senior, she stipulates science proves that we live our lives as if we are still in high school."
Then she quotes the article:
"'There are some people who simply put in their four years, graduate, and that's that. But for most of us adults, the adolescent years occupy a privileged place in our memories, which to some degree is even quantifiable: Give a grown adult a series of random prompts and cues, and odds are he or she will recall a disproportionate number of memories from adolescence. This phenomenon even has a name, 'the reminiscence bump,' and it's been found over and over in large population samples, with most studies suggesting that memories from the ages of 15 to 25 are most vividly retained.'
Letty then writes:
"Let's look at a few examples [from Harry Potter]:
Snape teaching Harry Occlumency. What is the memory that Harry sees? Snape being bullied by James while in Hogwarts. Snape does not retain recent memories easily accessible but the memories from Hogwarts from decades prior.
Dumbledore is still haunted by his activities as a youth at this age group.
Pettigrew is still looking for acceptance and approval.
Hagrid continues to care for magical creatures with the same intensity as in his youth.
Voldemort is a more complex character for this assignment. He formulates his ideas for immortality as a youth in Hogwarts.
Fred and George recognize their [skill] for business [while in school].
Dudley is a great example of a character who emerges from his teen years as maturing when he reconciles with Harry.
I want to argue with you here about that one, Letty.
"From this article I contend that the [three] Marauders most certainly prove this point. Sirius, Lupin, and Pettigrew continue to act as adults much in the same way as they did while in Hogwarts.
We catch a glimpse of the same principle with Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the epilogue.
I hope you find this suggestion interesting and worth investigating for a future podcast."
Well, of course we do. This is brilliant. Anyway, we've talked about your letter and the Jennifer Senior article about the remarkably lasting effects of experiences we've had or are having in high school on the rest of our lives. Carrie, the Senior piece argues from scientific studies about what she calls "the traumatizing, corrosive effects" of what we experience as adolescents, especially in terms of brain development and dopamine activity during this time. We were never, she says, as wired or as sensitive, the studies seem to show, as we are as teenagers, and it's unlikely that we ever get over it. Carrie, you work with this all the time. Not only are you working with people in that age range, 15 to 25, but you're preparing them to teach people in that age range. What do you... and I know you've studied the psychology of infants and child psychology, adolescent psychology. What do you make of the evidence that Jennifer Senior marshalled that adolescence is, perhaps, as important as early childhood development in terms of the people that we become?
CB: Sure. Yeah. Thank you, John. I think absolutely, absolutely. I think, one thing - maybe a boring academic caveat here - is I think we need to be careful when we read these kinds of articles that summarize other articles, other research articles, and say, oh, it proves this, or it brings scientific proof to these ideas, and I think what it really does is it builds up a body of evidence that may indicate something or that may suggest something very strongly, but we can't say it proves it. I think when people use the word "prove" - academically it's a technical term, meaning that beyond the shadow of a doubt the numbers prove that people are like this, and I think it's really doubtful that we can prove anything about people when it comes down to their nature and their development because there are so many kinds of variables that cannot be isolated like you can do in a chemistry lab or even a psych lab.
JG: I'm betting, Carrie, that you were just this thoughtful when you were in high school. I was the guy who always said too much or whatever, so that proves it.
CB: Oh. [laughs]
JG: And you're going to say, if you're not talking about a demonstration then it's not a proof. All right.
JG: All right. But it's... what value do these studies have?
CB: Okay. Yeah, definitely. First, with my own experience. This totally resonates with my experience. The article talks about... I think it says, quote, "Why is it in most public high schools across America a girl who plays the cello or a boy who plays in the marching band is a loser?" I was, literally, the girl who played the cello.
CB: I thought, "Oh, this was written about me!"
CB: And then I was, "No, no, no. I'm not an adolescent anymore. I don't think it's all about me."
LN: Can I jump in? I was the girl that played the xylophone.
CB and JG: Oh my goodness.
CB: That is awesome.
JG: Did you march with the xylophone, Letty? Or was this for orchestra?
LN: This was for the halftime show during the football game, so I was up front...
JG: Oh my goodness.
LN: ...so I didn't have to march with it.
KH: I was the guy on the football field.
CB and JG: Oh!
JG: Keith, you were the hero. You were the stud muffin.
[CB and LN laugh]
KH: I was the jock of the school.
JG: I love it. I love it. We're all here, just like in high school.
CB: We're all here.
JG: Guess what I was, Carrie.
CB: In the library?
JG: Yeah, I was the geek.
CB: Oh. Yes.
JG: That's right. I was sort of a cross between Ron and Hermione. I was kind of the in-your-face geek...
JG: ...but I was definitely the cross country runner geek, you know?
JG: Anyway... and guess what? That's what I still... I don't run that much anymore but, my gosh... and, Keith, are you still playing ball here? What did you play? I see... you played football, what did you play?
KH: I played basketball in middle school, and then baseball since I was six years old, and football in high school and middle school.
KH: But baseball was my passion, so...
JG: What were you? Outfield? Second base?
KH: I was third base and I was on every All Star team since I was ten years old, and I was scouted by the Cincinnati Reds and offered to play double A out of high school.
KH: So, yeah, and that's why I'm playing baseball for the first time since high school this summer.
KH: I just joined the league and I'm getting drafted on the 24th of March.
JG: Wow. So, see Keith, it's true. You're just like high school here.
KH: Yeah, I'm trying to bring it back.
JG:[laughs] I love it.
CB: Maybe someday you guys can do a MuggleNet Academia podcast on academics about sports.
JG: Wow. Okay.
KH: I would love to bring Alex Benepe in and talk about Quidditch and its phenomenal effect it has on the academic world. But let's go back into this subject.
CB: Okay. Oh, another thing I wanted to say is that my students who have read Harry Potter - they're all twenty-one, twenty-two years old - one day I wanted to get away from doing my grading or other things that I find tedious, and I made up a Harry Potter bulletin board. I figured since Harry Potter happens in school, maybe I can get a bulletin board out of it. So, I have a classroom in the basement of our building where we have a lot of the teacher education classes. So I printed off photos of the actors who play in the movies, and some quotations from the books, and some quotations from the California Teaching Performance Expectations, which are kind of like the standards of what teachers are supposed to be able to do. And I put it together in a bulletin board. And the students went nuts over it. Their response to it was much more enthusiastic than I thought it would be. They were taking pictures of it. They were posting their pictures on all of their social media, and sending it to people. And then a few months later somebody took down the bulletin board to put up another one, and they were all so disturbed. And I realized they are the Harry Potter generation. They grew up, not just reading Harry Potter, but with the book releases and the midnight movie premieres, and they had some kind of visceral attraction and connection to Harry Potter that I didn't really anticipate, and this article about why you never truly leave high school kind of brought that together for me. That helped it to make some sense.
JG: When you say it brought it together for you, I think it's what Letty was suggesting, too, in her letter, was that we either are living it right now, approaching or in our adolescence, and these books are about the growing up, growing through that period of your lives, or we've been through it and have these heightened and sharpened memories from the period as Jennifer Senior reports, that the dopamine activities and the development of the cortex of our minds is at that period so that we have this attachment to that period of our lives. Do you think, Carrie, that that's really a large piece of this, that we identify with Harry Potter because of our identification with our own adolescence?
CB: It could be.
JG: I'm going to come at this from a different angle.
JG: Lev Grossman, another great guy who was on this show, wrote about this kind of thing at TIME magazine when talking about young adult fiction and the dramatic "world-in-danger" stories of this genre. There's no young adult fiction where everything isn't going to be over if it doesn't work out right in the end. Lev wrote:
"What feeds the teenager's appetite for global destruction? We think of children and adolescents as being interested only in anodyne, escapist fiction - but that's to forget what it's actually like to be a teenager. When you're that age, everything feels like the end of the world: every test and snub and class and audition and prom. Adults have been around the block a few times. Whether it's because we have more perspective or we're just jaded, nothing is that big a deal to us. But you need to tear down the entire planet to match what goes on in a teenager's interior universe. The apocalypse is where they live."
