The Problem with Hogwarts’s House System
When I was younger, I used to find the idea of being sorted into a house incredibly appealing. I wanted to be a Gryffindor, just like Harry, and grow up with a group of people as amazing as the members of the Gryffindor House. I still like the houses; I enjoy secretly sorting my classmates every now and then. But I’ve noticed that it’s not that easy to tag people as just Ravenclaws or Hufflepuffs – people are more complex than that. Humans are not just brave or smart or kind; they are many things mixed together, and as you get to see different sides of them and get to know them better, your opinion of them changes. See, the concept of being forced to enter one house when you’re still eleven years old has begun to bother me quite a lot. It’s not just the small fact that they’ll make you sit in front of a crowd of strangers, most of them older than you, with a huge talking hat sitting on your head reading your every thought during your very first day at your new school. It doesn’t sound that terrifying in the books, but just imagine it. It’s plain awful. No, what bothers me the most is the thought that someone else is choosing for you the people who you’ll live with for the next seven years while throwing on you the pressure of living up to the expectations of your house.
YES, Harry had the opportunity to choose between two houses. We know that the Hat takes into account your opinion, but most don’t get the chance to choose, probably because they aren’t aware of this. Even when they are given the “choice,” it is limited. Harry would have never been able to get into Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff, had he wanted to; it was either Gryffindor or Slytherin for him. Each house specializes in a certain set of qualities; not everyone can be in just any house because they’d probably be unable to keep up with their fellow house members, they wouldn’t fit in, and the whole idea of Hogwarts’s house system would be lost. But the thing is, people aren’t even close to have fully developed personalities at age eleven. We never are, really, not even after we die. Because people don’t remain unchanged. As you grow older, you learn; you morph slightly every year thanks to experience, and you shape yourself into your own version of yourself. Those changes are even more drastic when you’re young. You can start off as an eleven-year-old who only cares about playing some kind of Muggle sport and grow into a fifteen-year-old obsessed with their grades. The problem with Hogwarts’s house system (and with society in general, actually) is that it puts tags on people way too early without taking into account the changes they go through as they grow up. That hurriedness to sort students is the flaw in Hogwarts’s house system.
The houses students are sorted in don’t really let them be themselves. If you’re sorted into Ravenclaw, you’re expected to be smart and get good grades. What’s the point of being in Ravenclaw if you find grades pointless? If you see no meaning in a “Dreadful” or an “Exceeds Expectations”? Take a look at Neville. He used to be insecure because Gryffindors have to be brave, and he felt he wasn’t brave enough. By sorting them into a house, the Sorting Hat is telling students who they have to be. It’s putting the expectations of a house they probably didn’t choose on them, so it puts limits to the kind of person they can be in the same way our Muggle society does when it classifies a person as a “nerd” or a “troublesome student.” Stereotypes and expectations are so ingrained in Western culture! We’re always trying to define them when they can’t even quite define themselves.
Houses do bring the advantage of making it easier to fit into a group and make students feel comfortable in the school since people from the same house supposedly share a set of characteristics. However, they create so much rivalry and distance between people who are so young! Like the stupid concept that Gryffindors and Slytherins just cannot get along. Lily Evans and Severus Snape were very close friends while they were growing up (they got along just fine), and one of the many things that separated them was that they belonged to houses whose members hated each other. Why does a house have to determine who can be friends with you? The stereotypes go so deep they even determine if you can be trusted or not. In the Battle of Hogwarts, Slytherins weren’t even asked if they wanted to stay and fight against the Death Eaters. They were all immediately tagged as enemies and sent away. It’s true that many of their families were allied with the Death Eaters, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have chosen to fight against them given the opportunity.
And it’s not only the expectations and stereotypes they throw upon students; they are also forced to grow among a group of people who start off as they did with the same expectations from their peers. Being constantly surrounded by these people who are so similar to them lessens the probability that students will start to question themselves and grow to be different. Snape grew up among a group of pure-blooded elites who believed they were superior to any other creature on Earth. He only questioned his way of thinking when it was already too late and only because of his love for Lily. How could it have been any different when the people he spent most of his time around thought exactly as he did? The house students belong to has a deep effect on their personality and the people they become.
I think Dumbledore was right when he said they sorted students too early. Maybe everything would work out better if people were given more time to develop their personalities before they were tagged with the name of a house. Maybe Snape would have made fewer mistakes and never sold Trelawney’s prophecy to Voldemort. If people were given a bit more time, at least they would get to know themselves better before someone else came to tell them who they have to be. In my case, I hated the Slytherin house six years ago, and while everyone told me I would make the perfect Ravenclaw (as if!), I chose Slytherin when Pottermore’s Sorting Hat asked me. People are hard to predict or define. Rowling’s Sorting Hat can see into every nook and cranny of your mind, but that doesn’t mean it will figure out who you are and will be; that’s something you’ve got to do by yourself.
*I admit there are probably exceptions to most of the things I said (so please don’t hate me!!).