Six Pros and Cons of the Magic School Genre

The characters of Blue Exorcist posing for a picture.

Blue Exorcist needs to study up on having more girls in the cast.

Magic school stories are incredibly popular – and also really hard to get right. To this day, Harry Potter is still the best example of the genre I’ve seen, despite its many problems. So what’s up with this seeming contradiction? Why do both storytellers and audiences love magic school stories so much even though they come bundled with pitfalls? And what are those pitfalls, anyway? To answer all those questions, I’ll take you through the most prominent pros and cons of magic schools, so you can decide if this genre is right for your story.

1. Pro: Wish Fulfillment Is Through the Roof

Harry with the sorting hat in the first movie. There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who want this for themselves and those who lie.

Wish-fulfillment stories are those where characters experience things that the audience fantasizes about experiencing for themselves. Normally, wish fulfillment only applies to certain subsections of the audience, as individual tastes and values have a big impact. A story about helping Ruth Bader Ginsburg write a legal brief is serious wish fulfillment for some,* not so much for others.

But magic school stories have incredibly broad appeal when it comes to wish fulfillment. Nothing is ever 100%, but the Venn diagram of people who desperately want to attend a school of spells and sorcery and people who read speculative fiction is almost a perfect circle. Nearly all of us fantasize about getting our Hogwarts letter, whether we just want to attend classes or would rather campaign to reform the school’s abysmal safety precautions.

If you’ll allow me a moment of pure speculation, I suspect this is because school is such a commonly shared experience. Kids currently in school dream of learning cool magic instead of boring algebra. Meanwhile, adults often look back on school with great nostalgia, a carefree time before we had to deal with the stresses of grown-up life. Even for people whose school-experience memories are less than pleasant, there’s strong appeal in reimagining those grueling years as a time of magic and adventure.

This shared understanding makes it easy for audiences to think this story could happen to them one day. Oh, sure, in this book it’s Harry staying up all night in the Restricted Section, but he’s just a normal kid – surely it could be you next time!

2. Pro: It’s Easy to Add Novelty

The cooking demon from Blue Exorcist. Blue Exorcist has a cooking demon; how much more novel can you get?

Novelty is super important for a successful story. In fact, it’s one of the four critical elements that make stories popular! Audiences love cool laser guns and big scary monsters, especially if those things are presented in a way they haven’t seen before. The problem with novelty is that it fades, and eventually you reach a point where it’s harder to find a reason for injecting more.

Magic school stories have a big advantage here because the heroes are all students, explicitly at the school to learn about new things. Every time they go to class, you have a built-in justification for introducing something cool and new. Last term they learned about magical animals, but the audience has had their fill of unicorns, so now it’s time for a course about fairies!

This works best with protagonists who weren’t raised in the magical world. They didn’t know unicorns and fairies were real, and the audience can vicariously experience their wonder. You may recognize this from reading about a certain boy who lived. However, the extra novelty is still available even if the protagonist was raised by wizard parents. You just have to play up all the things they still don’t know or the things they had the wrong impression about. After all, most of us were raised in the real world, and yet we still managed to learn new things at school.

With this structure, you can keep adding new novelty even late in the story, ensuring the audience stays hooked. In fact, the main drawback is that you might get carried away and keep adding novelty when you really should be escalating the action, or you might just add more novelty than your story can support. That’s how you end up with worlds overflowing with cool magic items that no one ever uses.

3. Pro: There’s a Structure to Explain Magic

Diana raising her hand in Little Witch Academia. Little Witch Academia’s magic system doesn’t make much sense, but at least we learn a lot about it.

Explaining how magic works is one of the trickiest jobs in speculative fiction. Too much information gives the audience an exposition overdose, and then they’ll forget most of it anyway. Too little information leaves the audience confused and scratching their heads when they should be most excited. Hitting the sweet spot between the two extremes is no easy feat.

Fortunately, the same structure that allows extra novelty means magic school stories are in a great place to explain how magic works. That’s primarily what the characters are there to learn, after all. In a magic school, you rarely have the issue where the characters must awkwardly explain something they already know for the audience’s benefit. Instead, the audience learns along with the protagonist themself.

