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Thread: Your View on the House System at Hogwarts

  1. #1
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    Your View on the House System at Hogwarts

    So a weird little hypothetical sprang to mind just now, and I kind of want to know peoples' opinions on it.

    Say it's around the time that the next generation of wizards would be hitting Hogwarts, and the school governors (or whoever talks about issues at the school) had a radical new proposal. Some parents may remember the Sorting Hat's warning against letting house rivalries divide the students. Some may remember all the animosity between houses, and the stubborn prejudices that get attached to you depending on your house (Gryffindors are the good guys, Slytherins the bad guys, Ravenclaws are smart, and Hufflepuffs are spares - or, alternately, Ravenclaw AND Hufflepuff are the spare houses). Maybe they also remember the camaraderie you had with fellow members of your house. Maybe they remember how much the points system and House Cup regulated behavior, certain would-be troublemakers backing down in the face of probable hatred from their peers. Keeping all this - and whatever other concerns you can think of - in mind, as a concerned parent, would you be for or against abolishing the house system?

  2. #2
    Sparrow
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    Hmmm... that's a good question. I think ultimately I would be against abolishing it because it does have its advantages but I think it's long overdue a rethink. Certainly splitting students up based on attributes at the age of eleven doesn't account for the way people change with age and must massively encourage stereotypes. Not to mention that it basically discourages them from mixing with other people. As far as I can recall the only real inter-house friendship we hear of is between Ginny and Luna, even the Patil sisters are rarely mentioned together after they are put into different houses. From personal experience I know that being a house can encourage a level of team spirit and competitiveness but it can also encourage rivalry and sometimes near bullying of people who were felt to have failed their house. I think perhaps Hogwarts needs to place less emphasis upon houses and perhaps consider a resort (maybe at the start of O.W.Ls and N.E.W.Ts).

    And now I'm treating this far too much like a real issue and I'm going to back off.

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    I think that the house system is good, because it gives you a group of people who have similar personalities. So, it would make it easier to make friends. In my opinion, one of the reasons that peoples closest friends are in the same house is students spend most of their time with their housemates. (They have classes together, they share the same common room, they live in the same dormitory, they sit at the same table... etc.) The reason that we almost never see the Patil sisters together is that they grew apart because they spent so little time together. I didn't really get the impression that Ginny and Luna were particularly close, but that could be just me.

    I agree though that that the system causes quite a bit of competitiveness. But, I don't think the reason that there are so few inter-house friendships is that the students of Hogwarts spend most of their time with people from their house, so they simply get to know the people from their house better than people from other houses.

    There is also the problem that people change over time. In the Deathly Hallows, Dumbledore makes the comment to Snape that maybe they sort too early. I agree with him. If you look at how Snape behaves as a spy for the order, you could make a pretty good argument for him being in Gryffindor.

    Maybe, they could resort every year. In addition to encouraging inter-house unity, it would also allow people to become closer friends with people from other houses and accommodate changes in personality.

    -Meg

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    Ebil Gato Loco Ravenclaw
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    Maybe, they could resort every year. In addition to encouraging inter-house unity, it would also allow people to become closer friends with people from other houses and accommodate changes in personality.
    That's an interesting thought. How would they resort EVERYONE? O.0 That would take forever, no? Perhaps all the first-years can live together and they can get sorted during their second or third year. It would encourage students to maintain the friendships they created during the first two years, even if their best friend is in a different house.

    I don't think resorting every year is feasible because you reach a certain point where your personality is rather cut and dry. It's the first two or three years where you're the most impressionable.

    Also, how do you counter the fact that Harry persuaded the Hat to put him in a house other than Slytherin?


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    Okay, resorting everyone would be incredibly time consuming and tedious. But, it is possible. I got the impression that the sorting took approximately half and hour to an hour. So they could have all the first years be sorted at the feast, then have the older students sorted the next day or something.

    I'm going to disagree with the statement:
    Quote Originally Posted by mugglemathdork
    you reach a certain point where your personality is rather cut and dry.
    I think that peoples personalities are constantly changing. Once someone reaches adulthood, they can still change as a person. The events of a persons life shape their personality. So, as people experience new events and gain new perspectives their personality will change slowly. Most people have traits from multiple houses, and as they experience new things different traits may become more apparent and certain traits may become less apparent. This happened to Snape in the books. From what is shown of his school experience, it can be assumed that he was a pretty stereotypical Slytherin. But once Lily is threatened, he becomes a spy for the order, and that's a pretty brave thing to do. I would say that by the end of The Deathly Hallows, you could make the argument that if he was being sorted during the Deathly Hallows he would have made Gryffindor.

