Dear Headmaster Longbottom,
I hope this owl finds you well. I’m Beneforth Rapier-Bottles Wandsworth III (class of ‘04), long-time donor, current parent of a terrific Hufflepuff, and first-time letter-writer to a Hogwarts headmaster. I’ve got a pile of gold down in Gringotts earmarked for the Hogwarts Development Fund, and I am absolutely begging you to fund the humanities at Hogwarts.
Let’s start with hiring history professors who, unlike Professor Binns, happen to be alive. All the other ghosts at Hogwarts are either house mascots or dead students, and it’s unconscionable that we still employ a ghost to teach the humanities while Defense Against the Dark Arts, whose faculty have included a Voldemort-denier and a parasitic host for Voldemort himself, seems to get a new – breathing – teacher annually. Time for Hogwarts to reckon with its past by binning Professor Binns!
The Wizarding World would have defeated Voldemort much more easily if Hogwarts professors back in the ‘90s had, you know, actually talked about history. According to Harry Potter’s memoir (better on audiobook by the way), it took flattery and coercion for him to wheedle out Professor Slughorn’s memory of telling Tom Riddle about horcruxes! How is this not on a History of Magic syllabus? Veritaserum should not be necessary for telling the truth about the past.
Potter’s book also highlighted a key moment when Hermione Granger had to derail class to get Binns to talk about the Chamber of Secrets, a move that ended up saving lives. Binns’ preference for “fact” over “legend” is pretty misguided because legends and myths motivate people to do extraordinary things. He’d know this if he taught actual history. Binns hasn’t added to his professional development hours since the 1800s, and it shows!
Robust history education at Hogwarts is key to preventing future Death Eating and can nourish the inclusive and multicultural magical society the majority of the magical community want. Maybe even start with hiring multiple live professors? I can’t speak for all the alumni but I doubt Hogwarts can pull off yet another capital campaign big enough to rebuild the castle like they did after the Battle of Hogwarts if they’re backward-looking in all the wrong ways. It’s like the school has cast an obliviate charm on their entire community, which is simply riddikulus.
Look, even our competitor schools like Durmstrang and Beauxbatons have been using 100% alive (or nearly-alive) faculty since at least the First Wizarding War. And even mail-order educational materials for Squibs are sent by currently living adjunct professors and independent scholars, some of whom even offer hybrid education. Quit leaving it up to students to learn things like the erasure of house-elves and their unpaid labor from Hogwarts: A History (First Edition). What’s Hogwarts’ excuse for this? Our institution has a golden snitch of an opportunity to emphasize the importance of history for our young generation of witches and wizards. It’s as if Hogwarts’ history lives in the Restricted Section waiting to be discovered by typically rule-following student activists.
When I was at Hogwarts the jokes about Binns just wrote themselves: “he’s so boring I could die,” or “there he goes calling a three-and-a-half-foot scroll on the Goblin Rebellions a ‘learning opportunity’ again, I can see right through him.” History of Magic was the most boring class available to students then, with all due respect to the Runes faculty.
The more I read about the The Daily Prophet’s recent reckoning with its own history, the more I’m convinced that Hogwarts needs to do the same––although Hogwarts would do well do avoid slogans like The Daily Prophet’s: “Magic Is Might But We Swear We’re Not Death Eaters.” The paper of record is doing a good job covering the adjunctification of the American education system, too, and I’ll be stupefied if my potential donation is used to replace Binns with underpaid witches and wizards who have to turn their brooms into rideshares just to make ends meet. And look, I’m not saying we have to leave Binns out in the cold; simply rotate him off classroom teaching into some sort of made-up position like “Dean of Academic Advancement,” “Provost for Historical Trivia,” or “Vice President for Educational Bereavement.”
I understand that there’s vocal contingent of Make Hogwarts Great Again parents with their whole “Hexit” movement who want to have too much time-turning on their hands and get their dress robes in a twist every time the faculty “indoctrinate” the first-years with “woke” lessons on the pure-blood legacy of the Dark Arts, but honestly, how do we expect this next generation of young witches and wizards to prevent the next Voldemort if they don’t know their history?
I’m also hearing that Voldemort’s plaque for “services to the school” is still gathering dust down in the trophy room. Really? Imagine if Muggles also commemorated their problematic famous people with statues and monuments without context. Can you imagine what that would say about their society? Either trash the trophy or provide some context––a task done easily by hiring a currently living, breathing history professor. Until then, Hogwarts has a one-way ticket on the Hogwarts Express toward the dustbinns of history.
Beneforth Rapier-Bottles Wandsworth III
Hogwarts Class of 2004
Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Department of Puns, Fake Bodily Fluids, and Historical Pranks
Diagon Alley, London
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For some reason John Terry has a PhD in medieval history and for other reasons he is a high school history teacher in Atlanta. He has written Serious Things in Slate and The Washington Post about Why History Is More Important Than You Think, which is probably why you’ve heard of him. He tweets infrequent, correct opinions @johntrterry. He once made Tina Fey belly laugh but he won’t repeat what he said.