This allows you to set up a very simple and effective formula: The characters spend a few chapters struggling to master a new spell, going through a series of try-fail cycles, and then they use the spell to solve a major problem. Boom. You’ve taught the audience about magic and then shown why it mattered. Instant satisfaction.

The tricky part is designing a magic system robust enough that it can provide material for an entire school curriculum while staying interesting. A lot of stories try to do this by introducing an endless number of spells, but that’s a losing proposition, because the more spells you add, the greater the chance of unintentionally creating an over-powered combo. Instead, it’s usually better to introduce a limited number of effects and then have the characters learn to use those effects in different ways.

4. Con: There’s No Time to Learn Mundane Subjects

Harry and Ron staring into a crystal ball. So glad we’re doing this instead of something boring like English class.

Now we’re onto the drawbacks of the magic school genre. While some of them are well known, others are more subtle, and the subtlest of all is a tiny little worldbuilding problem where magical students have no time to learn the basic foundation of knowledge most Americans take for granted.

Consider: There are only so many hours in the day, and if the characters spend most of them learning levitation and pyromancy, when are they going to study literature or history, let alone algebra? It doesn’t seem like Principal Archmage is likely to give them time off to do math homework.

That might not seem like a big deal at first, but it means that students at a magic school have little understanding of language, mathematics, or history. That’s bound to give them a very different perspective on the world than most audiences, which makes it harder to relate to them.

Solving this problem is tricky. One option is to have the characters split their time between magical and mundane subjects, but that still leaves the characters with an incomplete education, just not as severely. Every hour spent learning magic is an hour taken out of the school day – unless the magic is some kind of after-school elective, which isn’t what most stories are going for.

Another option is to work the magic into more traditional lessons. Perhaps the characters need to learn basic math in order to calculate the more advanced thaumaturgic equations, and they must learn sentence structure so they get their incantations right. This version is more seamless, but requires a very specific type of magic system.

5. Con: Classic School Tropes Fall Apart

Diana holding a lit wand aloft. One thing Little Witch Academia does right is that Diana is best at magic and popular.

Remember how one of the main advantages of magic schools is how familiar they are? That extends into classic school tropes like the unpopular nerd and the bullying jock, which you see in just about every magic school story ever written. People respond to these tropes, even if they never experienced them in real life, because they’re so common in stories about school.

However, the dynamics that make those tropes work simply don’t exist in most magic schools. For example, let’s take the unpopular nerd. The idea here is that a student who spends all their time on book learning will have reduced social status because they haven’t been building relationships or getting good at prestigious activities like sports. Maybe there’s even some resentment because the student is a teacher’s favorite.* All the knowledge they have might be useful later in life, but it isn’t now.

A magic school breaks that dynamic. All the nerd’s knowledge is suddenly useful because it lets them do magic. In a world where studying gives you the ability to conjure fireballs rather than recite passages from Moby-Dick, being a bookworm would be a mark of prestige.

Other tropes are similarly affected. It’s hard to believe that bullies would be the muscular jocks in a world where magic quickly outmodes physical strength in a confrontation. Similarly, characters are a lot less likely to skip their homework when it teaches them how to astrally project or shapeshift. That kind of immediately useful ability is simply far more engaging than real-life homework, which is at best something that will enrich our lives in the long run and at worst just busywork.

Fixing this problem requires carefully examining the tropes in question and deciding if you want to embrace the difference or try to make your setting more like real school. It probably makes more sense for your magic school to be a place where extensive studying is socially rewarded, but that’ll make it less recognizable to audiences. If you want that familiarity, you’ll need to modify the premise so it still fits. Perhaps your magic system is extremely physical, like Avatar’s bending, and so reading in the library for hours doesn’t count as practice.

6. Con: Students Shouldn’t Be Solving Problems

Students frozen in time in The Magicians as the villain walks through their class. The Magicians solves this by creating a school no one would ever want to attend.

By far the most serious drawback of magic schools is that, almost by definition, the protagonist is surrounded by people far more capable than they are, be they teachers or older students. This makes it extremely difficult to justify why the protagonist should ever be the one dealing with dangerous threats.

