Study Guide

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Education

By J.K. Rowling

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"Yes, I think it is time that I took a greater hand in your education." (4.215)

What kind of education does Harry receive at Hogwarts? What does he learn to do, what skills does he hone? Do you consider learning everything there is to know about Voldemort "education"?

"I know I messed up Ancient Runes," muttered Hermione feverishly, "I definitely made at least one serious mistranslation. And the Defense Against the Dark Arts practical was no good at all. I thought Transfiguration went all right at the time, but looking back–" (5.220)

Hermione is one intense cookie when it comes to school, but that's why she's the best in her year, as Harry tells Slughorn. What does her feverish desire to learn and excel tell us about Hermione? Does she only care about grades, or is she concerned about learning too? How do Ron, Hermione, and Harry's approaches to school differ?

"Harry looked back down at his results. They were as good as he could have hoped for. He felt just one tiny twinge of regret….This was the end of his ambition to become an Auror. He had not secured the required Potions grade. He had known all along that he wouldn't, but he still felt a sinking in his stomach as he looked again at that small black E." (5.248)

Why does Harry want to become an Auror? We all know the feeling of what it's like to get a bad grade, but Harry hasn't gotten a bad grade, he just hasn't gotten the best grade needed in order to advance. We think Professor McGonagall is pretty awesome for mentoring and advising Harry to continue his path toward becoming an Auror.

"Mother wants me to complete my education, but personally, I don't see it as that important these days. I mean, think about it….When the Dark Lord takes over, is he going to care how many O.W.L.s or N.E.W.T.s anyone's got? Of course he isn't….It'll be all about the kind of service he received, the level of devotion he was shown." (7.215)

Draco does have a point here; school seems irrelevant when one considers the Dark Lord's powers and potential harm. What are the Hogwarts students learning, exactly, and is all of Slytherin in support of Voldemort? Are there seriously people aside from Draco who want to fight for Voldemort? Why doesn't anyone around Draco say, "Yeah, but the Dark Lord isn't going to take over"? Has Draco charmed his friends into being supporters?

"I love being a sixth year. And we're going to be getting free time this year. Whole periods when we can just sit up here and relax." (9.6)

Oh silly Ron, with great privileges come great responsibilities. And those responsibilities happen to be in the form of heaps of difficult homework, stressful Apparition classes, and girl trouble.

"This book is the property of the Half-Blood Prince." (9.198)

You'd think Harry would have learned by now not to tamper with any book belonging to someone else (think back to Book 2), but "the Half-Blood Prince" is a kind of catchy, exciting name. We kind of don't blame him for wanting to know more. If the Half-Blood Prince had taken the time and effort to write his name in his book and to make sure no one else would mistake it for theirs, why has it been left so carelessly behind in Potions class? You'd think that someone calling himself "the Half-Blood Prince" would have wanted to keep that book.

"Firstly, and very importantly, Voldemort was, I believe, more attached to this school than he has ever been to a person. Hogwarts was where he had been happiest; the first and only place he had felt at home." (20.67)

Why did Voldemort feel at home at Hogwarts? What kind of home had he known before? It's always fun to be really good at something, and if Voldemort had really been such a great wizard at a young age, that would have made him a Big Man On Campus (BMOC). He and Harry have that in common.

"I am surprised you have remained here so long," said Voldemort after a short pause. "I always wondered why a wizard such as yourself never wished to leave school." (20.159)

Now that we think about it, why has Dumbledore remained at Hogwarts? What is the appeal of teaching? Dumbledore, like Harry, seems uninterested in fame or money. He seeks to produce leaders who will affect the Wizarding community for the better.

"Of some kinds of magic," Dumbledore corrected him quietly. "Of some. Of others, you remain…forgive me…woefully ignorant." (20.170)

Oh, snap. Dumbledore sasses Voldemort. But he does so in the most polite way. Notice how, as Voldemort asks for a teaching position at Hogwarts, Dumbledore never raises his voice or gets overly emotional. He remains rational. He treats Voldemort with the respect he would treat any guest, and yet, he doesn't forget his role as teacher. He tries to teach Voldemort in this moment, which tells us that he still has hope that Voldemort might come around.

"Yes…for homework," said Professor Flitwick, reemerging from under the table and pulling shards of glass out of the top of his hat, "practice." (24.20)

We get a good chuckle out of the fact that Harry, a great and brave wizard in his own right, still has to practice and do his homework. He has to put his pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us.

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