    Quote Originally Posted by mugglemathdork
    Harry persuaded the Hat to put him in a house other than Slytherin
    In my opinion, Harry was able to persuade the Hat to put him in Gryffindor because he clearly exhibited Gryffindor traits. As I said earlier, almost every student has traits which belong to multiple houses. The Hat obviously saw Slytherin traits, but it obviously also saw Gryffindor traits or it wouldn't have put him in Gryffindor. The Sorting Hat's job is to decide what aspect of a person's personality is most distinctive. If Harry had asked to be in a house which he did not belong in what-so-ever, I don't think that the Sorting Hat would have put him there. The defining trait of Gryffindor house is bravery, and it would be very difficult to argue that Harry is not extremely brave.

    I agree that with Annalise28's statement, about keeping quidditch and the house point system the way it is, but randomizing seating and classes. Another benefit of that is that the classes could be leveled. That would allow more advanced pupils, like Hermione, to be able to work at their level. It would also allow students like Neville (in potions for example) to get extra help in the subject that they're struggling in. The system in use in the books puts everyone in the same class, regardless of level. It doesn't truly challenge students like Hermione and it causes students who really don't get the subject to fail.

  6. #6
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    As a parent, I wouldn't want the house system to be removed as (previously stated) it helps with team work and competitiveness. It also helps the students to make new friends, and to (hopefully) feel like they belong to a group. The sorting of houses based on their personalities helps with this. Maybe if Hogwarts had a massive surge of new admissions (I'm talking like ten times the people), then they could sort students without using their personalities, as in a random sorting. Then a student from a house would be bound to find someone they liked in their house, someone they had things in common with. But I suppose this would take away from the magic of the sorting, make it more boring and Muggle. I also agree with whoever said that less focus should be placed upon houses. Still have common rooms, the quidditch matches and dorms and point system and whatnot, but maybe just by randomising the classes and dinner tables, they would have a lot more house union (I'm sure there is another word for this, but I can't think of it right now).

    EDIT: And oh yes, I don't think they could resort EVERYONE! That would be a massive task, and I don't think the school wants to sit there and watch 300 people be resorted. And I suppose resorting everyone every year (if this wasn't a tedious task in the first place), would take away from the magic of the sorting. You are sorted once, and it is a really special thing (IMHO) for the person and for their family. I like the idea proposed above about keeping all of the first years together, and then the second years, and then sorting everyone in their third year when their personalities are more concrete. It would also help inter-house-unity (aha! that's what it is!) as you wouldn't really want to leave your best friends just because you're in a different houses.

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  7. #7
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    Once someone reaches adulthood, they can still change as a person. The events of a persons life shape their personality. So, as people experience new events and gain new perspectives their personality will change slowly.
    Yes, I agree, but we're talking about teenagers here not adults.

    I would say that by the end of The Deathly Hallows, you could make the argument that if he was being sorted during the Deathly Hallows he would have made Gryffindor.
    I can't agree with this. Severus Snape was a vile character. He was a bully to his students, constantly picking on them, verbally abusive, and petty. In addition, he had already made up his mind about Harry before even meeting him only because he was James Potter's son. He was snarky and bitter and only became a spy for the Order for his own selfish reasons and that was Lily Evans. The bottom line is that Snape loyalties were always with himself not with Dumbledore nor Riddle. Everything that Snape did could be looked at from a Slytherin point of view.

    That said, sorting at a later year makes much more sense than resorting every year. When you're sorted, it's supposed to be a magical once in a lifetime experience as Annalise stated.

    I wasn't the same person at eleven that I was at fourteen. By the time I hit that age, I was much more grounded in the person who I would become some day. If I had been sorted as an eleven year old I would have ended up in Hufflepuff, but if I had been sorted as a fourteen year old I would have ended up in Ravenclaw or Slytherin.