You see this type of problem in any story about kids, but it is multiplied tenfold in magic schools. Schools are supposed to be places of safety. Even if that’s not always true in real life, audiences will expect it to be true in fiction. Teachers have a responsibility for their student’s safety; no way will they let the hero out of class early to duel the villain. And if the hero can’t solve the problem, they aren’t really the hero of this story.

Fixing this problem at the structural level is extremely difficult, so most storytellers try to solve it by arranging circumstances just right so the hero is forced to confront a dangerous problem despite the school’s safeguards. This can work, but audience standards are extremely high, so you’ll need an airtight explanation. Even if you manage that, it’s only something you can do once. The second or third time it happens, the story will be contrived no matter how well you explain it.

It’s also possible to craft a magic school that just isn’t concerned with student safety. Maybe the teachers are inscrutable knowledge spirits who care little for the affairs of mortals. The spirits are bound by an ancient contract to pass on knowledge of the craft, but they won’t lift a hand to stop the villain from turning their students into ensorcelled thralls.

This kind of setup makes it far easier to explain the protagonist’s thrilling heroics, but it’s also likely to damage the wish fulfillment that’s such a big draw for magic school stories in the first place. Once you make the school an ostensibly dangerous place to be, you can’t count on the audience wanting to be there.

There’s no universally right answer for solving this problem. How you do it will depend on what’s right for your story. That’s often the case when writing a magic school story; the same elements that make people love it also create problems. It’s a challenge, but if you’re aware of the potential hazards going in, you can decide what balance of beloved elements and storytelling practicality is right for you.

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  1. LizardWithHat

    Interesting Article, Oren.
    I really like that you cite Works you critiqued for other things if they have positive examples of something

    One on thing I need some clarification.
    Why are nerd skills useless when not applied to learning magic? Or did you mean more useful with magic?
    I ask that because I think most nerds (at least as far as i know) read for their enjoyment and not all are equally good an absorbing knowledge for enjoyment and work. Also i think that the pressure of having to learn something through reading might detract from joy of reading. So as for Avatar-based Martial-Mages I would guess that magic learned through tomes plays to the strength of some people and most still have to work hard. It’s just that in the latter case more nerdy types have an advantages of more jock-y types.

    Yeah, I’m kind of at a loss here and think I missed something.

    • Cay Reet

      I think Oren meant that with learning magic, spending more time with books is probably going to get you further quicker than being good at sports. That isn’t necessarily true for regular schools. And, yes, being an avid reader and being good at studying are not the same – I’ve always been an avid reader, but an average student myself.

      Magic is usually much more connected to the mind than to the body, though (some types, like bending, clearly are not, but in most cases, mages aren’t exactly the most physical people). Nerdy types are more concerned about the mind than about the body, too, which makes a certain connection between being ‘nerdy’ and being ‘good at magic.’ I remember that the Spellcasting series (very, very, very old computer games) had a running gag about the people in the MCs dorm playing ‘Malls and Muggers’ the whole time, where there were accountants and lawyers instead of warriors and wizards. First of all, the magic users wanted to play games without magic (which makes sense when you study magic, I guess), but it’s also the idea that the attendants of a magical college would be a bit nerdy, just like students in our reality.

      • LizardWithHat

        That makes a lot of sense. Very insightful
        Also: Im a nerdy type to and was average at school – so i can related there

        I also would expect a magic system in a magical school setting to be in more about studying than bending. To a combination could be nice.
        I still would expect some cabable mages to be bad people but i honstly dont like that jock-y(?) types are often depicted as bullies – gladly not always.

        In my fantasy world i made it that each mage has to find out how they learn magic best.

        • Leon

          A school that teaches a variety of different magic systems could be quite interesting.
          Following what Oren said about bullying; the magic of dragon slayers and warrior monks would be very fun to watch, as would their training & and a healer, who will go into danger unarmed, to rescue the fallen is obviously very sexy. Potion makers would have an unmanageable number of friends. But a mage who is slowly building the foundation of immense personal power while not gaining any immediately useful skills may have a hard time fitting in without any way to contribute to fun and shenanigans.

