Hogwarts Is the Best-Known UK Academic Institution in America
October 21, 2019 5:25 AM   Subscribe

For those of a more progressive worldview, however, a nation is also an ideal, the land being merely the body beyond which there is a “soul” of a nation. This is certainly true of Britishness, which has developed into something far more than a physical country, let alone an ethnic group. Britishness has become a sort of idea – and a very profitable one at that. from Harry Potter and the importance of soft power in by Ed West in UnHerd
posted by chavenet (15 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Britain’s schools are an export market worth £1billion a year, hardly surprising when the private system has continued to maintain its place as the best in the world, even during the 1970s and 80s when the state system was at its worst.
I wish Britain's soft power consisted of a strong and well-funded public education system. :-(
posted by clawsoon at 5:36 AM on October 21 [9 favorites]


This article was quite a ride. Something about it irked me- it might be that the writer is making an argument that this never-never fantasy "Britain" is a profitable source of income but doesn't quite say for whom it is so. I don't think many residents of the West Midlands urban area are benefitting from Peaky Blinders tourism, and I don't think many of those living in impoverished ex-mining areas in County Durham would at all see how the Hogwarts-influenced popularity of Durham University is in any way good for them or their area or their country in general. I guess I'm making the same point as clawsoon; while the phenomena the article describes may indeed be good for some ideas of "the economy", the UK under Toryism has over the last 30 years become worse and worse to live in for large swathes of society, and the erosion of public civic institutions all over the country seems to get swept under the rug and prettified for the rest of the world by all this ersatz Buckingham Palace Hogwarts Kate and William tourist stuff.
It is the theme park-ification of England, absolutely.
posted by Balthamos at 7:17 AM on October 21 [3 favorites]


I lived on an island that the Irish government felt was too small for a secondary school and so I and others got shipped off boarding schools or home stays on the mainland. I consider it my task in life to tell people how utterly miserable the experience of boarding school is and how - in our case - we were half starved all the time. And then I tell them the story of the fella I met from Eton who used to make sock pockets for himself and his friends to comfort them. He seemed to not look back on that with fondness...

Usually does the trick of stopping the romance away from that part of the fantasy.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:58 AM on October 21 [6 favorites]


Hogwarts is a cozy fantasy in many ways but the one that stands out to me is that in real public schools all the houses are Slytherin.
The magical powers it gets the kids are affability, ruthlessness and an uncanny ability to always track down the shittiest and most expensive street drugs.
This is how the Empire was built.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:24 AM on October 21 [13 favorites]


lesbiassparrow: I must know, what is a sock pocket?
posted by roue at 8:26 AM on October 21 [4 favorites]


You put your hand in sock and draw some eyes and viola, sock puppet.
posted by sideshow at 8:59 AM on October 21 [1 favorite]


Hogwarts has so much tourism value to it that there's actually a mild problem of people visiting the University of Sydney, Australia because they're been told (incorrectly) that parts of the HP movies were filmed there.

SBS News
posted by Acid Communist at 9:00 AM on October 21 [2 favorites]


hmmm
posted by es_de_bah at 9:05 AM on October 21 [1 favorite]


pocket, puppet, it's all become clear to me now.
posted by roue at 10:32 AM on October 21 [2 favorites]


I lived on an island that the Irish government felt was too small for a secondary school and so I and others got shipped off boarding schools or home stays on the mainland. I consider it my task in life to tell people how utterly miserable the experience of boarding school is and how - in our case - we were half starved all the time.

My dad went to a school in Ireland in the 60s that was a mix of of day students and boarding students (it's all day students now) - he was a day student. He told me of his astonishment when lunch was served on his first day and some of the boarders grabbed spuds from the pile in the middle of the table and put them in their pockets to eat later.
posted by kersplunk at 10:36 AM on October 21 [2 favorites]


For those who aren't already aware, UnHerd is a right-wing website bankrolled by Sir Paul Marshall, a hedge fund millionaire and high-profile Brexit supporter who gave £100,000 to the Leave campaign.

This article, by the site's deputy editor, seems to mirror the funder's views pretty closely, right down to the obligatory sneer at Britain-hating Remoaners:
Just as British national identity is in decline at home, facing both Scottish and English nationalism and – more damaging still – a university-educated middle class who regard national feeling as déclassé (something they’ve made quite clear since June 2016), so it has gained new life as a sort of global ideology, inseparable from progressive values of tolerance.
So the message seems to be that we'll be all right after Brexit, because British values of tolerance will spread around the world, Chinese millionaires will send their children to be privately educated here, and .. er .. that's it.
posted by verstegan at 3:27 PM on October 21 [3 favorites]


Hogwarts isn't actually in Britain. It's in the German Democratic Republic (GDR/DDR, aka East Germany) of the 1980s, and we have only the publishers' desire to sell in English markets, and the translator's (Rowling's) inconsistency in place naming to thank. Consider the profound Ostalgie of the series:

* Adults are more afraid than children, and this general fear and paranoia has to be carefully hidden. The most important lessons parents teach their children are what questions you shouldn't ask.
* Questions like: 'what did last year's teacher do to disappear so suddenly'?
* Magical laws are immutable, but actual statutory laws aren't that important.
* There appear to be no Parties, and the sole realm of politics is a Ministry whose workings are obscure, but are gone along with, because there's no real choice.
* The repository of virtue is an institution, Hogwarts itself, rather than individuals. It gives points, but there is no process or transparency about the way these are allocated, and they are beyond appeal.
* There's one specific person everyone knows about and remembers, who was very influential in the past, but you can't mention his name.
* The highest prestige career for talented students is a kind of secret magical police force. The most powerful wizards are the ones who exercise their power clandestinely and by developing cadres of followers.
* J.K. Rowling appears to have translated 'Trabant', a small, budget-price, four-door sedan of notorious air pollution and low quality control, for its English-language recognition equivalent 'Ford Anglia'.
* School career tracking—compulsory—begins early. There is no prospect of selecting one's job or training outside the school.
* There is no critical study of literature or art. No non-representational art is permitted. In fact, all the paintings are physically functional entities, which aim to motivate and enlighten. The walls of Hogwarts are Socialist Realism taken to the magical end.
* History (of magic) is taught at the level of naming facts and dates, and all independent inquiry about the past is discouraged. Everyone studies spells and potions, but once again, a lot of this is secret knowledge.
* Being an athlete is very very bad for your health. International competition even more so.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:03 PM on October 21 [25 favorites]


I heard David Bowie once recorded an album in Hogsmeade. Ministry of Magic suppressed it of course.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 9:21 PM on October 21


Hogwarts isn't actually in Britain. It's in the German Democratic Republic

so, Hogwartburg, more like?
posted by scruss at 1:36 AM on October 22


Thanks verstegan, for highlighting the nature of the source. Suspicions confirmed.
posted by Balthamos at 5:40 AM on October 22


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