Private Christian Schools and Government Involvement (Educational Insights from Hogwarts #2)

Hogwarts castle

In last week’s post I mentioned that we would explore the eight educational decrees from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Today is the first of those educational decrees, though J. K. Rowling sets them in the context of her world, so the first in this book is labeled as Educational Decree #22.

Educational Decree #22

In short, Educational Decree #22 relates to government hiring at Hogwarts in the event that the Headmaster cannot find a suitable replacement. One of the difficulties in assessing this issue relates to the ambiguity of whether Hogwarts functions as a private institution or a government school. In one book Draco Malfoy boasts that he almost went to Durmstrang, which may suggest that at least Durmstrang is a private school, but his reliability is questionable and that doesn’t provide much insight into the nature of Hogwarts. The fact that apparently only three magical schools exist in western Europe and students are sent letters directly from Hogwarts upon discovery of their magical talent suggest Hogwarts actually functions as a government school.[1]

If Hogwarts is understood as a government run school, then despite government involvement and oversight, the presence of teachers like Rubeus Hagrid and Sybill Trelawney (see Part 1 of this series for more on these two) provides direct evidence that Professor Dumbledore has a right as Headmaster to hire teachers. In fact, the educational decree itself makes clear that the ministry will only hire a teacher in the event that the Headmaster cannot find a suitable replacement. That a government school would have oversight on a government hiring is not surprising; but that a government would seek to undermine the leadership of the school with that hiring is confusing at best. Yet the hiring of Dolores Umbridge is clearly an attempt to undermine the authority and program of Dumbledore at Hogwarts. Perhaps the best explanation, then, is that Hogwarts is designed to function as a private institution.

If Hogwarts is understood to be a private school, then government legislation that gives them power at Hogwarts is quite disturbing. Currently, classical Christian schools are in no danger of direct government interference of this kind (i.e., hiring teachers), but many are concerned that government legislation could cause serious trouble at private institutions. At the collegiate level, at least, many Christian colleges and universities fear that maintaining a biblical stance on key issues will lead to a loss of accreditation. Thus, while the government may never try to hire teachers for a private school, they can cause significant trouble for the sustainability of Christian institutions. These limitations could likewise harm classical Christian education at younger ages.

This somewhat rambling exploration of whether a fictional, magical institution is privately or government run may seem superfluous, but it certainly can raise helpful questions for classical Christian schools regarding hiring practices and clear operating guidelines. It should also cause us to consider the ways in which the government may make changes that cause challenges for classical Christian schools.

[1]The way in which the Headmaster position is hired in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallowsalso suggests a government run school, although again, we are talking about the school during the Ministry of Magic takeover by Lord Voldemort.

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