          • JGrey

            And if the magic school is meant for teaching heroes/adventurers, they could have the school structured to creating well-rounded teams with a decent mix of front-line and support mages, while also discouraging any one person from trying to become more powerful than any of their peers.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      So just to be clear, I’m talking about tropes here, not necessarily everyone’s lived experience. Cay’s pretty much on the mark here as always, but to put it in my own words, the trope of the unpopular/bullied nerd who’s super smart and good at school work specifically depends on the idea that learning, say, chemistry isn’t immediately useful or socially prestigious until you graduate and become a chemist.

      In a magic school, being good at magic is immediately useful and almost certainly a source of social prestige as well.

      • LizardWithHat

        Thanks for the clarification. I missed that is about tropes. Sorry for jumping to conclutions so hastyly.

  2. El Suscriptor Justiciero

    It could be at least mildly interesting to see the spellcasting nerds bully the poor martial jocks. I’m sure Gary Gygax would be proud.

  3. Dave L

    Remember that this sort of school need not be just for magic

    The movie Sky High and the webserial Super Powereds by Drew Hayes are about schools for superheroes

    Psionics, dragon-riding, mech-piloting, adventuring in dungeons, etc… You can make your school series about almost any fantasy or sci-fi aspect

    • Cay Reet

      Yes, you can work with other ‘specialized’ schools as well. The “Please don’t tell my parents…” series also has a superhero theme (and a lot of the students at Penny’s school are superpowered one way or other). And in the “Magical Diary: Horse Hall” visual novel/life sim, dungeon adventures are part of the curriculum (they’re the exams).

  4. Brigitta M.

    I think one way that someone could keep the focus of the magic wonder and still have the students learn basic skills is to treat magic as an elective. The other classes serve to show as a foundation of “yeah, these kids are learning” but keep the focus on the magic courses. This would likely work best in a scenario where wizards/witches/sorcerers, etc would be expected to specialize in one area of magic. Put this on top of having potions as a chemistry course and study of magical creatures as a type of biology and you’re golden.

    Further, if you expand the idea of “magic school” to include college then the fact that these students would spend more time on magical courses than general ed (esp those going for doctorates) makes even more sense. In this setting, you could also have an adult villain going after an adult student that lives off campus as well.


  5. Tifa

    On #4, I always assumed that since kids can only go to Hogwarts when they’re 11, their parents would have spent all those other years teaching them the basics of English and Math and so forth.

    • Cay Reet

      I guess they would have some basics, but that’s more along the lines of ‘can read and write well enough’ and ‘can do basic maths.’ That’s not all you’d need to get along. Some people have rightfully pointed out that even muggle-born students do not have any chance to work outside of the Wizarding World after school – let alone those from magical families. They get taught nothing of regular life and nothing about technology.

      • Kat

        I want a story about Ravenclaw kids sneaking out to attend night classes at the local college for things like chemistry, or engineering, or biology.

  6. Dvärghundspossen

    I have my MC take classes at the faculty of magic at a regular university. I Think that if you don’t have a masquerade, that makes more sense. You’d have people doing interdisciplinary work like magophysics etc; you wouldn’t have magic as this completely separate thing from other disciplines.

    • Cay Reet

      Yes, without the masquerade, it makes a lot of sense that regular universities would have a faculty of magic as well – or several, depending on how many disciplines there are in magic.

      • Dvärghundspossen

        I thought one faculty, many different departments within that faculty. Like the faculty of social sciences, faculty of natural sciences, faculty of humanities… each have a bunch of different departments.

  7. Tali

    I want to write a book about a teacher in a magical school who has to deal with the students’ shenanigans, a “traitor” among the staff *and* the school’s utterly appalling health and safety measures…

  8. Adam Reynolds

    Something I think would make more sense in a lot of ways would be if it was treated like a military academy, as a university education rather than as a replacement for high school. This would especially address the largest problem, that there would be a good reason for the characters to be actively doing things, as they are actually adults who could thus be expected to contribute to the big problems that face their organization. If a crisis send them into the field with limited training, it would also largely make sense. I think the flaw here is that this would all be less escapist, which is most of the point.