Now having read that, knowing Lev and hearing this conversation about Jennifer Senior's things, I'm wondering, is this the real power of schoolboy novels?
CB: Yeah, I think it's not the real power. I think it's a hook, though. It's definitely there, but I don't think it's the heart of what makes people love Harry Potter. But definitely [laughs] the teenager's interior universe is the apocalypse. My daughter, for better or worse, recently watched the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer series...
CB: ...and in that series it starts off... the kids are in high school and right under the high school is the mouth of hell, and I thought, "Well, what a metaphor there."
CB: And all these evil things come out of the high school and, of course, the good characters have to battle them. We see that adolescents feel like they are at the center of the world. You may have heard the term "adolescent egocentrism." It's not the same thing as a toddler's egocentrism, but it's still there and it's still kind of weird that you hear these full grown people or almost full grown people... they can do algebra, they can do biology, they can read literature, they can run a smartphone, but they feel like they are at the center of the world. I had a student once go home over spring break and she was testing out some things she had learned in developmental psychology, and she asked her fourteen-year-old brother, "Does it ever feel like you're walking around and you're on a stage and you're under a spotlight, and people are looking at you and watching you all the time?" And the kid said, "Well, they are!" [laughs]
JG:[laughs] Yeah, yeah.
CB: He was not only egocentric, he had no idea that he was egocentric. That's just the truth, that's just the way it was. Of course, Harry... he kind of is at the center of the universe. He's the Chosen One, he's the only one that can defeat Voldemort. He is the center of all this violence and controversy, and often times he is being watched all the time. You think about when he first started Hogwarts. I remember there was just a short portion where they talk about the people who were always lining up to watch him walk around the school, and he said it got to be really annoying when he was trying to find his way around the castle. Of course, he was only eleven then and he wasn't quite adolescent, but...
JG: That's a fascinating point because the way the stories are told, we're always sort of hanging over Harry's head, seeing what he sees. He's not telling us the story, but it's almost as if he's got this house-elf with a camera over his shoulder that tells us what he thinks and gives us his point of view. So, we identify implicitly and entirely with Harry Potter. And he has exactly what you're describing, Carrie. He has this adolescent egocentrism, and we take it on from the way the story is told.
JG: We become like that. And as you say, that's a point of view we're familiar with from our adolescent development. We're used to being that person and imagining ourselves to be the Chosen One, that maybe nobody appreciates or maybe they've got the wrong idea of me, whatever. [laughs] But when it comes down to it, I am going to be the guy who has to go toe to toe with the Dark Lord. I won't see you after Hermione gives me the right potion to go through that screen into the room with the mirror. It's going to be me there. We remember that perspective. Letty, is that your take on what Jennifer Senior was about in that article in terms of Harry Potter, that we love Harry Potter in large part because we're having... we either are having or have had the experience of being inside Harry's mind?
LN: I think so. I think that she goes on to put another researcher in the article. If you keep going, she talks to Brené Brown from the researcher of the University of Houston. Did you see that part about...
LN: ...how high school is a metaphor for shame and how you can't... so you're either living with shame or you're living with guilt, and she makes a distinction between the two of them. Brené Brown also has a lecture on TED that I watched, which I highly recommend that you do so because it was wonderful how she explains the difference between shame and guilt. And I see that in high schoolers. I see it. I see the kids everyday and I see how they... they try to identify, they try to figure out, who they are. And they need to know, what is their place in this world? And they live through these experiences of, "Gosh, I really feel guilty about something," or, "I really feel shameful about something."
KH: One of the things that I see with these books, the Harry Potter books, is... you know, John, how you're saying how everybody wants to be that Chosen One because that's the mind that we're reading, that's the thoughts that we're reading, as we go through the books. And the funny thing is that there are cosplayers of all types out there.
KH: People who live as Snape, people who... I mean, their daily lives are involved in the cosplay of Luna, Molly, the twins, various characters. Whether they are Death Eaters or Slytherins or the Hufflepuffs or Gryffindors and the heroes, they're all out there. But it's my opinion... and I could be totally wrong, but it's my opinion that when we're reading these books, we are all the Chosen One, we are wanting to be that Harry Potter person when we're growing up, or we picture us being that person as we were growing up.
JG: That makes sense to me because as this article discusses... again, I hope there are links to that TED lecture and to this article, Keith, on MuggleNet when this show goes up so that people can listen to those things. But that... what we know about adolescence from this article and Erikson's wonderful books on childhood and society is that come this time period in our lives, 15 to 25, really our idea of ourselves - usually called our identity - is congealing from something relatively amorphous from our place inside our family, our role inside the family, to something larger about what our idea of ourselves and how we fit in on a larger stage comes together. And so... I mean, Keith, you were talking about the fact that you were a star baseball player, someone that was drawing attention from professional scouts and this kind of thing. That gives you a different perspective than somebody that played the cello or the xylophone in the band or whatever. You were a person that people had to attend to because you were drawing adult attention for your facility and your skills at an extraordinary level. I can see how you would read Harry Potter and say, "Of course I'm that guy! I am the Seeker on the Quidditch team." For me...
KH: Yeah, but how is that different for a cello person who is getting looked at by...
JG: Juilliard or something. I get it...
KH: Yeah, the Juilliard colleges.
JG: It's not, but most cello players aren't being looked at by those people or whatever.
CB: Oh, nobody was looking at me for Juilliard, but I was thinking about, what do you do in high school that makes you be okay with yourself? And I was thinking that the kind of things that can be maybe compared with other people. Those are... since you're in high school, you don't have a really good sense of what a human person is yet and what those qualities are. So, the way that you feel good is that, "Oh, I'm better at this than somebody else." And so, Keith, "I'm better at baseball than everybody else in the state." Or I could say, "I'm better at cello than any other person in my high school."
JG: You're first chair. You're the first chair, Carrie.
CB: That's right, I was the first... well, there were only two of us in the high school but... [laughs]
JG:[laughs] At least you weren't number two, Carrie. That's great.
CB: That's right. I would have been at the bottom. But you think about what adults think as... what makes a human person is a good soul, a loyal friend, or someone who is courageous, like a Hufflepuff person. The Hufflepuffs, they were always at the bottom of the heap and they didn't have things... until Cedric came along, they really didn't have things that they could quantify and compare against other people, and I think a lot of times that's what happens when you're an adolescent. If you have something that you can compare against somebody else and beat them and be better, then you feel okay.
JG: Hey, let's just go right from there to a character that we all know and loathe, is Severus Snape, okay? And two points about him: one...
KH: Whoa, whoa, whoa. What do you mean by loathe?
[CB and LN laugh]
JG: Okay, some of us love him but they need to get counseling. Anyway...
KH: He is one of the most loved characters out there!
JG: I know, which is... I'm going to get to that, Keith! I'm getting to it.
KH: Okay. [laughs]
JG: First, let's notice that Snape is a trope or a cliche of schoolboy fiction. He is the sadist teacher that you're supposed to hate because he's such a mean, nasty guy with no redeeming features. I mean, this guy is ugly, he is vindictive, he wants to torture students... this is a guy... you're supposed to... he's straight out of Jane Eyre, he's straight out of Nicholas Nickleby, he's a cartoon figure. But then you roll it around and you find out, beginning with Order of the Phoenix especially, that Snape has been abused himself, that Snape was the guy that the heroes of the school, the great baseball players - excuse me, Keith - the great Seekers, and other people...
JG: ...were really mean to this guy because he was just an oily haired geek or whatever. And people then began instead of hating Snape, they began to love him because they identified with those feelings when they were in high school, that they were that person that really was the hero but nobody could appreciate them as the hero. Even the person who is telling the story or whose perspective is the perspective of the story.
Does that make any sense? That, Snape, on one hand, he's just a necessary part of the story, where he's the person that makes the hero, or the protagonist of the story, see himself as being victimized by this horrible evil in the world, misunderstood or whatever. But then, oddly enough, we wind up naming our kid after him...