    That would allow more advanced pupils, like Hermione, to be able to work at their level. It would also allow students like Neville (in potions for example) to get extra help in the subject that they're struggling in. The system in use in the books puts everyone in the same class, regardless of level. It doesn't truly challenge students like Hermione and it causes students who really don't get the subject to fail.
    Wasn't there Remedial Potions and Advanced Runes for this? I don't recall reading that anyone actually failed any classes during their time in Hogwarts or expelled for that matter. Other than the Weasley twins who dropped out it seems everyone finished their magical education. If anything, I think Muggle-borns or Muggle raised students should have taken classes on wizarding culture during their first year or two instead of having to learn it as they go like Harry often had to during the books.


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  8. #8
    psijupiter
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    I think I would want to change the house system quite a lot. The main problem is that while I think have a house is a good idea, in terms of creating teamwork and healthy competition and all of that, in the real world school houses are sorted randomly. This means that while people can get quite invested in thier houses, there is a bit of a distance, while at Hogwarts you are sorted based on who you are as a person, and this veers the competition into a really unhealthy area, in my opinion.

    The other thing is that, with the wizarding world being so small, pretty much everyone you are going to meet in your adult life will also have been to Hogwarts, so it seems that house rivallry and assuptions about people's character continue on into their adult lives - for example Arthur Weasley and Lucius Malfoy, as an extreme example, but it could easily affect people on a smaller basis, for example, would employers ask what house you were in at Hogwarts if you went for an interview? What if you were a Slytherin and your potential employer was a Gryffindor? What if the employer wanted a 'hard-working' Hufflepuff or an 'intelligent' Ravcenclaw? Possibly it wouldn't matter, but I caould see it happening.

    It doesn't help that you have 1,000 years of history, assuptions and rivallry going on. Looking back at the reactions of pupils in the first book, that is a lot for an eleven year old to take in. After only a few days in the wizarding world, Harry was desperate not to be in Slytherin - I can imagine what that would be likfe for someone like Draco, or the Weasleys, or anyone elsewho grew up in the wizarding world.

    I guess one alternative would be to sort as is done now, so pupils have the magical once in a lifetime experience of the sorting, but to either have pupils live in their year groups, or create four new houses into which pupils were sorted randomly to determine where who they would live/go to classes with. Pupils could even apply for these prior to entry.

    Random thought - perhaps pupils could be sorted when they leave school instead. So you would have four randomly assigned houses throughout school, and then when you leave you get the big once-a-lifetime sorting. It could even be done in private, and it would turn it into quite a nice, personal, reflective experience for people about to enter the adult world for the first time.

    Another benefit of that is that the classes could be leveled. That would allow more advanced pupils, like Hermione, to be able to work at their level. It would also allow students like Neville (in potions for example) to get extra help in the subject that they're struggling in. The system in use in the books puts everyone in the same class, regardless of level. It doesn't truly challenge students like Hermione and it causes students who really don't get the subject to fail.
    This is actually something that I have seen argued recently about reforming the real world education system. (Though it isn't a new idea!) The idea that we 'process' children through school by 'batches' based on their birthdate was part of the outdated factory-based system, which doesn't actually help pupils get the most out of education. Most secondary schools I know of set/stream pupils for this reason - because it is easier to teach a class where everyone is at the same level. Hogwarts isn't big enough for that, so I think taking the entire school and sorting them all would work quite well. You would still get a general division by age, just because subjects need previous knowledge, but I think it could work.

    The only downside would be that you might get, at least for the first two years, a two tier system with muggleborns at the bottom simply because they haven't lived in the wizarding world. You could counter this with something like a two/four week intentive 'introduction' course, which would probably be a really good idea anyway, tbh!

    ... and that is way to much thinking for 6am on a Sunday.

  9. #9
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    The problem isn't with the Houses: it's with the Hat. Having a sub-section of the population of the school to have closer bonds with is all well and good, but it's the magic hat that can tell what kind of person you are and puts you in a group with like-minded people that screws it up for everyone. Would Slytherin have its reputation for being full of Dark wizards if the Sorting Hat didn't put all the people with the traits of those most likely to turn there in the first place? Would Hufflepuff still be seen as a bit of a joke if the Hat didn't put all the rejects from the other Houses there? Just keep the Sorting Hat in the Headmaster's office one year, and pull names out of a thoroughly non-magical hat and see how that goes.
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    The current house system of Hogwarts sorts people into different categories based on their personality types. But does that really do anything? The current system gathers together a group of people with similar personality traits. It could be argued that students are more likely to get along with people with like personalities. After all, almost all the friendships seen in the Harry Potter books are within a single house. Examples of tight knit groups of friends like Harry, Ron, and Hermione or the Marauders could be used in defense of this argument. But is the reason that inter-house friendships are rarely seen because people get along with similar people? Or, is it because students of Hogwarts spend so little time with students outside of their own house.

