Any parent who has not heard about Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling or Hogwarts has been in suspended animation for the past 10 years. Regardless, parents see that Harry Potter and his faithful friends, Ron and Hermione, are teaching kids the obvious lessons about friendship, pride, courage, handling bullies, first love, and ultimately about love. However, parents should be aware that while Hogwarts seems to be the center of the Harry Potter Universe, the books also teach a bit about the non-magical or Muggle World and we need to be mindful of this.
Foster Care And Orphanages
In Harry Potter, young Harry is orphaned and left to live with his mother’s only living family, the Dursleys. The opening pages of the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, introduces the very unlikeable Vernon, Petunia and Dudley. By book sixth book, readers learn that the series’ villain Lord Voldemort (Tom Riddle) was raised in an orphanage.
Harry hated living with his mother’s family and preferred Hogwarts and its grounds to his biological families home. For Tom Riddle, the orphanage left him feeling isolated and with a thirst to be special. In Harry’s home, he faced abuse and in the orphanage, Tom Riddle was angry and abusive.
The real world lessons that the books seem to relate are that sometimes family can be just as damaging as strangers. Harry’s family’s dysfunctional oppression of him was an attempt to “swash” any magic out of him. In Riddle’s orphanage home, it was a reminder that he had been physically abandoned by a father and emotionally abandoned by a weak mother.
In the real world, orphanages have been replaced by foster care and group homes. Displaced kids can be placed with family, but in the real world, Harry would have been placed in a licensed and investigated home. And, the government would have monitored his treatment.
Harry learns about the Ministry of Magic, the governing body of the Wizarding World, by the second book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Readers realize that governments of both worlds are aware of the other, when Cornelius Fudge meets with the new Muggle Prime Minister, in the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. We find that the problems in the real world, just as with the magical world, are marred by interest grabbing politicians, who are more concerned with power and popularity than the people.
In the book, government officials are often outwitted and ruthless in trying to maintain the status quo. In the end, the government falls. What this teaches children is that good governments are sustained when there are honest people leading and that while a governing body is bad, there are sometimes, still good people within.
In the Harry Potter series, there are no physically handicapped folks, other than Mad Eye Moody and Tom ( the innkeeper at the Hogs Head.) Moody, the battle scarred Auror, suffered injuries from his days in fighting dangerous and dark wizards and Tom is a hunchback. In the minute glimpses in the muggle world, the plight of the disabled are never seen or revealed.
Children should be reminded that everyone have varying levels of abilities, and that those abilities or limitations need to be respected. Everyone has something to offer and that everyone has strengths and talents.
The popularity of Harry Potter books has continued to grow. With the creation of a theme park and the upcoming final movies, there are many more opportunities for parents to share the amazing adventures of the boy wizard; however, in sharing, parents have an opportunity to discuss real world issues and influences with their kids that will help keep them grounded in the not so magical world.