[CB and LN laugh]
JG: ...because he's the real hero of the book! So, again, it's both things of high school. We all had teachers in high school that we didn't like, that really decided that we were evil and that we're not going to advance. And then, we were the people that didn't get the attention that we wanted.
CB: Yeah, I think... Brené Brown - I really recommend her TED lectures as well - she talked about the development of shame and how shame is the feeling of "I'm a mistake." Guilt is "I made a mistake," shame is "I am a mistake." And thinking about Snape, how much shame he felt from childhood at home up through his Hogwarts years of just being outcast and ridiculed all the time as far as we know, and what he did with that shame through his lifetime. I imagine some of the shame he felt was not just coming from mixed heritage, and his appearance and all those kind of outward things, but I imagine he felt shame for presuming to love Lily Evans.
LN: I want to jump on that, too.
LN: I think he was using one of those strategies that Brené was mentioning in the article...
LN: ...about, you either move away from it, like a secret, like you hide your shame...
LN: ...or you move toward it to people please, or you move against it using aggression to fight your shame. And I think that was the one thing in his life that could have redeemed him, or felt redeemed, or he felt he could have gained, but he lost it at that one moment when he calls her the "Mudblood."
LN: So now, not only does he have shame because of his upbringing and feelings of self-loathing, let's say. Now he has guilt, so now he has both. Now not only did he make a mistake, he is a mistake. So, he has to figure out how he's going to fix this, for the rest of his life, really. That's what I thought.
JG: How about Dumbledore's relationship here? I've got a couple of questions about Dumbledore. One, he decides that the only people he wants to be with, really, are adolescents, and forgive me for thinking most of the teachers at Hogwarts are also adolescents.
JG: Anyway, he decides he's going to forgo superficial power to be the Headmaster. My suggestion is that he's read Jennifer Senior's article...
[CB and LN laugh]
JG: ...and he's decided, "Hey, if I get them right here they're going to be right." But to flip that around, how does he deal with Snape? He shames him. [laughs] He plays the guilt and shame card to manipulate Snape for decades. Am I wrong in that?
LN: I never thought of it that way. Gosh, yeah, I think you have a point. I never really... do you think maybe he was manipulating him or he was just giving Snape an opportunity to redeem himself? Because if Dumbledore didn't give him that chance to come to Hogwarts and give him basically a safe haven, where else would Snape have gone?
JG: Oh, I think you're absolutely right that Dumbledore's long-term game is the redemption of Severus Snape, that really his love for Lily Evans does save him. When he says, "Look at me," and he looks into Dante/Beatrice's eyes, Lily Evan's eyes inside Harry Potter, he does enter Paradise but he plays the game in a hard way. I mean, Dumbledore goes the hard route. He doesn't show any sympathy or compassion to Severus Snape. Now, what was that about? That sounded like to me like he was back playing the power game with a man who didn't have any will to fight anymore.
KH: I'm not sure if I agree with you, John, because...
JG: Keith, you always disagree with me. That's the whole part of the show, isn't it?
KH: Well, it's part of the show.
KH: He had guilty resonance to Snape in the beginning, but once Snape converted over to the good side because of Lily being killed, Dumbledore took Snape under his wing. He made sure that his secret was safe. He gave him safe passage at Hogwarts. He made sure that there was no chance at all that Lord Voldemort, upon his return, would ever know that Snape was actually working for Dumbledore. He was his guardian.
JG: And why is that, Keith? Because of Dumbledore's arrested development, which is almost exactly the same as Snape's except that he wasn't from a wealthy family - obviously, Snape comes from a poor family or whatever - and he's a Gryffindor rather than a Slytherin. But Dumbledore has the same feelings of guilt and shame when his sister dies. I think that Dumbledore, when he sees Severus Snape after the death of Lily Evans, is looking in a mirror...
JG: ...and he decides to speak to him as he spoke to himself. Does that make sense?
LN: No, it does make sense because of course Dumbledore is still riddled with the guilt of Arianna.
JG: I love the fact that you said "riddled." That was great.
CB: Riddled. [laughs]
LN:[laughs] Sorry! I didn't even think of that. But also the shame of the association with Gellert and wanting to go after those Hallows. I mean, look how old... how old is Dumbledore? And he still wanted to join the Hallows.
JG: That's right. So, do you think that he chose to be headmaster not only because he was afraid of what he would do if he was actually holding power, but because he understood from his own life that getting it right as an adolescent means getting it right and that if he could somehow foster the witches and wizards of that age, then somehow he could change the wizarding world for the better?
JG: Certainly what he does with Harry Potter and the terrible trio shows that he was capable of doing that. He created an environment and he tutored Harry so that he was actually prepared for his role in life.
KH: I think Dumbledore is just somebody who just absolutely loves school.
[CB and LN laugh]
KH: He loved school as a schoolboy. It was his safe haven. He wrote to all the great minds of that century. He was the Head Boy. He was named in every single award there was for Transfiguration and all the weekly magazines that he was in. So, to him it was like that was his home away from home.
JG: Which makes him like the Dark Lord, right?
CB: Which makes him just like Voldemort.
LN: That's true.
JG: That's right. Is adolescence, being the critical part of where we are, the reason that Voldemort wants to return to Hogwarts as a teacher rather than working in wizard business again or at the Ministry? Or is Voldemort's attachment to Hogwarts because it was the only place he knew as home, like Keith just said, about Dumbledore?
CB: Yes and yes.
[JG and LN laugh]
JG: Yeah, I think you're right.
CB: Yeah, schools... it's the battleground for souls during that adolescent time. And there they are all gathered up in one castle. And Dumbledore, I think he was there to protect.
KH: Well, why does a teacher go into a teaching? A teacher goes into teaching to shape young minds, right? Isn't that what a teacher does? They go in to shape young minds.
JG: Keith, Carrie and I have had this conversation because...
[CB and JG laugh]
JG: ...I happen to think that schooling is the worst possible thing that happens in modern culture. It's the delivery system for every error of our age. But what's amazing though about your saying is that... oops, I just lost my whole train of thought there. Oh, as John Holt was once asked... he once asked a teacher "wannabe", people like in Carrie's classes, "Why do you want to be a teacher?" and he said, "I want to work with kids," and Holt said, "No, you don't. You want to work on kids."
JG: "If you want to work with kids, then you develop a skill that kids might want to learn and they'll come to you. But if you want to be a teacher, you want to be the person in the front of the room that calls all the shots and these little people have to sit in chairs for eight hours a day listening to you and dancing to your tune." Now, that's... I'm afraid that's one reason why Snape winds up in the classroom, is he's a sadist. He's going to act out all of his frustrations and anger and this and that in the classroom, which he obviously does.
KH: Well what I was going to say, John, though is that by shaping young minds, Voldemort wants to go back because it's his way of shaping people into thinking the way he thinks.
JG: That's right.
KH: Recruiting the probable next generation of Death Eaters.
JG: I think that all teachers do that, Keith.
KH: Exactly, that's the whole point.
JG: That's right. All of them see themselves not as evil. I don't think the Dark Lord saw himself as evil. They all see themselves as people who are going to teach them the right way to be, which is just like them.
KH: I don't think most tyrants see themselves as being a tyrant.
CB: Right, yeah.
JG: They're there to shape the world the way it should be or whatever, right? That's wonderfully put.
LN: But do you think going that night, or that time that Tom Riddle visits the castle...
LN: ...and he goes and asks for the job, do you think at that moment, do you think he was thinking in his head, "Wow, here's an opportunity to start an army," or do you think...
LN: ...he was just looking for his role in life? He didn't know where it was going to go but he would just start at Hogwarts.
JG: Well, two or three things I think he's thinking. One, is Jennifer Senior's point. This is the only place that he knows as home. I think Dumbledore actually says that to Harry and Harry kind of shudders in realizing he's very much like the Dark Lord. That he just wants to come home. But absolutely, I think he comes back there because he understands that he can remake the wizarding world just as Dumbledore did. That scene where the two of them are talking to each other is almost like light and darkness looking at each other in a mirror and that Dumbledore looks right through him, calls him by his real name, and calls him out on it and says, "No, you're not fit to be here. Go somewhere and be a good person before I can trust you with my students."
