In book/film five of the story, they have introduced a fantastic new character: Dolores Umbridge (pictured here). I won't overwhelm you with the whole HP story, but Professor Umbridge has been appointed to Hogwarts School by the Ministry of Magic as an agent of change at the school. As I watched her character develop in this movie, I couldn't help but laugh at some similarities she shares with a few characters whom I've met in real life.
On first glance, you know Dolores is different. Instead of the typical black robe worn by students and teachers, Dolores shows up in a tailored pink wool suit complete with a flowery pink pill box hat and matching handbag. She looks like a spokeswoman for Pepto-Bismol. Visibly, she is the antithesis of what wizardry and witchcraft look like. Her first words to the student body give you a hint as to why she has been brought to Hogwarts.
After the Headmaster's brief introduction, Professor Umbridge interrupts to say:
"Progress for the sake of progress must be discouraged...let us preserve what must be preserved...let us perfect what can be perfected...and let us prune practices that ought to be prohibited."
Spoken with a tight smile and a syrupy sweet British accent, you know she is going to be at odds with at least the students and most likely the administration. I'll get back to her "pruning practices" in a moment, but I want to begin with her first day in the classroom.
"There Is Nothing Out There, Dear!"
On the first day of class, Professor Umbridge introduces herself and her subject matter:
Dolores Umbridge:"Your previous instruction in this subject has been disturbingly uneven. But you will be pleased to know from now on, you will be following a carefully structured, Ministry-approved course of defensive magic. Yes?"
Hermione Granger:"There's nothing in here about using defensive spells..."
Dolores Umbridge: "...You will be learning about defensive spells in a secure, risk-free way."
Harry Potter: "Well, what use is that? If we're gonna be attacked it won't be risk-free."
Dolores Umbridge:"It is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be sufficient to get you through your examinations, which after all, is what school is all about."
Harry Potter: "And how is theory supposed to prepare us for what's out there?"
Dolores Umbridge:"There is nothing out there, dear!"
Please tell me you caught what I caught here? Maybe it's just my experience with uber-conservative Christianity, but there are several aspects to this character that I found to be humorously analogous to some branches in the Christian Homeschooling Tree. Here is what I caught: Theory versus reality. Risk-free environments. Professor Umbridge focuses on teaching these Hogwart's students the theoretical knowledge of dealing with evil, but refuses to provide them any real skills or experience for engagement or defense.
The comparison I found is simple. Christian homeschoolers (and I'm one of them) have plucked their kids from the public school system. Theory of engagement with the world is and should be taught, yet for some families that is where they stop (and this is where I swing down a few branches on the tree). Here's what I've personally witnessed: These families never use their training in the real world. In an "us vs. them" mentality they continue to sterilize their children by raising them to avoid any engagement with the world. They disengage from anything to do with popular culture instead of entering the culture equipped with a Christian worldview and practicing the skills of defense (read: Gospel living). After pulling away from the philosophies of the world, they never return to engage the world with sound Biblical philosophy. Even after equipping their families with the tools to engage, their energies are spent avoiding the world and living in a "secure risk-free way." Like this example from Professor Umbridge at Hogwarts School, these parents never intend on letting their students leave the classroom.
After only a short time at Hogwarts, the Ministry of Magic expands the Pink Professor's role at the school: "Having already revolutionized the teaching of Defence Against the Dark Arts, Dolores Jane Umbridge will, as High Inquisitor, have powers to address the seriously falling standards at Hogwarts School."
Here is another place where I found that art intersects reality.