Why Muggle Studies Should Be Compulsory at Hogwarts

  1. Because most wizards don’t have a clue how to interact with the muggle world. Even those, like the Weasleys, who are not prejudiced and do not see muggles as their inferiors, still do not understand the muggle world. Mr. Weasley, whose job involves working with “muggle artifacts”, does not know how to use a telephone and asks Harry about the function of a rubber duck. Other wizards show no understanding of muggle clothing, dressing themselves in unique costumes such as a kilt and a poncho, a flowery nightgown, or a frock coat over a swimsuit. If wizards are required by law to keep their existence secret from muggles, and yet sometimes need to interact with the muggle world, it only makes sense that they should learn enough about that world to be able to blend into it.
  2. Because the wizarding world is behind the times. That’s true on many different levels, but let’s talk about the most obvious, practical one. Can you imagine the shock of a muggle-born student arriving at Hogwarts and realizing they’re expected to write with a feather quill and inkwell? That might seem exciting at first, but paper and pen – or better yet, word processing software – would grow more and more appealing after late nights doing homework. Yes, I know that magic and muggle technology don’t mix, but Hogwarts has indoor plumbing, and the Weasleys have a radio. Those were both new inventions at one point, and have clearly been adapted to work with magic. I bet, if there was more awareness of the muggle world, someone would figure out magical equivalents to computers, internet, airplanes, and all kinds of other things that the wizarding world seems to be without. But with very few kids gaining any exposure to the muggle world, the wizarding world seems to have stagnated.
  3. Because there are other things wizards can learn from the muggle world, besides the joys of modern technology. Specifically, our history. They could learn that prejudice and discrimination are never acceptable. They could learn that putting the wrong person in power can lead to disaster. They could learn that those who seek to control people usually begin by limiting their knowledge, and so people like Umbridge must be opposed. Those are things that sadly are still problems in our world, and lessons that we can learn from the Harry Potter books; within the stories, they are lessons the wizarding world could learn from studying muggle history as well as their own.
  4. Because despite the International Statute of Secrecy, the muggle and magical worlds do overlap. Muggle-borns find out they are wizards at age 11 and become part of the wizarding world, also bringing their families into that world to some extent. Witches and wizards fall in love with and marry muggles. Children from wizarding families do not always have magical powers. Many witches and wizards do have to exist between the two worlds in one way or another.
  5. Most importantly, because ignorance breeds intolerance and understanding makes peace a more realistic goal. Would Voldemort have been able to get the support he did if he had not been able to draw on an existing hatred (and fear) of muggles and muggle-borns? Would that sentiment have been as strong as it was if all magical children were taught about the muggle world and taught to respect it? Perhaps the reverse is also true, and the magical world will not allow their children to be taught about telephones and electricity until they have gained more respect for those without magic. It’s hard to say, but I feel sure that the series’ villains’  intolerance of all things muggle goes hand in hand with their ignorance.
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We’re Ready

Can’t believe we’ve come this far
Eight years
It should have been seven, but
Life happens
Sometimes you can’t help it
Exams are passed
Trunks are packed
The old school train is ready
To take us back
One last time

Our scarves around our necks
House colors proudly displayed
Red, green, blue, yellow
The traits we value
The choices we’ve made
The family we’ve found in this castle

This time last year, chaos
The ruins of a battle
That built up over the years
Like a shaken bottle of soda
Or a potion grown stronger with age
There was no ceremony
No exam
In the aftermath, it would have seemed silly
But life goes on
And here we are

Most years, they say graduation
Means finally joining the real world
But the real world came for us early
What is graduation?
A slip of paper
A formality
We’ve already fought for our lives
Chosen
Who we are
What we stand for
It’s that night that defined us
Not the shell-shocked year that followed

Thestrals pull the carriages
We all can see them now
But they don’t scare me

We’ve endured
Through danger and chaos and wrong
We’ve made choices
No child should face
And chosen the right thing anyway
We’ve survived
Like a phoenix, we’ve risen to fight
Again and again
Whatever life brings
We’re ready

If I Went to Hogwarts

It’s nearly impossible to read Harry Potter without asking yourself how you’d fit into that world. What Harry Potter fan hasn’t thought about which house they’d be in? I know I have. I also know what kind of wand I would use (rowan and unicorn hair), and although I’ve more-or-less made peace with my cat patronus, I still insist it would be a normal cat, not an ugly hairless one. There’s a reason we all keep taking those quizzes even when they give us results we’re not crazy about. We want to catch a glimpse of who we would be if we’d really gone to Hogwarts.

In Prisoner of Azkaban, which I’m currently re-reading, the kids start taking new elective classes: Care of Magical Creatures, Divination, Ancient Runes, Arithmancy, and Muggle Studies. Most students sign up for 2 or 3 of these, but of course, Hermione takes all of them. And, even more predictably, reading those chapters again has made me wonder which classes I’d choose to take if I went to Hogwarts.

I’d definitely take Ancient Runes. I’m very much a language person, and my real-life college major was a foreign language, so studying an archaic writing system sounds right up my alley. One of the things I love about the world of Harry Potter is the power that words and language hold there, so I’d definitely want to explore it in as much depth as possible.

I’d also take Muggle Studies, not to learn about the muggle world itself, but to learn about how wizards see it. Most don’t bother to learn much about muggles, and those that do often have weird misconceptions. I think that if I found myself in the middle of a situation like that, I’d want to do something about it, and I’d need to understand both sides of the equation first.