KH: Yeah, but do you think him going to school to be a teacher and asking for the job was his primary or secondary function? Because that night is also the night that he hid the diadem in the Room of Requirement.
JG: It could be. That's...
KH: That's a JK Rowling question, but I think his primary reason was to hide that last Horcrux that he had.
JG: But he was furious when he left. Remember there's that gesture where he almost reaches for his wand...
KH: Well, yeah but...
JG: ...to have it out with the Dark Lord.
KH: ...there was a reason for that though, and that's because he couldn't get a Gryffindor item and the only Griffindor item was the one at Hogwarts and the sword. So, that was another... again, his primary thing was becoming immortal, shaping Death Eaters and all of that, and if his role as a teacher could get him all of that, then that's all well and good but...
KH: That's my opinion, anyway.
JG: That's good! And I confess, I haven't thought of that before that Dumbledore... you're suggesting that the Dark Lord was wanting to blast Dumbledore [laughs] in his office to make a Horcrux out of a Gryffindor item?
KH: No, no, no. Not at all. What I'm saying is that he wanted the job as a teacher so that eventually he could get into Dumbledore's office and get the Sword of Gryffindor. That would be a future endeavor. And so, by being shut down of being a teacher, he lost not only the ability to shape the future Death Eaters, but also the ability to make his final Horcrux of a Gryffindor item. Instead he had to settle for Nagini, the snake.
JG: Okay, how about... speaking of Gryffindor, how about the Sorting Hat in this? Beginning and end - it's the beginning of every school year, these adolescents come in, they're all friends, they're all nice people, they don't think of each other as not belonging or not having this identity or that. Bang! They get the hat put on their head and suddenly they get sorted into these four clans and their differing identities. You're either a smart guy, you're a jock, you're a snake, or you're a good person.
[CB and JG laugh]
JG: And these four categories are all consuming and defining. What about... and we get that, that's kind of where identity is imprinted on you, by the house and Dumbledore thinks we sort too soon, et cetera. Is that the message at the very end when the hat is brought out from the castle? You know, Accio Sorting Hat or whatever, and it lands on Neville's head and bursts of flame... he's trying to destroy Neville with the hat and the hat delivers the Sword of Godric Gryffindor.
JG: Is there something about the hat? We see its bad side, we see that its precedence knows these things. What is Rowling saying by having that become the critical moment? That's when Harry really rises from the dead, in that... and visibly. What is that about, the Sorting Hat at the end? Because it's clearly the point where the identities... it's the vehicle of all of these twisted identities. I'm a Slytherin, so I don't like you guys because I'm smarter and cleverer than you are. What is that about, the Sorting Hat being used at the end? Carrie, I'm going to throw this to you because you're the teacher of teachers.
CB: Oh my goodness. What happened to the Sorting Hat after that? Was it burned up?
KH: No, it's still there.
CB: It's still there? Okay. All right. I forgot.
JG: Don't they mention that it's on a table at the...
JG: Keith, you're the detail man in this. Isn't there a mention of the Sorting Hat in the Great Hall afterwards?
KH: Well, in the epilogue they talk about getting sorted by the Sorting Hat.
JG: There you go.
KH: You can ask the... if you're that afraid of being put into Slytherin, Albus Severus, then tell the Hat because it does take your opinion into consideration.
JG: There you go, thank you. So, it's not destroyed.
CB: Right, yeah.
KH: No, not at all.
CB: Just, of course, the sword coming out of the hat marks Neville as a true Gryffindor. And I think I see just the time where the Gryffindor and Slytherin meet again as far as, like, Nagini is the Dark Lord's sidekick and Neville is Harry's sidekick and here they come, and then Nagini gets beheaded. I don't really have many schoolish things to say about that, though.
JG: Okay, that's a very good point, that it's less a school vehicle than it is a Godric Gryffindor item or whatever.
CB: I think that's right. Yes.
JG: That's kind of the joke always about the Sorting Hat being the Sword-in-Hat or whatever.
JG: Ha, ha, ha.
LN: Right. [laughs]
CB: I would like to go back to Dumbledore, and why Dumbledore went to Hogwarts and didn't go on to the Ministry of Magic.
JG: Anything, Carrie, to get us away from this subject.
CB: Okay, all right. I was thinking, the one reason Dumbledore went... I was trying to figure out when he went, and apparently he became Headmaster sometime in the '50s, so decades before Harry arrived. But I assume probably during when Voldemort was active... or no, right before he came back, but...
KH: Voldemort was a Death Eater when Dumbledore took the throne of Headmaster. I think it was 1956.
KH: But Voldemort was at school in the '40s, I believe.
CB Right, okay. I think one reason why Dumbledore went to school, went to be the headmaster and stayed the headmaster, is to protect. Not necessarily to shape young minds but to protect young minds from others who would be attempting to shape them, and I think that is... Keith, you're probably right that when young people go in to teach and they say, "I want to shape young minds. I want to make a difference in the lives of young people." Very few of them go and say, "I'm going to protect these kids from all these things that are happening." But I think Dumbledore probably did have in mind, "I'm going to protect them." Because you see he doesn't really care so much about the shaping of young minds. Of course, we don't know what he does with other kids besides Harry and what we know about Harry's friends. But he doesn't seem to be particularly concerned with hiring really high quality teachers...
CB: ...or working on their professional development or the... we never see him thinking at all about the curriculum that's taught at Hogwarts, so I think he's pretty not concerned about the academic, schoolish kinds of things that go on at Hogwarts. He is actively concerned about protecting. I think... I remember the one scene where in his office when the girl that had the pimples written on her face.
LN: Oh, yes.
KH: Marietta Edgecombe.
CB: Right, right. And someone was threatening her in Dumbledore's office, and that was when Dumbledore lost it and got very angry, and you can see...
JG: "I'm not going to allow you, Dolores, to shake up any of my students."
CB: Right, right. And I think protecting is something that he was really about.
LN: I like that idea, and I'll expand on that if I may. I think that he lost that opportunity when Ariana died, and remember how much that pained him that he wasn't able to protect her.
LN: Because he resented going back and having to care for Aberforth...
LN: ...and Ariana. So, I think this is his opportunity now...
LN: ...to make up for that and to relieve himself of the guilt, so I think that makes perfect sense.
KH: And I'll also expand on it in saying that don't forget Dumbledore has McGonagall who is really...
CB: Oh, right.
KH: ...the curriculum expert.
KH: As Deputy Headmistress and very disciplined, I think she keeps all the teachers in line in the staff meetings and the staff room...
LN: She probably does, yeah.
KH: ...and is the one threat to all teachers like, "This is what you need to do. Make sure these students learn this, this, and this."
CB: Right, right. I think that's a good point.
JG: Is Dolores Umbridge the foil to Dumbledore? Is that the "this is what schools are really like and how we all..." everybody hates Dolores Umbridge. Nobody...
JG: Nobody understands... nobody sympathizes with Dolores. I don't see anybody cosplay Dolores Umbridge that really wants to be Dolores Umbridge. I mean, that's...
JG: There are more people who want to be the Pink Lady than want to be Dolores Umbridge.
LN: Dolores Umbridge may as well be the Department of Education, No Child Left Behind, and all these race to the top and all these little things that go on and on and on...
JG: Little things?
LN: Carrie, you know. [laughs]
CB Oh, yes, yes.
LN: APPR. I could go on and on and on about the...
CB: And that's one thing, Letty, I've read that what administrators and what teachers and what people on school boards really ought to do is to protect people below them from the top down edicts that are coming from the higher ups rather than pass them along. So, teachers, what we really ought to do is protect our students from the effects of high stakes testing and the narrowing of the curriculum. What principals ought to do is protect the teachers and what the school board ought to do is to protect the principals to protect the teachers. So, I think protecting is a really big deal in schools now and I think it's a good word because it implies danger - potential danger - and I think a lot of teachers and a lot of administrators and people really are kind of putting their careers on the line to protect kids now.
