There are parallels between the US Department of Education and the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter’s Order of the Phoenix. This centralized governing educational bureaucracy is run by corrupt high officials who appear to be disoriented and incompetent, but are conspiring with Lord Voldemort to weaken Hogwart’s School, so the students do not learn what is necessary to defend themselves against his quest for power and dominance. The Ministry heads are disdainful and patronizing towards teachers, students and muggle’s. The result is a faltering educational system that compromises the vulnerable and captive students and places them in jeopardy.
Hogwarts’ educational program is undermined by Senior Undersecretary to the Minister, Dolores Umbridge, whose personage, brightly colored clothing and upbeat tone of voice makes one mistake her as a well-meaning delightful person. She first is assigned as a teacher to provide instruction on “Defence Against the Dark Arts,” while she proceeds to actually make the children defenseless against them. The Ministry promotes her as Hogwarts’ “High Inquisitor” with power to inspect and remove teachers. She ultimately succeeds as Headmaster to control curriculum and the administration of Hogwarts. The shrewd students, who are determined to learn, go underground and begin teaching themselves what they must know to survive.
Mirroring this is the US Department of Education whose numerous costly mandates and initiatives also impede children’s ability to learn. Taking phonics out of reading programs, for example, in favor of “whole word recognition” is like expecting Hogwarts’ students to cast spells before they know how to pronounce them syllabically. Get a syllable wrong, and you have the wrong spell. You aim for one outcome but arrive at another.
While the outcomes are fictitious for Harry Potter and his friends, the sad realities our children struggle through in their classrooms are not.
Earl C. Wallace, is author of The Three-Dimensional Leader: Negotiating Your Mission, Resources and Context. His blogs in 300 words or less give busy people 3-D MRC leadership & problem solving insights. To learn to see your work in 3-D, visit www.ThreeDimensionalLeader.com or Email him at EarlW@ThreeDimensionalLeader.com