Educational Decree #24 (Educational Insights from Hogwarts, Part 4)
When Dolores Umbridge begins to suspect that students are meeting to subvert her authority, she uses her position as Hogwarts High Inquisitor to take action regarding student organizations. Educational Decree #24 states:
“All Student Organizations, Societies, Teams, Groups, and Clubs are henceforth disbanded. An Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club is hereby defined as a regular meeting of three or more students. Permission to re-form may be sought from the High Inquisitor (Professor Umbridge). No Student Organzation, Society, Team, Group, or Club may exist without the knowledge and approval of the High Inquisitor. Any student found to have formed, or to belong to, an Organization, Society, Team, Group, or Club that has not been approved by the High Inquisitor will be expelled.”
In the context of the story, this actions directly subverts the authority of Professor Dumbledore and assumes that student meetings are problematic. It is clear that Umbridge seeks to solidify her control, thus she disbands all groups so that she can have complete control over all groups that are subsequently re-formed. These actions demonstrate Umbridge’s desire for complete control of Hogwarts, and controlling the extracurricular meetings of students is certainly a way to establish and exert such control.
Although Umbridge’s reasons for such a change are clearly misguided, the decree and subsequent discussions in the book raise important issues about student groups. What are our policies for student groups? How are they formed? Do we have faculty supervision over such groups? Do our classical Christian schools ensure that all of our student groups match the mission of our institution? If we were, for example, to have a group whose purpose fell outside the purview of our mission, what would we do? Do we fail to approve of such a group? If a group later diverts from the mission do we disband that group?
Extracurricular student organizations, societies, teams, groups, and clubs are a valuable way of increasing student learning, building fellowship and sense of belonging, and improving relationships. They provide a number of positive benefits, but they do require oversight. If your school does not have a written policy in place regarding the formation, maintenance, and operation of student organizations, it would be wise to establish one to ensure consistency of mission. If your school does have one, would you be willing to share it to help foster further discussion on the topic?