JG: Well, I would disagree vehemently, Carrie, as you know. [laughs]
JG: I think the entire school structure is not about protection. It's about sorting. It's about sorting people into tracks. It's about sorting them quantifiably in terms of 1 to 100 and where you stand in all these things. It's only about protection now because the abuses that have been surfacing are so obvious structurally. But I want to go back to Harry Potter.
JG: Miss Rowling several times draws our attention to the parallel experiences that Harry Potter and Tom Riddle Jr have as orphans who first come to have positive ideas about themselves at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But isn't their entirely different orientation to life and love more of a function of their earliest childhood experiences rather than adolescence? This seems to argue against the Senior thesis, at least inside the story of the Hogwarts saga. Tom Riddle has a positive experience all through his time at Hogwarts, albeit as a Slytherin, so he should be the happy, well-adjusted guy. But he's a mess!
CB: Right. Yeah, I think what... one thing Jennifer Senior leaves out is the account of nature or genetic predisposition or physiology. Think about Harry's nature; he comes from a good guy family. Voldemort comes from a bad guy family, so in simplistic terms you might expect Harry to have good guy genes and Voldemort to have bad guy genes. Think about their physiology, like for people now - people have lead poisoning or brain damage or an accident or something - as that physiological aspect of their development is going to impact on how they grow up. Think about Harry has the magic sacrifice of love thing. I think physiologically protecting him because Rowling talks a lot about Harry's blood and it's in his blood, and I imagine that influences his development as well. That probably is one reason why he can come through that neglectful, abusive family life that he had with the Dursleys - why he can come through with that and not be a wreck, not be somebody who can't make friends. He makes friends, he does okay in school, he's pretty responsible, he doesn't go out of his way to hurt people, which is what you might expect from somebody who comes from such a horrible background. But he has that kind of physiological protection. So, I think this article may... it doesn't mention it, it doesn't take into account anything about the nature/nurture kind of thing about the nature aspect of it.
JG: Yeah, there's a reason that you played the cello rather than being the star baseball player.
CB: There's a big reason, yeah.
JG:[laughs] I want to go back to Letty's letter and all these characters that we haven't talked about. We've talked about Snape and Dumbledore and a little bit about Harry and the Dark Lord, but what about Pettigrew and Lupin and Black and all the side characters... I shouldn't call them side characters, I mean they had their own little world, especially in fandom. But let's talk about the Marauders. Are they stuck in adolescence? I mean they seem to be Letty's real signature case. Peter Pettigrew? He was a rat at the beginning and he's a rat at the end. And Lupin is... Lupin may actually grow as a character, especially after the events of... where Harry confronts him in Deathly Hallows as a coward. That seems to be a real turning point for him. But Sirius Black? He lived one way and he died the same way. Am I wrong on that?
LN: No, no, I don't think so at all. I mean, I... Pettigrew is just really a fascinating character in terms of that one about... I mean, because I see it in a high school, kids just want to be accepted. Gosh, darn it, they really want to have friends and they really want to be accepted by their peers, and a kid who walks into the library by himself - I see it happen a lot - they walk in and they look, and they'll look and if it's like five seconds and they still haven't found someone to sit with, it's a horrifying experience. They just have to leave. It's such an intensity to be able to sit with someone, and someone who accepts you, and someone who likes you. And you'll do anything - that's the Pettigrew, that he'll do anything to be liked.
JG: Hey Letty, I've got an answer for you for that.
LN: What's that?
JG: I want you to get cardboard cut-outs of Harry and Pettigrew...
[CB and LN laugh]
JG: ...and Hermione, and I want you to put them at different tables in your library. So no matter who comes into the library, they'll find somebody that they identify with from the stories and they'll sit down and say, "Oh, good, I get to spend some time with Ron."
LN: I actually have poster size of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. The American Library Association does these huge posters, the READ Posters, where they're holding a book.
LN: So, I have the three of them. I have the trio and they're holding a book. And I actually didn't put the posters in the library for fear that they would be stolen. I put them in my office.
[CB and JG laugh]
LN: I would have gangs of high school students come to Mrs. Nardone's office and go, "Wow, there they are!" [laughs] And they could look at them from behind glass.
JG:[laughs] Well, I think for those guys that can't find any place to sit in the library...
LN: There you go.
JG: ...you need to put Rupert Grint out there. Because who doesn't want to sit with Ron?
LN: I think that's a great idea.
JG: Ron's not doing anything in the library.
CB: They're having fun, yeah.
JG: Anyway, so we're all on board that while the Dark Lord and Harry seem to argue for something beyond adolescence, be it genetic or early childhood formation or whatever, the Marauders don't. I mean, they're their adolescent lives right almost to the end.
CB: Right. Brené Brown - in her lecture, when she was talking about shame - she said three ways that she has found in her research that people cope with the shame that they have accumulated from adolescence. One is to be aggressive. Of course we see that in Snape, we also see that in Sirius with his pretty quick temper.
JG: They are definitely mirror images of each other, yeah.
CB: Right, right. And pleasing, wanting to please everyone, I think we see that with Lupin. Of course when he found out that the parents weren't going to be pleased with him being a professor, that's when he left at the end of the school year.
JG: That's great.
CB: We see Pettigrew wanting to please. When he gets caught in the Shrieking Shack as a rat, what does he say? "Oh! Nice boy, kind boy, you wouldn't hurt me would you?" We see... and another way people cope is by hiding or keeping their shame a secret. Of course we see that with Pettigrew, he hid apparently in the Weasleys' house for decades, and we see Dumbledore and Snape though. They do a lot of keeping things secret, keeping their shame secret. Finally they share through the Penseive what happened to them. Well actually, Snape shares but Dumbledore doesn't.
JG: That's right. Dumbledore, it's not until King's Cross that he shares. [laughs]
CB: Right, yeah.
CB: Harry finds out from others what happened about Dumbledore and he just did keep it a secret. And I think the one person who doesn't seem to have shame that I found, have been able to think of, is Hagrid.
CB: He's very upfront with Harry about what happened, who his family is...
JG: That's great, Carrie. My children were just listening to Goblet of Fire when he talks to Madame Maxime...
JG: ...and he has no shame about being a half giant...
JG: ...when talking to her, and yet she becomes enraged when he says she's obviously...
CB:[as Madame Maxime] "Big boned!" [laughs]
JG:[laughs] That's right. "I have big bones!" Yeah. That scene, you're right, he's sort of like Luna Lovegood in that she never lies. She also has no shame, she's exactly who she is, and Hagrid is sort of her big, masculine counterpart in that he doesn't feel the need to lie either.
JG: That's wonderful.
CB: Well, he lies all the time to keep out of trouble, but...
JG:[laughs] But he can't lie to Dolores Umbridge, he can't lie to Rita Skeeter.
JG: The guy is... he may lie when he knows, but he has no [unintelligible].
JG: The danger has to...
LN: If you want to talk about liars, Gilderoy Lockhart is a great liar and yet...
LN: I don't think that guy has one finger full of shame in his whole body.
CB: Oh, I bet he does. I bet we just don't know what his story is. I bet he just kept it under wraps.
JG: Yeah, what do you think Gilderoy was like in high school? Do you think that he was...
JG: Well, I imagine that he was beaten up by the Quidditch players.
[CB and LN laugh]
JG: I see him as a Ravenclaw - forgive me - limp wristed geek and I see him as being beaten up in the hallways all the time, but he has his revenge.
JG: He makes up these stories where he gets to play the Gryffindor part.
LN: Yeah, I guess so. Maybe he wanted to be a Gryffindor the whole time.
JG: Oh, yeah.
LN: He was probably upset with the Sorting Hat.
JG: Do you think that everybody wants to be a Gryffindor? I mean, Snape...
JG: Snape hated the Seekers and the Quidditch players, but I think he wanted to be one of those.
CB and LN: No.
JG: Keith, you're the only one of us that actually was an accomplished and recognized athlete. Did you have people respond to you that way, where they were jealous and they treated you differently and not kindly because you were recognized as an athlete?
