Dumbledore as Headmaster: The Worst Thing to Happen to Hogwarts
Many would agree that Dumbledore was a genius, the greatest wizard of his time, a master of strategy, and even a qualified mentor. However, he held a position at Hogwarts he should not have kept, for he used it to further his own personal goals and neglected the core nature of his task.
The task of a Headmaster when hiring a new teacher is, no doubt, to guarantee the quality of teaching and evaluate the personality of any future teacher in order to make sure their pupils will learn and progress.
However, when he picks new professors, Dumbledore appears to neglect those characteristics or the strange hobbies of his future co-workers. It is even easier for him to brush warning signs under the carpet if the chosen teacher can serve the Headmaster’s personal quest.
Teachers at Hogwarts are far from being ideal. There are exceptions, such as Flitwick and McGonagall, but most are in place for dubious and obscure reasons: Trelawney got the job because she made a prediction, and Dumbledore felt he had to keep her close; Snape remains a teacher despite his inability to teach and brutal bullying for obvious reasons that have nothing to do with his mastery of potions; Hagrid has no qualifications…
However, the worst case scenarios occur with Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers, which will be the focus of this article. We all know Dumbledore struggles to find quality teachers for this job since it is cursed, and finding a different professor each year is no easy feat. Still, Dumbledore’s choices only serve his own plans and Harry’s best interest, not the education of Hogwarts students.
Year 1991-1992, Quirrell
Quirrell was already a Hogwarts professor before becoming the DADA professor. His specialty was Muggle Studies, which does not seem to indicate a smooth and seamless transition; the topics are fairly different.
According to Pottermore, Quirrell was fascinated by Dark magic, first by the theory, then by its practical side. During a research trip to prepare for his new position as DADA teacher, he encountered numerous creatures with the secret hope of finding what remained of Lord Voldemort. He was bullied in his teen years because of his timidity and nervous behavior; Dark magic appeared to him as a solution to move away from these weaknesses.
Dumbledore, the omniscient Headmaster, should know what is happening in his school, particularly among his teachers. He should realize that Quirrell, who has been at Hogwarts for a while, is attracted to Dark magic and have an understanding of his personality. Instead, he gives him the job that is most likely to result in his fall to the Dark side.
There are no questions raised about Quirrell’s new strange behavior, his stuttering, his turban, his attempts at obtaining the Philosopher’s Stone, etc. All this is accepted as perfectly normal.
Dumbledore has the Mirror of Erised and knows of its properties but doesn’t use it to test his teachers before giving them a job? Wouldn’t that be the best test to guarantee the new teachers are not evil crazy guys with Voldemort stuck on the back of their head?
Although it might not be obvious when we first read the book, giving Quirrell the job of DADA teacher is Dumbledore’s first mistake. He does not use the tool he has to protect his students from a potentially dangerous teacher; he uses it to protect an object he personally believes he must protect.
Some would argue Quirrell is kept on as a teacher specifically in order to be kept under Dumbledore’s control, but then why give him a job that we know will cause him to leave Hogwarts by the end of the year? If he had survived, he would not be under control anymore, by that point. Maintaining him as Muggle Studies professor would have been a sure way to keep him close for a while.
Year 1992-1993, Lockhart
Whoever is reading this and does not believe Lockhart is incompetent when it comes to teaching DADA can stop reading right now.
How could Lockhart have obtained the job when he is so obviously a fraud? Everybody knows it, except a few poor souls blinded by his good looks. It is repeated time and time again that his achievements are dubious. The following books prove that Dumbledore still has some options for his nominations, so why does he pick Lockhart?
The only valid reason is that his choice is informed by a very different goal than teaching all the students about the Dark arts: Lockhart is there to educate one person and one person alone. Harry has to learn about the dangers of fame.
Here, Dumbledore abuses his position as Headmaster in order to set an example for Harry; now that the latter has earned his fame by fighting Voldemort (again) and is aware of it, he must see, just in case, how it can affect his perceived self-importance. Being famous is a dangerous quality, that’s the only thing one can learn from Lockhart.
And if Dumbledore wanted to expose Lockhart as a fraud, there were other ways that would not compromise the quality of teaching at Hogwarts. For the second time, Dumbledore fails to consider “the greater good” to fulfill a personal goal.
Year 1993-1994, Remus Lupin
By far the best DADA teacher Dumbledore ever chose. Too bad he is a werewolf, and the position is cursed.
However, I won’t blame Dumbledore for giving Lupin the job despite his “furry issue.” No. But I wonder to what extent the fact that Sirius Black, an old acquaintance, has escaped from Azkaban played a part in this nomination.
Remus is supposed to know Sirius, his abilities (such as the fact that he is an Animagus), and his knowledge of how to get into Hogwarts. If Snape, blinded by hatred, perceives Lupin as an accomplice, doesn’t Dumbledore consider Remus as the best source of insight and protection against the alleged murderer? The new teacher even takes the train with his students: why? Because he was enrolled at the very last minute or because he was asked to keep an eye on the Express in case his old friend showed up?
Lupin is a brilliant teacher, but if he had been hired because of his talent, he would have been hired before. But he is chosen the year Sirius Black escapes, probably at the very minute it happens.