    The students of each house have classes together, they share the same common room, they live in the same dormitory, and they sit at the same table. When are there opportunities to spend time with students of other houses? I suppose they could study in the library together. They probably also could eat at the same table. After all, there isn’t a rule that says that students are forbidden to eat with students of other houses. But it isn’t done. And that is more important to teenagers than the fact that it is technically allowed. If it were forbidden, the practice of having meals with students from other houses would probably be in greater practice than it currently is. After all by creating a rule, some students will break that rule just to be rebellious.

    The house system, of sorting students into houses based on personality, obviously causes prejudices against students based on their house. In the Harry Potter books this is constantly seen. As any student of Hogwarts could tell you, the Gryffendors are the good guys, the Slytherins are the bad guys, the Ravenclaws are the smart ones, and the Hufflepuffs are everyone else. Now as is the case with most stereotypes, this one is incorrect. But why should the students change their minds. Adults are supposedly telling students that all the houses are equally good, but by their actions they don’t seem to be so open-minded.

    In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone many of the family prejudices about different houses are first introduced. Ron, who is from an almost exclusively Gryffindor family, says that:

    “Mom and Dad were in [Gryffindor] too. I don’t know what they’ll say if I’m not. I don’t suppose Ravenclaw would be too bad, but imagine if they put me in Slytherin.” (p.106)

    The Weasleys have obviously made Ron think that they will be disappointed in him if he doesn’t end up in Gryffindor house. It is very doubtful that Mr. and Mrs. Weasley have told Ron that Gryffindor is the best house, but because of the family trend of being in Gryffindor and the fact that there are probably slight disparaging remarks made about the other houses Ron clearly has gotten the impression that he will be a disappointment if he is not a Gryffindor.
    In this statement, one can get an idea of what the houses look like from a Gryffindor perspective. Gryffindor is obviously considered the best, and this is carried so far as to make Ron feel like he’s second-rate if he’s not in Gryffindor. The next house that is mentioned is Ravenclaw. Ron seems to think that Ravenclaw is clearly not as good as Gryffindor, but it’s not too bad. The last house that he speaks of is Slytherin. By saying “imagine if they put me in Slytherin,” The reader gets a clear understanding that Slytherin is the worst house by far. If Ron was sorted into Slytherin imagine how his family would react. Would they go so far as to disown him? Probably not. But the relationship between him and his family would probably never be the same again. Their trust in him would be broken, because of their preconceived notions of what Slytherin house is like. Hufflepuff isn’t even mentioned. This is because the Gryffindors view them as the ones who aren’t brave enough to be in Gryffindor, aren’t smart enough to be in Ravenclaw, and aren’t evil enough to be in Slytherin. They’re just the guys in the back round. Ravenclaw is also included in the back round. The houses that are referenced the most are undeniably Slytherin and Gryffindor, the good guys and the bad guys. One must wonder how Ronald Weasley’s preconceived notions about the four houses may have changed the way he’s sorted.

    It seems to be a general rule that students get into the houses they were hoping to get into. The most obvious example of this is Harry Potter. The Sorting Hat seems to want to put him in Slytherin. But because Harry is consciously begging the hat not to put him in Slytherin he gets put in Gryffindor. Harry isn’t the only example of this though.

    Muggleborns should be the least biased. But obviously on the train they hear stuff about all four of the houses. It is extremely doubtful that they have as much pressure on them to get in a specific house as Draco Malfoy or Ron Weasley. But they will form opinions about those houses based on what people tell them. In the Sorcerer’s Stone, Hermione speaks about what she’s been told about the four houses.