KH: No. I was trying to think of a good reference for it. I think I was more like the Ferris Bueller where I had friends in every single genre. I had the druggie, the academics, the jocks, the... however that person says it in the Ferris Bueller movie, you know what I'm saying? So I had the well-rounded friends, but I was also kind of a loner. I spent my time alone.
JG: Wow. Okay, Keith, now you're a double freak. Not only are you an accomplished athlete, but you didn't act like a jock. That's wonderful, I should have expected as much of you. But I imagine it's harder to be an athlete than people let on because they're always shown in the movies and stories as being the bullies. In my experience, they get the short end of things as often as not. They may... like they said in that article, if you're that high up on the pole, you're drawing that much more attention and you're in a precarious position and you learn to watch, you're always looking around because you're afraid someone is going to be talking about you or cutting you down and this kind of thing. The girl playing the cello, she doesn't get that kind of heat.
CB: Yeah, I think mostly the kids who were concerned about popularity, who were competing for that kind of popularity, are the ones who were the targets. Maybe Keith was kind of like a Hagrid playing ball. He didn't really care, he was just who he is, and didn't really play that popularity game, maybe.
KH: Yeah, but when I have my game face on, just watch out. That's...
KH: My inner side, my inner meanness, came out on the field.
JG: I can believe that. I can believe that. You were the Mike Schmidt. I can see that, man. The third baseman with attitude. Oh my goodness.
KH: That's exactly who I emulated.
JG: I get it. I see it. I'm from that part of the world. Keith and I come from the same part of Pennsylvania. Anyway, I want to talk about girls because I've got two brilliant women here, and Keith and I can yield the floor here or whatever. One of the great things about this article was the description of the differences in the post-high school experience of the brainy girls and the princess beauties. In brief, the smart teen girls have an internal idea of themselves and they thrive, for the most part, after school, while the good-looking young women, as often as not, do not become their identities because their identities... they don't have this internal idea because their identities are relatively external and passive. Forgive me for thinking that Jo Rowling's point in making Hermione such a major player in these books is to encourage young women to take that interior rather than the exterior route as high school students. I mean, she really seems to be pushing Hermione as, "Look girls, you want to be like this." Am I wrong?
CB: It's kind of like, "Look girls, you want to be like me!"
JG: Yeah, yeah. [laughs]
LN: Because I think that's how she was.
JG: That's right, that's right.
LN: Didn't she state that? She stated that, right?
JG: Absolutely. Yup, many times.
CB: Maybe that's what she sees as what brought her through her hard times, is that kind of identity as a brainy girl and having that kind of interior identity. Rather than just, "I am somebody who other people enjoy looking at."
JG: Oh, yeah, she really... if you've seen pictures of her at the end of her high school career and the beginning of her college career, she dressed up like this rock group called The Smiths.
JG: Heavy black eyeliner...
JG: ...almost like one of these Kiss figures...
JG: ...Gene Simmons, and bizarre hair. She drew attention to herself, but it wasn't flattering attention.
JG: It was one of these things where, "You better love me for my mind because let me tell you, I'm a difficult person to be around."
JG: The women here think that's what she's marching forward, is...
LN: I don't know if I necessarily agree with that because when you look... when you've read all of the books, Hermione really stresses out a lot. Quite a bit, actually. To the point where she needs that timepiece so that she can double up on classes. You have the overachiever, and I see that in some of the girls and boys at the high school that I am. That's not necessarily a good idea either and you don't... I don't think that she would consciously encourage kids to be studying all the time. Because there's another piece to growing up when you're 15, 16, 17 years old. You should be exploring, and a fear of failure... you shouldn't be fearing failure, you should have those opportunities to say, "You know what? I tried it, it didn't work out - and the 'didn't work out' means maybe I failed at it - but at least I tried it and I know I didn't like it." And that's kind of like a Luna type of person. If anything, I would think that maybe she might be encouraging people to be - girls, let's talk about girls - to be more like Luna because Luna is comfortable in her own skin.
JG: Wow. That's a wild thing. She actually says in the interview that's part of the Deathly Hallows DVD extras that her hero when growing up was Jo of Little Women, who's really the tomboy and the aggressive figure and who takes on all these extra things, and the fact that she has the name Jo... she always says, "Call me Jo," or whatever. She never says, "My name is Joanne Rowling. You can call me Joanne if you'd like." That Jo identity, I think, is much less Luna Lovegood than it is Hermione. And also... but I think you put your finger on something there, is that the Hermione/Luna tension is one of the biggest tensions between characters in the books. I mean that they come at the world absolutely from alien perspectives, where Luna is coming... she's not only in a lunar sphere rather than a sub-lunar sphere, she's not really rational, she's noetic. She's speaking from the heart rather than the head; she has a cardiac intelligence rather than a cranial one. And that's more of a feminine intuitive intelligence, but she's such a goofball, I can't see... and I love her dearly, but I don't see her being someone that any reader identifies with. But I can't say that because Keith...
CB: Oh, I do. Yeah.
LN: Evanna Lynch did. [laughs]
JG: Well, yeah. Exactly. And Keith will tell you he's gone to more conferences, I think, than I have and what you see in these places... you see a lot of Evanna Lynch's. [laughs] You see a lot of people that really want to be accepted just for being honest and truthful and freaky.
KH: I think that's what every Harry Potter fan really is, is somebody who is comfortable in their own skin. They identify with certain characters, certainly, but that's who they are. That's why they dress up that way.
JG: That's an interesting point. I would love to see a psychological study and profile of a... they should go to a LeakyCon or to a MISTI-Con and talk to these people that - like us, [laughs] I shouldn't say "those people" - who have spent a lot of time inside this world and why we identify with these things, and get a profile of us whether we're maladjusted adolescents that are trying to act out our juvenile fantasies for wish fulfilment...
[CB and LN laugh]
JG: ...or whether - as you suggest, Keith - that we're super adjusted people who let it all hang out because we're just so well put together. Carrie, what do you think? In your classroom, you see Harry Potter fans and people that just watch the movies because it's just out there.
JG: What's your experience in terms of people who are super Harry Potter fans? I mean, do they seem better put together [laughs] or do they seem to be people that are acting out their wish fulfilment things in this high school drama?
CB: Well, I think I see the whole continuum. I see some people who are put together who are Harry Potter fans and they are enthusiastic and they won't hide it and they are loud and they giggle and they're geeks about Harry Potter, and I see others who maybe aren't as well adjusted who are just not very enthusiastic or at least don't want to show the enthusiasm because that kind of makes you vulnerable for criticism like, "Oh, you're one of those Harry Potter people," so they just kind of keep that hidden.
JG:[laughs] That's great.
CB: What I see is I see the enthusiastic people. I don't see the people that are quiet. If I say, "Well, who's read it?" and I see somebody's hand raised who has never uttered a word about Harry Potter I kind of suspect, well, maybe here's someone... maybe it just didn't resonate with that person or maybe it's someone who doesn't want to look like a fan or something like that.
JG: That's right, doesn't want to be categorized as a Harry Potter fan. We've been talking a long time here. I'm loving this but before we have to go, Carrie, I've got to ask you for your thoughts about... we've touched on this very briefly but I want to really draw you out on it.
JG: I want to talk about the nature and quality of education at Hogwarts under Dumbledore.
JG: And forgive me but I went to a ritzy prep school, I went to a first class university, and Hogwarts frankly seems something of a mad house to me. Nothing that the National Education Association would approve of or certify. I mean, Dolores Umbridge comes in there with her clipboard and I see that as... I went to a conference in St Andrews and the second keynote was an education specialist and she didn't like Hogwarts because they canceled exams.
JG: It was that kind of thing. It was like Dolores Umbridge giving the talk. I mean, we have brilliant, sensitive teachers alongside sadistic or incompetent faculty, we've got external measures never enforced - no one is ever held back or expelled - and there's an indifferent to academics head of school, like you've said, Carrie. Granted, I think this is much better than the Dolores Umbridge institutional education model but Hogwarts seems an anti-school or un-school more concerned about character than knowledge. All right? Wisdom and facility, rather than an egghead palace. I mean, the really studious ones are kind of freaks in this place. Is Hogwarts really a trade school for magical people rather than a place where people actually learn something?