Dumbledore might believe in Sirius’s innocence and keeps Lupin close so he won’t seek to avenge the Potters. He might want to collect more information, but once again, the goal is not the quality of teaching. Once again, the safety of Harry, specifically, primes over the rest; not only should Harry be protected from Sirius, but he is also the one who benefits most from Sirius remaining safe and sound.
Year 1994-1995, Mad-Eye Moody
Let’s forget for a moment that it is a Death Eater teaching at Hogwarts this year since Dumbledore hires Mad-Eye, not Barty Crouch, Jr.
Why would the Headmaster go fetch a member of the first Order of the Phoenix, the second one in a row, out of his retirement? A wizard reputed mad, suffering from a clear case of paranoia, physically terrifying for his future 11-year-old pupils (see the concept art for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).
Mad-Eye is not the greatest teacher. “He knows,” as some could say; he has been there, but that does not make him a good teacher. On the contrary, his paranoia affects his desire to share all of the information he has.
However, that year, there is a big event at Hogwarts; a former Death Eater is bringing his students from an institute where Dark magic is taught and revered. Hogwarts needs an Auror to guarantee everything runs smoothly, especially after what happened at the Quidditch World Cup; having Alastor around the castle is a safety measure.
Furthermore, Dumbledore knows that the Dark Lord is gaining strength with his servant now by his side. He is therefore aware of the threat, and his choice of a retired Auror, member of the Order (because any retired Auror wouldn’t do) might, for once, be a reasonably good choice.
Still, this is the third choice made without the quality of teaching in mind. And Harry’s safety is a prominent concern since he is the most likely target of Dark wizards. The fact that he was right does not justify the choice, as we will see later.
Year 1995-1996, Umbridge
Dumbledore’s saving grace is that he does not choose this one. Nevertheless, he still is the one to blame for this calamity.
While Dumbledore wasn’t the one to hand it to her, Umbridge obtains the post notably because Dumbledore fails to provide a suitable candidate. The great Headmaster, who had picked even the worst of the worst (I do not believe you have forgotten Lockhart already), scraped the bottom of the barrel… did he even look for a candidate this time? There are students graduating from Hogwarts every year! Wasn’t there a student who graduated under Quirrell or Lupin who could do the job? Heck, he could have picked Harry, and everyone would have been better off, apparently.
No. Dumbledore fails.
The truth is more likely to be found elsewhere: Dumbledore neglects his duties. He is busy leading Voldemort with a red herring (there is no use protecting the prophecy). He travels here and there, looking for clues about the Horcruxes. This MuggleNet article made my point years ago (http://www.mugglenet.com/2012/06/what-did-dumbledore-know-of-horcruxes/).
Dumbledore could ask Kingsley to fill in for the year. He could even ask Mad-Eye to teach for real this time; after all, he survived. NOW is the perfect time to have an Auror at Hogwarts: the Dark Lord is back, and the last thing you want is the Ministry to establish its propaganda in the school.
That year, Dumbledore shows how better off Hogwarts could be without him as a Headmaster. As he struggles with his personal quest, his role of warlord mastermind, Dumbledore figuratively and literally forsakes Hogwarts and abandons its students to their fate.
This is Dumbledore’s last hiring decision. This time, he hires a Potions master but cannot afford to lose Snape and therefore appoints the latter to the job he always coveted.
Snape is an awful teacher and is not better at teaching DADA than Potions – he is probably even less qualified for this. However, Dumbledore needs Slughorn as well. He needs this memory to make sure he knows how many Horcruxes there are and… to instruct Harry.
This decision also ensures the end of Snape’s teaching at Hogwarts the following year, which is not the safest bet either. If the teacher is doomed, he could die, go crazy, or be arrested… but Snape is the man Dumbledore NEEDS at Hogwarts, especially since he expects he will die soon himself. Who would have brought the sword to Harry? Who would have explained the plan? Who would have spared the students cruel punishments at the hand of the Carrows?
The Headmaster deems the risk to be worthwhile… and clearly ignores the well-being of the students, who will be taught DADA by a man fond of Dark magic and bullying, on the verge of being sadistic, and will then lose their best chance at resisting the Death Eaters who will inevitably take control over Hogwarts and the magical world.
However, Dumbledore also took the chance that Snape might become Headmaster himself the following year. For the last time, he hired a teacher to serve his goal.
Lucius Was Right
I would never have thought I would write this one day. In light of all of this, it seems that Lucius Malfoy (and his son) was somehow correct when he asserted that Dumbledore was the worst thing to happen to Hogwarts.
The Headmaster only uses his power to protect, educate, and shape Harry into a weapon against Voldemort and conduct his own research. He then abandons the job when it suits him.
Yes, protecting the students is important, but Dumbledore could do that by himself as a teacher. If he were teaching Transfiguration or even assisting Hagrid as gamekeeper, he would still be there for everyone’s safety, plan the battle against Voldemort, and educate Harry without negatively affecting the quality of teaching for every single student at Hogwarts for six years.
Dumbledore was a great wizard, but he was a poor Headmaster. His students were not his priority. He was not even made to be Minister since this, too, comes with responsibilities.
What do you think?
First published in French on gazette-du-sorcier.com (http://www.gazette-du-sorcier.com/Dumbledore-le-directeur,1523)