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Friday, September 15, 2017

At St. Cloud State: Harry Potter and the philosopher's class | St. Cloud Times

St. Cloud State University professor
Carolyn Hartz sits at her desk with
materials for her philosophy course
focused on the Harry Potter stories
on campus, Tuesday, Sept. 5.
Photo: Nora G. Hertel
Nora Hertel, Government Watchdog Reporter at St. Cloud Times Media notes, "It's the season when students gather their textbooks — and their magic wands and cauldrons — to return to school at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."

The non-magic students, or muggles, at St. Cloud State University can mix the magical world of Harry Potter with lessons on philosophy courtesy of  professor Carolyn Hartz

On St. Cloud State Professor Carolyn Hartz's desk sits a potion puzzle she recreated from the first Harry Potter book for her philosophy students.
Photo: Nora G. Hertel
Her class applies Aristotle's 2,500-year-old writings on friendship to character relationships in the J.K. Rowling books-turned-movies about boy wizard Harry Potter. 

"Most of the students in the class are Harry Potter nerds. That's why they sign up for it," Hartz said. "I tell them: 'You can bring your wands, but you can't use them on exams.'"

Hartz's class covers ethics, logic, love, the human soul and the nature of time through the lens of the Harry Potter stories. Students consider the philosophy of education too, because, after all, the stories all take place at the school Hogwarts. 

"These are fundamental human concerns," Hartz said. "Philosophy is, in my view, critical thinking about fundamental areas of human concern."

Miles Nelson, a second-year St. Cloud State student, took Hartz's Harry Potter course last spring and it inspired him to pursue a minor in philosophy. His major is mass communications in TV broadcasting.

"This class really solidified how much I love thinking about hard problems and questions with hard answers," Nelson said.

Hartz's class made Nelson a bigger fan of the Harry Potter series as well. Nelson took the course with Hartz in Alnwick Castle as part of a British study-abroad program. Filmmakers shot some scenes for the early Harry Potter movies there. 

Rowling's stories provided understandable examples for the tough concepts in philosophy, Nelson said. And the class showed the depth of Rowling's work.

"If you read (the Harry Potter series) through as a kid, you probably didn't see the elements of the story that are really deep and profound," he said.

Hartz's sunlit office has Harry Potter-themed trinkets in every corner, and she wears a Time-Turner around her neck, a necklace used by the character Hermione Granger to go back in time (and take more classes). 

On her desk Hartz has a recreated logic puzzle from the first book, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." To students she hands out red stones, known as philosopher's stones in the British version of the book. 

Using principles of ethics, they consider which magical spells should be allowed. They talk about how author Rowling views a human soul, as the dark magic in the story includes dementors, which can suck out a soul, and horcruxes, which are made to hold part of a desecrated soul. 

Hartz has taught her course for a few years and it usually fills up, she said. It's the third week of the semester and she has about 20 students and room for more.

She's not the only college professor to tap into students' enthusiasm for Harry Potter. 

Source: St. Cloud Times  

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