Professor Binns

For those of you who are familiar with the novel series, Harry Potter, you’ll need no explanation about the title of this post, but for others, let’s talk Harry Potter for a minute. Throughout the Harry Potter series, you meet many teachers who are the stereotypes of the educational system. There’s the brooding Professor Severus Snape who teaches potions (and is my personal favorite character). Professor Snape is the stereotypical “bad guy” teacher. He yells at his students and is willing to give out detentions for any reason, including breathing at inappropriate times. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you understand my point. Then there’s Professor Minerva McGonagall who teaches transfiguration. She’s a no-nonsense lady who is fiercely protective of her students but is not willing to let infractions go unnoticed. Professor Sybil Trelawney teaches divination and is your typical “crazy” teacher. She spews out prophecies that are ridiculous and you can frequently find her getting lost in gazing into a crystal ball.

Finally, we come to Professor Binns. Cuthbert Binns teaches History of Magic, and he is the stereotypical history teacher. J.K. Rowling, the author of the series, goes so far as to make him a ghost. There are rumors throughout the school that the man is so oblivious and dull that he did not even notice when he had died. He simply rose from his chair and went into his classroom. The students in the books say that the most exciting part of his class is when he enters the classroom through the chalkboard. From there he proceeds to lecture them with facts, spew out dates for them to memorize, and his students are too afraid to stop his lectures to ask questions. Most students fall asleep during his class, and it is clear throughout the books that this is because he is not captivating his audience with the history he has before him (which includes the history of Merlin, so it’s not as if he doesn’t have an exciting history to tell). Students make it clear that they would rather be down in the dungeons with Professor Snape yelling at them than in the history classroom.

As a student of history, I take great issue with this image of history being presented in as popular a piece of fiction as the Harry Potter series has become. In the books, even the smartest, most devoted student finds herself completely bored throughout this class period. There is a huge problem here. Some kids will read these books and truly believe that the history class here represents all history classes; the teacher, all history teachers. This can only grow the dislike people feel towards history. There needs to be a major attitude change towards history classes. The students that I know who are studying history education have great ideas about changing the study of history and making students love history, but that needs to be the attitude of all future history teachers if we are going to have an impact on this field. There needs to be an end to the Professor Binns teaching style.

Posted in Some Simple Rants On History, Teaching History

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