Defense Against the Dark Arts: Do You-Know-Whose Side School Is On?

Ministry supervisor Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter's Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom made the difference between School and Education crystal-gazing clear.

JK Rowling in Order of the Phoenix wrote:
- "This is School, Mr. Potter. Not the Real World," she said softly.

- "So we're not supposed to be prepared for what's waiting out there?"

- "There's nothing waiting out there . . .
who do you imagine wants to attack children like yourselves? If you are still worried, if someone is alarming you with fibs, I would like to hear about it. I am your friend. Now kindly continue your reading."

I had to blog this while the Stupid Girls debate is on, because I consider JK Rowling's cultural smarts to reach far beyond Stupid Girls and the Tyranny of Thin. Having read every Harry Potter book at least once, I'd argue that the Culture of Schooling is a specialty of Rowling's. I'd argue that Order of the Phoenix would make a first-class focus for modern citizenship education throughout all worlds muggle and magical, in any language.

Are we just a pretend world of fashionable thought, obsessed with trying to look and feel smart for each other, neglecting and perhaps unable to actually BE smart and DO smart?

Pink, Oprah and JK Rowling fighting "Thin is in" face stupidity both cultural and critical, a telescoping of intellect and imagination into a one-dimensional reflective surface, thinking selves starved for sustenance, belief and skepticism simultaneously out of whack in their daily diet of thought, causing chronic, clumsy, often crippling cultural malnourishment of epidemic proportions.

These all are problems that public education should be building cultures to combat, not to cement.

But in dispiriting fact, the standard-narrowed, uncertainty-fearing, control-freakish Culture of School works in the opposite direction from open science cultures that celebrate real smarts. If critical thinking is brain food, school is anorexia.

Time-wind back like Hermione to see when my alter ego MisEducation first played with this theme, riffing on three real world lessons:

1. What matters in life is learned outside the classroom.

2. Individuals are not interchangeable.

3. Life isn't fair, rules are made to be broken, and
there's nothing "magic" about numbers.

There's little left about the culture of school that fosters the scientific method of inquiry, so why would we fancy school a fit environment for real world-class science education --in fiction or fact? Are we too stupid to let go this fiction that Defense Against the Dark Arts, whatever that proves to be in our very real post-9-11 culture, is just textbook theory and not the real world?

At least in the Culture Kitchen, where we're literate, learned, believers all in free liberal public education as real Defense Against the Dark Arts, we're not Stupid Girls. Here we can be Smart Women inclined to critically consider public education models that don't even WANT to look old school, win an agency contract and pose for money -- such as the nonprofit online Public Library of Science.

PLoS is more public, more education, more current, more real culture of science than schooling can fake. It really is a free, open culture of intellectual inquiry where private minds like mine can learn, not society's public ministry compelling intellectual performance and preferring gloved-wand government controls to diversity and free thought.

Liza Gross in this PLoS feature brings the light and the heat.

Asked since 1985 whether “human beings, as we know them, developed from earlier species of animals

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