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Personal Reflection on Harry Potter and the Value of Education

January 10th, 2020 - I've been sick for four weeks now and it's getting to the point where I can't sleep at night. The bad news is that I am extremely sleep deprived. But the good news is that I lie awake thinking about the books I've read and the themes they are trying to communicate. While I'm awake I start to think about the Harry Potter series. All of a sudden, it dawned on me how so many of the themes in the series relate to education.

Indeed the plot could be boiled down to hero orphan defeats evil mad murderer, but there's a lot more to the story than that. What struck me the most was that Harry saved the world before he graduated from Hogwarts, which essentially equates to before getting his high school diploma. I think this says a lot about how much students can gain from the education system. Usually we think that students begin to change the world and "make their mark" after they graduate, but in actuality a lot of exciting and impactful activities can happen while they are still in school. In fact more and more often students are encouraged to participate in competitions to solve real-world problems, join an advocacy club after school, take on internship/co-op opportunities, etc. All throughout high school, I remember trying to get involved in a variety of volunteer opportunities from hospital work to canvassing to summer camps, spurred on by the 40-hour volunteer hour requirement to graduate. In undergraduate, similarly, I conducted research every summer as well as during the academic year to get exposed to different research environments and see which career path I'd ultimately like to follow. Indeed, I would think that one of the major themes of Harry Potter is that a person's school years can be the most exciting time of their lives.

Photo by Jules Marvin Eguilos on Unsplash

The characters, especially the students, in Harry Potter also reveal a lot about the real world and what it means to be "successful". Indeed, I think I am very much a Hermione: I study day in and day out, and I follow instructions word-for-word. All in all, I follow the guidelines given to me like a Bible and allow very little room for creativity. This is in contrast to Ron and Harry, who do average in their courses, or perhaps a little below average. And this is also very different from Severus Snape, who is not afraid to change the rules and think outside the box. So yes there are different types of students who are given different marks by their teachers. However, when it comes to applying their knowledge in real-world situations, it is clear that marks don't matter. After all, Ron and Harry use their knowledge to save the world just as well as Hermione does. Thus I think the Harry Potter series emphasizes that marks don't matter nearly as much as applying what you learn in school to the real world. Of course, it doesn't hurt to be a Hermione but essentially being a Ron doesn't mean the end of the world either.

What I loved the most about the theme of education in the series is how it gives Harry's life meaning. Hogwarts is Harry's home - his friends are like his family, his professors are like family as well, and he is truly himself when he is at school. Similarly, school for me is like a home away from home - I feel so joyful when I am around knowledge and am seeking knowledge all the time under the guidance of incredible mentors. It is very empowering to feel like there are infinite things you can learn and new discoveries that await you if you persevere with passion and hard work. I wouldn't be surprised if J.K. Rowling also felt that her PhD days were some of her fondest memories.

All in all, the Harry Potter series is chock-full of educational themes - the message that education is a right for everyone, that great mentorship produces great students, that the choices we make and what rules we choose to follow or ignore come with consequences, that a student has the freedom to carve their own path in life regardless of their past circumstances, and once again - my favourite - that school can be the time for you to shine and can be one of the most exciting times of your life. So cherish it and enjoy every last moment of it! :)

Now back to sleep...

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