    I also think it would be interesting to see a science fiction version of this idea revolving around a group of trainees at something like Starfleet Academy. Which actually exists with Heinlein’s Space Cadet, but it would be nice to see a modern version without some of its problems.

    • Cay Reet

      It would make a lot more sense, but also mean that Harry Potter and others wouldn’t be children/teen stories, which quite some ‘magic school’ stories are.

    • Leon

      You might enjoy Gunnerkrigg Court. They take students from any age but the place is basically a mad scientists paradise. The courts main goal is to do science to magic – which of course puts them at odds with magical creatures. All i can tell you with out spoilers is every single detail matters.

  9. Elda King

    I disagree quite a bit with 5. If students can sleep through a class that literally teaches how to make bombs, they can sleep through a class teaching fireball spells. If they can be dismissive towards a class that teaches CPR and other first-aid procedures, they can be dismissive towards magical classes.

    Our real-world, “mundane” school knowledge isn’t inherently uncool or useless. If we focused only on the end results, everyone would want to know how to make cool stuff with science, or how to speak a second language, or how to play music, or martial arts. The problem, however, is that the process of learning is hard, slow and often boring. Which are all things that magic schools could also be – authors often go out of their way to make magic hard to learn. So yeah, I don’t think students in a magic school are going to be all that motivated towards studying, or any more respectful of nerds because of that.

    I mean, maybe if you assume that magic is easy and produces results quickly, but it still is rare and wondrous… And there is still a big difference on how well students perform, even though everyone should be a lot more motivated…

    I should also note that the trope of the bullied, socially inept nerds and the too-cool-for-studying kids isn’t necessarily a good representation of reality.

    • Cay Reet

      No, the trope is not a good representation of reality, but it is very common in all forms of media aimed at kids and teens or portraying them. There’s hardly a high school series or movie without the old ‘jocks vs. nerds’ trope and it has even moved into adult entertainment with series like “The Big Bang Theory,” which draws most of its jokes from nerd stereotypes and the ‘jocks vs. nerds’ idea. That means most forms of media dealing with school settings are using that trope to a certain degree and have for a long time.

      That trope, as #5 points out, would however be actually turned around, because in a school for magic, the usual ‘breeding ground’ for the jocks, the sports teams, would play a very small role, if one at all.
      The ‘jocks’ are not on top of the food chain in teen series, because it’s the natural order of things (as you rightfully point out, this trope doesn’t happen in reality that much). They’re on top of the food chain, because ‘being a sports ace’ is ranked higher by the general school populace (and in some cases even by the teachers) than ‘being a good student’ or ‘having a lot of unusual knowledge and skills.’ Their physical skills are marketable for the schools (where the team sports often play a huge role in school life) and thus they have influence. And that is, because their skills have actual use while in school, unlike being good at chemistry (unless the student in question is making drugs). The sports teams show immediate success, they can be celebrated. That way, the members of the team get prestige.

      Now have a look at a magical school. Is it likely that they’ll have that fixation on body and physical skills? No, it’s not. Mages are (also a trope and a stereotype, of course) usually associated with mental powers, not with physical prowess. So the usual reason why jocks are important is not going to apply to magical schools. There might be some (such as HP) with team sports, but a lot more emphasize would normally be put on the use of magic. And that means that ‘classic’ nerd characters (which includes the ‘know-it-all’ type with the nose in a school book the whole time) would have an advantage and could be in the place which regular teen series reserve for the jocks. Perhaps they’d even have magical tournaments (less dangerous, perhaps, than the Triwizard Tournament from HP), where the best students of various types of magic compete.

  10. Sam Victors

    I’ve been working on a Magical School genre in one of my story ideas.

    The magic school (called a Scholomance) is basically a witch training center for witches discovering their powers, usually from mid teens to early twenties, with child witches considered rare. The Scholomance looks like an ordinary building, be they set in the city or in the countryside/wilderness.

    The witches’ society in my fictional setting are modeled after the Queer community; with young witches upon discovering their powers leaving their homes, schools and families. The stay at the Magic Schools as a kind of permanent residence until they learn to manage on their own. They also learn mundane subjects like math and science.