I’m not sure I’d want to take any of the other three. I feel about the same way about Divination that McGonagall and Hermione do: there are real prophecies in the world of Harry Potter, but Trelawney is a fraud 99% of the time, and the subject isn’t useful unless you’re actually a Seer. I don’t have much respect for fortune-telling in the real world, and I doubt I’d feel much differently about it at Hogwarts.

Arithmancy is basically wizard math, and I have no reason to believe I’d like it any better than muggle math. I did well in my Algebra classes, but I never felt the need to go on to calculus. Likewise, I doubt I’d choose to take an optional math class at Hogwarts. As for Care of Magical Creatures, I’d take the class if Newt Scamander was teaching it. Hagrid, as nice a person as he is, doesn’t always have the best judgment about what creatures are too dangerous for teenagers to handle. If I did end up in his class, I’d probably drop it after the first year. So it might just be Ancient Runes and Muggle Studies.

What about the other classes, the ones required from the start? I feel sure I’d be more of a Neville or a Hermione than a Harry when it comes to flying lessons. I’m not particularly athletic, and I’m not fond of heights, which isn’t really a great combination when it comes to flying around on a broom and playing quidditch. I’m also not so sure about potions, but Herbology and Transfiguration always sound fascinating, and Defense Against the Dark Arts would definitely be worth knowing. Charms seems like the most useful and versatile branch of magic, and I suspect that one might be my favorite out of the first-year classes.

I think what I’d miss the most from the muggle world would be English classes. I’ve always enjoyed studying literature, and whatever literature the magical world has is apparently not seen as important enough to devote a class to. Nor is writing, for that matter. The kids write essays for school, but they’re not taught writing skills the way that most muggle high schoolers are. That would be a big disappointment for me. Luckily, I’d be a Ravenclaw, so it wouldn’t be too hard to get together some kind of book club or study group to learn about it on our own.

A Quick, Easy Guide to Making a Hogwarts Student Costume out of Clothes you Already Have

Dressing up as a Harry Potter character is hardly a new idea. From expensive official ties, scarves, and robes based on the movies, to hardcore fans who go to book releases and movie premiers in costume, there are no shortage of people who try to make themselves look like they came straight from Hogwarts. But what if you’re just looking to put together a Halloween costume? If you’re only going to wear it once or twice, spending a fortune on official merchandise or hand-knitting a scarf in your house colors might seem like overkill. Surely there must be a better way!

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I put this Ravenclaw student costume together from clothes I already had in my closet. And chances are, you can, too! Just start with a white button-down shirt and black pants or a skirt. For the “robe”, you could use anything from a loose black jacket, to a generic costume cloak, to a black bathrobe or graduation gown, depending on what you have on hand or can find cheaply. Any kind of closed-toe black shoe works well. Really, the only hard part is the scarf.

You have several options there. Aside from ordering one from the Harry Potter store or making one yourself (which – again, feel free if you want to), keep an eye out for scarves that look like they fit whichever house you’re trying to imitate. If you’re flexible about looking just like the movies, it shouldn’t be hard to find something that works. These are a few that I dug out of my scarf collection, most of which I just happened to buy for everyday wear.

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None of them look like they came straight from the movies (although the one in the middle comes pretty close to movie Ravenclaw), but even a solid-colored green scarf could be made to work with silver jewelry, or a gold scarf with red accessories, etc. Sadly, I don’t seem to have a lot of solid-color scarves, so the one in the picture is purple, but you get the idea. Strictly speaking, striped house-color scarves are an invention of the movies and never mentioned in the books, so you definitely have some freedom in how to interpret them.

Think in practical terms, too. If you live someplace hot, a white polo and silk scarf might work better than a realistic copy of the movie costumes.

And, of course, if you’re going for a particular character, you can use accessories to get the right look. Harry has his scar and glasses, Luna her radish earrings and specterspecs, and so on. For kids’ trick-or-treat costumes, I think a little plastic cauldron bucket like this could make a nice touch:

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The Hogwarts Pensieve Sorting Hat

The Hogwarts Express leaves on September 1, and in honor of that, I’m going to finally release something I’ve been working on for weeks: my own Sorting Hat quiz.

Yes, I know. There are a thousand sorting quizzes out there, not to mention an official one on Pottermore. But I just had to try my hand at making one of my own. This isn’t one of those “what’s your favorite color/animal/character?” quizzes. All the thought I’ve been putting into my Sorting Hat Saturday posts and theories about the Hogwarts founders has gone into the quiz as well. I ask questions like:

How do you react to unexpected challenges?

  • Take a step back, look at the facts, and brainstorm solutions
  • Go with my first instinct and tackle the problem head-on
  • Come up with a strategy based on the situation
  • Give it my best effort using tried and true methods
  • Try to make it work to my advantage

And:

You just made your house’s quidditch team. Which of the following is most important to you?

  • Winning at all costs
  • Playing fair and doing my best
  • Fighting as hard as we can in each match
  • Having a good time and keeping in mind that it’s just a game
  • Coming up with a good strategy
  • Becoming team captain in a few years. This is just the beginning …

Nothing’s quite like a magical mind-reading hat, but I think I did a pretty good job and I hope you’ll agree.

Edit: Well, I was trying to embed it, but that didn’t work, so here’s a link