CB: So, yeah. Well, I mean, learn something. That's kind of... you don't learn anything in trade school?
JG: Oh, okay. You know what I mean.
JG: Is it simply... it's much more about hands on, practical facility than abstract, conceptual knowledge and filling in a, b, c, or d on the right exams.
CB: Right. I think you're right, and I think that any aid would be a lot less concerned about this than the policymakers that we have in place right now who are really concerned with measuring everything and narrowing everything down. But I think you're also right that Hogwarts is a mad house. It's so dangerous!
CB: The kids are always having to go to the hospital wing. I thought about it, I was just reading Sorcerer's Stone the other day and that part where right at the beginning where Neville in the flying lesson loses control and falls off and breaks his arm.
JG:[laughs] That's great.
CB: They're always in the hospital wing. They have very little meaningful supervision and guidance. It seems... there's a Head of House but no adults live in there. No adults live in the...
JG: Yeah, well... that's right and thank God for Madam Pomfrey, right? Because otherwise this would really be a battle zone.
CB: They don't wear safety glasses in Potions...
[JG and LN laugh]
CB: ...they don't have helmets or harnesses in flying lessons, and...
JG: Carrie, you're showing your Dolores genes here...
CB: I know. Honestly, yes.
CB: There must not be any wizarding lawyers, or else they would be all over that place.
JG: Hey, that's right! Keith, are there any wizarding lawyers?
KH: Not that I know of. I'm sure there are, but not that I know of.
JG: Even in the Wizengamot, they have these people stand up like Dumbledore defends or whatever. That's fascinating. So, it is fantasy. It's a world without lawyers, that's much more a fantasy than waving wands and having things come true. My goodness.
KH: They're judged by their peers.
CB: Talk about wish fulfilment, right?
JG: Oh well, some of my best friends are lawyers.
CB: Yeah, that's good.
[CB and JG laugh]
LN: And I'm married to one, so... [laughs]
JG: Oh my goodness.
JG: Oh Letty, what a life. School and law, oh my goodness.
CB: It really is dangerous. The wizarding culture, though, is conditioned to accept it. That's the way it was when we went to school. Of course, that's... we turned out all right, so why not send our kids into it? But...
JG: And that's just the thing, did we turn out all right? [laughs]
JG: That's the part that...
CB: But if you think about it, the schools we have now, we really are culturally conditioned to accept that is okay. Neville broke his arm in first year, which is sixth grade for... equivalent for us.
CB: My son broke his arm in sixth grade in P.E. when somebody tripped him, you know? He broke his finger when he was a sophomore in a wrestling practice. Dangerous things happen. There's a lot of emotional trauma that happens in schools. Everybody knows that middle school is awful, but we send our kids on to middle school all the time anyway. You know, "Kids will be kids," "Boys will be boys," "Let's toughen them up," "A little adversity is good for them." All the out of control standardization and high stakes testing... we just think that's okay. And it is kind of scary to think about what are some of the conditions that are happening in schools now. But Hogwarts is a parody of that. It's a parody of a lot of things, but I think it's pretty obviously a parody of school and especially when we see Dolores Umbridge come in with all her rules and...
JG: Yeah. Boy, that was...
CB: This is not about real life, this is about school and... I have to laugh or I would cry. But that's part of her purpose, part of Rowling's purpose, is to write a parody of school.
JG: Well, here we definitely see Jonathan Swift's definition of satire as being a mirror in which the subject doesn't recognize his reflection. Because the people that love to hate Dolores Umbridge, in my experience, are the people that are Dolores Umbridge.
JG: I mean, that are the teachers that say, "Oh yeah, those horrible administrators that do this kind of thing." And they're the ones that sit in their classroom and do the, "Ahem, ahem," and insist on every "t" being crossed and "i" being dotted. Oh, I sit there and look at them and think - when they talk to me at conferences and think - "Are you kidding? You've got a bow in your hair. You look like a toad."
[CB and LN laugh]
JG: Oh my goodness.
CB: Yeah, I think there's a lot more variants among teachers than you might think, John.
JG: Some of them like Dolores Umbridge?
CB: No, no, no.
CB: There are quite a few teachers out there who aren't all about control. And I know this is a topic for yet another Muggle Academic podcast, or maybe just a topic for conversation over lunch sometime, but we do see that Rowling's concern when she writes the book... it's not about proper schooling. And Dumbledore's concern that is neither about proper schooling as well. One thing I've started doing, and Keith mentioned... you mentioned the blog that I started, "Harry Potter Goes to School," and my plan to do it is to study chapter-by-chapter - 198 chapters I believe, plus the ending - and see what connections there are between Harry Potter stories and schooling. So, I decided to write this because of the response that my students had to Harry Potter and I thought, well, maybe the time is right, and maybe if I wait much longer the time won't be right anymore. What I'm finding is... I saw, first of all in the chapter "The Keeper of the Keys," is that what's really important to learn is who you are. We see Hagrid coming into the shack on the island with Harry and the Dursleys, and he finds out that the Dursleys have kept from him who he is and who his parents were and all about the wizarding world and he said, "Are you kidding? You don't even know who you are?" And I think that's a really important theme that runs through the whole series, is that what's really important to learn isn't the kind of things you learn in school but who you are and who your friends are. I'm seeing hints of Rowling saying what's really important to do to learn is to read a lot. Even in the first half of Sorcerer's Stone which is about as far as I've gotten so far, Harry has read Quidditch Through the Ages and he's gotten so much out of that, and Hermione recognizes a hex by reading about them. Of course, she saw Snape doing a counter-curse but she didn't notice Quirrell cursing Harry's broom, but she does know a hex when she sees it and she knows it from her reading. They're always in the library looking for information that's really relevant to them. Letty, I imagine that you love how often they go to the library.
LN:[laughs] I hate Madam Pince, that's for sure.
LN: I hate the stereotype, it drives me insane. And that is so not...
JG: But it's Snape's mother!
KH: No, it's not!
JG: I'm sorry.
JG: Oh, come on. If you look at her name, it's Irma Pince. All you have to do is move the r and it's Ima Prince.
LN: Ima Prince. [laughs] I never thought of it that way.
JG: Dumbledore hid Snape's mother inside Hogwarts to protect her.
LN: In the library. Oh my goodness.
LN: Well, I would actually prefer it to be Snape's mother being the librarian.
LN: I would have no problem with that, actually.
JG: Oh well. Before we get all sorts of letters, I know that Joanne Rowling has not said that Irma Pince is Snape's mom. That's just a fun theory that's in the fandom. Back to Carrie's point - I'm sorry to derail that, Carrie - I think your point is very well taken that... I wouldn't say it's so much about books, though. I mean, Hermione... Ron is always talking about Hermione, she's in the library because that's what she does, she has a problem, she looks for the answer in the books. I think the school is much more about a school of character. Your point, though, that it's about who you are, because what does Harry find out about who he is, really, in the end? Who he is... his essential power is love. It's what protects him, it's his mother's love, and he's taken that on really as his identity and he doesn't really accept that until near the end of Half-Blood Prince and then really in Dobby's grave is when he finally accepts that identity in obedience to Dumbledore, that love is his strength. And we've waited for that moment for a very long time and I think it's really from, as you say, the house on the rock, the hut on the rock, where he says, "You don't even know who you are?" and it takes him the rest of the story, through his schooling, to find out who he is. I would suggest, though, that the schooling, as much as his classroom experience of reading books, it gets in the way of him discovering who he really is. It's the stuff that's extra-curricular - the mysteries he solves, the dangers he faces, the Quidditch matches - that's what really is the school of character for Harry Potter, much more than Transfiguration or Herbology or whatever. Rowling is writing an anti-school piece within a schoolboy genre. Because that isn't what comes out of our schools.