    Witches in my story are strongly egalitarian, diverse, progressive, and inclusive. One they all share in common is their great reverence for the mythical World Tree/Tree of Life, which happens to be the source of their powers.

    • Cay Reet

      Sounds interesting, but isn’t ‘scholomance’ an expression for a specific school led by the devil, where 13 students are taught each generation, but only 12 are allowed to leave, while the 13th must serve the devil? It might be a good idea to adopt another name in that case.

      • Sam Victors

        It does, but the name literally means ‘School of Magic’ from what I researched.

        There are evil magic schools, which are folklorically known as ‘Black Schools’.

        • Cay Reet

          It was just a warning, in case you hadn’t noticed. If you know and still think it’s the best choice, go ahead with it. The premise of your story sounds really interesting.

        • Kieran

          The idea of an evil magic school actually sounds like a great story premise.
          It also solves Con# 6: if the school is evil it doesn’t need to care about it’s students’ safety.

  11. Sam Victors

    It does, but the name literally means ‘School of Magic’ from what I researched.

    There are evil magic schools, which are folklorically known as ‘Black Schools’.

  12. Matthew

    Well, If so much of what we learn in school is useless, then there could be plenty of time for magic lessons by simply cutting out all the useless stuff.

  13. Kalani

    I honestly feel like this genre has to be done very well, or else it’s boring and cliched.

  14. Cannoli

    Are there any Magic School works in which the protagonists are teachers? I think that would be a lot better use of the School of Magic as a setting. You still have the exposition mechanic and if the school year keeps changing, you have excuses to repeat exposition. The teachers are going to be adults, and the variety of students, students’ families, backgrounds and external events that affect the education system can all be excuses for bringing new stuff up. Instead of leading people to ask “How can this horrible faculty keep putting students in danger” the safety of the students is an additional challenge for the teachers.

    The varied specialties demanded by the curriculum is a reason to have a magically diverse cast of main or regular characters. If you think about it, the student body of Hogwarts are just a bunch of British twerps, regardless of cosmetic differences. It’s the faculty that’s really diverse and divergent. I’d have liked to see more conflict and interaction among Snape, McGonagle, Lupin, Moody, Sprout, Flitwick & Trelawney and maybe some aldult perspective on why they keep Hagrid & Filch around. Maybe the pain-in-the-ass janitor is considered an invaluable aid to the problems of running that whole madhouse. And in another school, you could have teachers from all over the world teaching Chinese or African or Indian or Middle Eastern magical methods, traditions and philosophies. The rationale for a variety of skill sets and “classes” in an adventuring party is entirely Doylist – to handle a variety of situations, but the Watsonian rationale is often lacking or stretched to explain why a devout champion of the gods might be traveling and fighting alongside a power-seeking troublemaker who relies on demons or a bunch of career criminals. Why would someone devoted to healing and saving lives be BFF with a professional murderer? Unless they have been hired to teach at the same school, to give the kids a well-rounded education.

    Maybe there’s an enforced neutrality policy, so factions that would be assassinating or going to war with one another in the real world can actually have a civil conversation in the faculty lounge. Persecuted witches could take a position on the faculty for protection, moralistic scholar-monks embrace the chance to set young people on the proper life path, and researchers & innovators want to take advantage of the funding and facilities to study & test theories, and supporters of unpopular factions or ideologies might welcome the chance to compete for recruits on a level playing field.

    Basically, the Magic School setting provides a means for all sorts of character-driven conflict, a venue for competition and a common allegiance with shared stakes. You can’t give EVERY member of the adventuring crew a wife and kids back home to worry about, but threaten a classroom full of first-graders and every member of the faculty cast has a stake in the conflict. And you can still have the authority figures and confining structure if the cast is teachers, rather than students. You can balance stuff as well, by having teachers and students as equal participants in the stories (if not as equals themselves), so you aren’t trying to make mountains out of the molehills like “Who’s going to be captain of the team?” and other low-stakes adolescent nonsense.