    “I hope I’m in Gryffindor, it sounds by far the best; I hear Dumbledore himself was in it, but I suppose Ravenclaw wouldn’t be too bad.”(p.106)

    Hermione’s opinions of the four houses probably come from what she’s read in books and what students have told her. Now, we can presume that these students are the non-pureblood supremacists, as people like Draco Malfoy would almost never talk to a muggleborn. But as the overwhelming majority of Hogwarts are not pureblood supremacists, we can assume that Hermione’s opinion is the general consensus.
    She calls Gryffindor the best. Now, I highly doubt that someone (besides someone from a Gryffindor family) would call Gryffindor the ‘best’ house. But it is an opinion, which is implied throughout the Harry Potter books. (Even though the story is told from the perspective of a Gryffindor.) But whom do we see as the main fighters in the war against Voldemort? The Gryffindors.
    Hermione, like Ron, says that Ravenclaw wouldn’t be too bad. This fits with the assumption that the Ravenclaws are a little bit more respected, but in the big picture they’re still in the back round with the Hufflepuffs.
    Hermione ends up in Gryffindor. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix though, she does say that the hat seriously considered putting her in Ravenclaw. Hermione is obviously brave. But it could be argued that her intelligence and love of learning is a more defining trait than her bravery. If that is the case though, shouldn’t she be in Ravenclaw? We’re now faced with the question of whether Hermione was put in Gryffindor because her bravery was the most defining aspect of her personality or because she asked to be put there.

    It seems that it is impossible for a student to enter Hogwarts without preconceived notions of what the houses will be like. And it is obvious, that student’s preconceived biases and opinions about the houses can change the way they’re sorted. In the Harry Potter books, every student seems to get into the house they were hoping to be in. This calls into question the accuracy of the sorting system.

    The teachers of Hogwarts School are also biased towards certain houses. Professor Snape is the most obvious example of bias towards certain houses, but he is certainly not the only example. We also see Professor McGonagall favoring the students of Gryffindor, by not giving them homework so they can practice for Quidditch.

    One of the most important parts of the house system is the house cup. According to Professor McGonagall:

    “While you are at Hogwarts, your triumphs will earn your house points, while any rule breaking will lose house points. At the end of the year, the house with the most points is awarded the house cup, a great honor.” (Sorcerer’s Stone, p.114)

    House points seem to be given for scholastic achievement and exemplary behavior. The only houses that are ever mentioned to have won it are Gryffindor and Slytherin. The fact that neither Ravenclaw nor Hufflepuff is mentioned as having won it confirms that many people, including the teachers, see them as the houses who are in the back round. Personally, I find it quite surprising that neither Ravenclaw nor Hufflepuff is mentioned winning. Because points are given mainly for scholastic achievement, wouldn’t it be logical for Ravenclaw to have won at least once. The most description seen of the House Cup being awarded is in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Slytherin is originally the victor, but before awarding the house cup Professor Dumbledore awards points to Gryffindor. He awards just enough so that Gryffindor win by ten points. Now we must question whether that was intentional or not.
    Dumbledore seems to be one of the most biased in favor of his house (which was Gryffindor). He is much more covert about it than Professor Snape is, but it could be argued that he is almost or just as biased as Professor Snape. How Gryffindor won the House Cup in Harry’s first year is an excellent example of this. He seems to have a certain amount of contempt for Slytherin, which is shown in the seventh book, when he informs Professor Snape that he doesn’t think that Snape should have been sorted into Slytherin. This is significant because it occurs right after Snape has done something brave and estimable in Professor Dumbledore’s eyes. By saying this right after Snape has done something 'good' isn't Dumbledore implying that he doesn't believe a Slytherin can do something 'good'.

    If the teachers aren’t free of bias, and clearly show it, then how can the students learn to respect their peers in other houses?

    I would propose that the house system be abolished. This is because it seems to create strife between students, and it really isn’t that accurate, because of student’s biases and prejudices against different houses. Students could be placed in dorms, pretty much randomly. The school could allow each student to request one or two friends who would probably be in their room. This way, students have someone familiar in their dorm each year. Classes could be leveled from second year up. That way muggleborns would have some time to learn the basics of the wizarding world. Dinner tables could be random, that is to say that students could sit wherever they wanted. Each group of dorms could have a common room.

    Quidditch teams would have to be slightly different. Like they do already, they could choose four Quidditch captains, then there could be one big long try-out, and the captains could pick their team from that. Or they could each host a try-out, and students interested in playing Quidditch could go to one.

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