JG: I mean, you're measured by very specific, quantitative things. It's all about the classroom, success is what school you got into. That's nothing... you don't go on to school from Hogwarts. Nobody goes to college, right? There's no post-graduate of Hogwarts thing.
CB: It doesn't seem to be that way, no. They're prepared in Hogwarts to take on some kind of role within the wizarding community, whether you go to Gringotts to work there, or you go to the Ministry, you become an Auror. We have these conversations with McGonagall where they try to figure out with each student, well let's take classes to prepare you for the real world at, what, seventeen? Age seventeen when they come of age? And that's not the case in US high schools. They prepare you to go on to college, and that's where you can...
JG: That's not the case in colleges anymore. They're preparing you to go on to your professional school or your graduate school. I mean, schools go on forever!
CB: The point I was making about reading wasn't so much that school-assigned, teacher-assigned reading is the way to learn, but I think about self-selected reading, or reading that you do on your own because you want to find out about something or because you're interested in something. Kind of like the "unschooled" reading that you talk about your kids doing, John. They choose it, they read it, if they don't like it they abandon it and they choose something else. I think Rowling is kind of pointing to that kind of source for cognitive development for learning more than she is pointing towards what happens in the classroom. We can see when... Wingardium Leviosa! Of course, that morning that's when they had the Wingardium Leviosa lesson in Flitwick's class, and then that afternoon... and Ron couldn't do anything. Of course he was with Hermione, and that was probably all distracting. But Ron couldn't do anything, lifting up that little feather, but then in the bathroom he lifted the troll's club and landed it on the troll's head and knocked out the troll. Of course, nobody is going to put a kid in a bathroom with a troll to learn this...
CB: ...but I think what she's saying is that what you do in the classroom, it's not real. It may come in handy, different kinds...
JG: Yeah. That's wonderful, Carrie.
CB: If he got the Wingardium Leviosa test at the end of the period, Ron would have failed it. And who knows? Nobody... I don't think Flitwick ever knew that's how Ron took care of the troll.
JG: Two points about that, one is that Ron never does read for pleasure until the last book when he gives Harry a book he's read about women...
JG: ...and how to do well with witches or whatever. It's not all wand work either, you know?
CB:[laughs] That's right.
LN: Yeah. [laughs]
JG: And that's really... it's about the illision of the sulfur and the mercury characters. He's becoming like Hermione at the end the same way she's becoming more like Ron. So, when those two resolve you really have the end of the story. Ron has to become this bookish character. But yeah, to your point, Carrie, you know I couldn't agree more that Rowling is writing a book about us reading a book. And it's about what happens to you as you read the book. That's the real world, is what you're experiencing as your character is forming. And these books, these schoolboy novels, are about character formation. You're supposed to get a... there's an implicit moral, as Rowling has admitted, that these books are filled with morals and that you take them on through a fire hose inside the book as you enter into the story. That's what she's suggesting that should be happening inside the schools. And required texts - we murder to dissect, as Wordsworth says.
JG: Nobody really enjoys their reading. You want to destroy Harry Potter? You make it assigned reading.
JG: It'll just rip the heart out of the experience.
JG: All right, Keith, we're running late here. This has been a great conversation as you expected. We ask one question... oh, two questions! The first one is, how did you meet Harry Potter? We close every MuggleNet Academia podcast with the same question. What would your life be like if you had never met and loved Harry Potter? Do you think you'd be pretty much the same, slightly different, or a stranger altogether to the person you've become since? Forgive me for wondering if the depth of Harry's influence on Generation X may be attributed to their dopamine levels and brain transformation during the years the novels were being published. [laughs] Go ahead. Letty, you go first dear.
JG: You're the mother of twins whether you read Harry Potter or not, right?
JG: Your life is on a certain track. But are you a different mother of twins, having read Harry Potter?
JN: Yeah, actually I am. I completely am. Because I relate...
JG: You named them Fred and George.
LN: Well, that's true too. That's absolutely right! [laughs] But you know something? Lily, Narcissa, Molly Weasley... I look at the moms and I look at their parenting styles. I read a lot of novels with the mother in focus just to see what they're like because my life changed in 2001 with twin babies, my life changed again just a couple of years after that with Harry. I'm sitting here nodding my head in befuddlement because I have no idea what my life would be like if it was not enriched by these novels.
And just even having an awareness that JK Rowling exists, and how much my life is like her. We're the same age, and she's a mother married with children, I'm a mother married. I don't have a hint of her gift, that's for sure, but she...
JG: Or her wealth, I assume.
LN:[laughs] Oh no, no, no. Not even close. But she can love that world, and I take comfort in the fact that I can love it, too. And it just gives me such enormous pleasure to know that those books are there and I can go back to them whenever I want to.
JG: That's a fascinating point, Letty. CS Lewis says in An Experiment in Criticism that serious readers really need to acknowledge how much their lives and their perspectives have been expanded and broadened. Really, their being in some sense is expanded by what they have learned and experienced inside of their favorite novels. And I could say the same, except for having twins and reading about moms, [laughs] I could echo everything that you said there. Carrie, what have you got?
CB: I think I would be the same person. I think I would have a lot less clarity in my life, though. What Harry did for me, originally, was it gave me a connection with my kids, and reading those and enjoying those together. We had the audio recordings, and we'd get in the car to drive half a mile and one of the kids would say, "Harry Potter, please!"
CB: And wherever it was, it didn't matter if it was something that we had heard yesterday, they just wanted to listen to it. So, it gave me a connection with them. I think for me, more recently, it's helped me pull together just wondering about why I'm interested in all the things I'm interested in. Because I'm interested in a real wide variety of things, and I have a hard time seeing what's the thread running between all these things. Everything from early childhood education to the power of narrative to virtue theory, ethics in teaching, teacher reflection, language acquisition, phenomenology as a research method. Just a lot of things that I've done academically in my work and I thought, "Well, what in the world do all these things have in common?" So, I think by studying Harry and the things that have come through that study has helped me to start pulling those things together and I am grateful for that kind of clarity.
JG: You are Hermione, Carrie. I feel like Ron when Hermione is describing how Cho Chang feels. If you felt all those things at once, your head would explode! My goodness, all those things. Anyway, Keith, we've once again come to the end here. And sure enough, brilliant people here on the show and taking my thinking in all sorts of new directions. Letty, I want to confess, I was a little concerned about this topic. I didn't know if it would work, but it's been a wonder. I've enjoyed myself more than I can say.
LN: What a privilege, thank you so much for listening and reading my email. I really... wow, I am giddy with geekiness.
LN: I can't wait to go to school tomorrow!
[JG and LN laugh]
LN: I'm just going to grab the teachers in the hallway, "Guess what I did last night!" [laughs] And they'll be like...
KH: Well, maybe you should wait until we actually put it out there on the web. [laughs]
LN: Yes, I will.
JG: Oh. Well, I'm getting a button that says "Giddy with geekiness."
[CB and LN laugh]
JG: That's what I want to get.
KH: All right, well thank you very much to both of you for being on the show with us. It was a great show. I told John at the beginning, "I think this is going to work really well." He had his hesitations, but I think it came out great. So, again, thank you to all the fans out there for listening and giving us the feedback and everything else. Don't forget to join the MuggleNet Audiofictions live podcast on March 24th. It's very important that you do that. It's going to be a lot of fun, a lot of laughs. And if you haven't had the chance to do so already, we hope you have the chance to go and watch our 2013 MuggleNet Harry Potter Oscars webcast that we held recently.
[Show music begins]
KH: It is on the site, the entire two hour show. We had a lot of special guests coming on, doing the nominations and winners, including some of the stars from the Harry Potter films. So, if you haven't had a chance to watch our Oscars ceremony, then please do so. Other than that, thank you again for listening. And from MuggleNet.com, my name is Keith Hawk.
JG: I'm John Granger, the Hogwarts Professor and author of The Deathly Hallows Lectures.
CB: I'm Carrie Birmingham from Pepperdine University.
LN: And I'm Letty Nardone from Byram Hills High School, Armonk, New York.