    I think a much more interesting story would be a bunch of adults trying to cope with the Chosen One coming through their school over a period of several years, with skeptics contrasted with devotees, not necessarily of the kid itself, but rather the ideas or authority that says this kid is Chosen. Believers of the prophecies fight over whether or not he is the fulfilment. Believers fight with skeptics who question the prophecy. Some will see a duty to prepare the Chosen One to meet its destiny, others a chance to nudge the Chosen One to put their own spin on how that destiny works out. Forget Harry Potter playing a made-up sport that makes no sense, I want to be in the head of Severus Snape, trying to cast magic spells with your neck bent backwards, protecting a kid in an already dangerous situation, from an unknown threat, while you’re the one who’s actually on to the villain, and meanwhile conflicted because the kid is the offspring of the people you loved and hated the most, and your own personal choices and redemption are wrapped up in events to come at which he’s the center.

    The closest I’ve ever read is Pratchet, which was more a parody than anything else, and Wheel of Time, but in that one, the magic school was just one part of the story, and the educational aspect was only one small part of the organization’s purpose. Like if a high school or college faculty was more concerned with their political activism and research projects than their classes… so, you know, actually the most realistic depiction of a magic university.

    • Cay Reet

      That’s actually a great premise for a story. I don’t think there’s many stories about teachers in general (meaning the more or less regular life of a teacher – not a college professor or someone else ‘higher up,’ just your regular primary or secondary school teacher). A faculty room is bound to be the place where teacher who don’t like each other (or detest each other’s subject) have to mix. A room where teachers recover between classes (which, I imagine, could be pretty exhausting at a magical school, where you have to worry about more than cheating during an exam, with the students learning to bend the world to their will). A room where you have fractions which might vary from time to time, throughout the school year. Where alliances are forged and broken over extracurricula subjects for the students. And where the view of the Chosen One might, indeed, be much less favourable than among the students.

      It would have done especially the character of Severus Snape a world of good, had the readers spent some time in his mind early on in the HP series…

  15. Angelo Pardi

    Three remarks :
    About 4) The Bartimeus trilogy does solve the problem quite well by making knowledge of trigonometry, Latin, Greek, or Hebrew mandatory to use magic.

    About 5) Harry Potter also does the bully trope quite well. Malfoy is a bully who rely on his family relation and social status.
    Besides I don’t really see why sports would not be cool in a world with magic. We have boats and planes and cars yet people who can run fast or swim fast are still cool.

    Now onto my main point.
    Please don’t use “algebra” or “mathematics” as examples of something boring.
    Mathematicians are real people too.

    • Cay Reet

      Latin, Greek, and Hebrew aren’t exactly everyday subjects everyone takes in real life, so it would be pretty much like other classes taught in a magical school (if I remember it right, one of the additional classes Hermione took in the third book was some form of mathematics used for magic, too). All of those are not mundane subjects and will not give the students a leg into the non-magical world after they’ve finished their schooling. That’s the main problem with magic schools: they don’t prepare their students for a life in the regular world after school, which means the students have no other choice than stay in the magical world, no matter what they want.

      In a magical school setting, I can’t really see how sports would have the same position as in the American high school (sports aces are less high up the hierarchy in the school systems of other countries). Keep in mind that regular high schools compete through their sports teams, some even have sponsors, which brings the school money. I think that in a magical school, magic would take that spot and there might be competitions (more or less friendly) between magical schools in which their students compete in that field. That doesn’t mean sports can’t exist or be enhanced with magic (see Quidditch in the HP books), but I doubt they’d normally take the same high position. It would bring a magical school far more prestige and be far more interesting to watch when the students show how powerful their magic is.

      I do agree that mathematics aren’t something boring in general, although higher mathematics are pretty much alien to most people on our planet. I’m sure they’re highly interesting to mathematicians, though.

      • Angelo Pardi

        As a mathematician I get a bit sick of hearing every single person I meet (Every Single Person.) say something like “I’ve always hated maths” or “maths is soooo boooring”.

        • Cay Reet

          As a non-mathematician, I have to admit that maths are very hard on people who don’t have the mind for working with numbers and formulas (same goes for physics, though). That can quickly translate into a hate for mathematics. It might be how we teach maths to children more than the actual facts, but it is like that for a lot of people.

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