Harry Potter and the A-Levels

114

Apr 27, 2008

Posted by SueTLC
Uncategorized

The Daily Mail is reporting tonight that Harry Potter is now required reading for A-level students in the UK. The paper says that Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone is one of the books students will be tested on in exams given by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), the largest exam board in the UK.

According to the paper, students “taking the English language and literature A-level next year will study Rowling’s first Potter volume ’ the 12th best-selling book of all time and the basis for a Hollywood film ’ along with one other book for the module Themes in Language and Literature. They will have to write a 1,200 to 1,500-word piece of coursework comparing the “approaches” of J.K. Rowling and the other writer.Examiners will mark students on how they relate story lines and the activities of Harry Potter and his friends to the context of the times. And students will have to show an understanding of J.K. Rowling’s use of language, described recently as gibberish by a High Court judge. They will also have to write their own 500 to 800-word story inspired by the book.”

While many here may view this favorably, apparently some in the English government are not as excited about the inclusion of the Harry Potter series along side other classic works such Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

Professor Alan Smithers, a special adviser to the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee, said: “The point of English literature is to provide works that have stood the test of time and that allow people to understand their place in the world as others have understood it.I don’t think Harry Potter is appropriate as a set text; I don’t see how it fits in with that. It may be an enjoyable read but I don’t think we are just trying to keep people occupied.”

Nick Seaton, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, added: “This is all done in the name of relevance and popular culture, but it is not why children go to school.They should be encouraged to read and understand the great works of English literature. Harry Potter may be what children want to read, but that doesn’t mean it should be part of an A-level.”

Last night the AQA said: “Harry Potter is a genuine example of literature of our time and therefore entirely deserves its place in this unit. We believe that it will prove a popular and engaging inclusion.”





136 Responses to Harry Potter and the A-Levels

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:O

Why couldn’t they have this when I was doing MY A levels? Then I would have actually taken English :D

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No way. Horrible idea. JK Rowling has a fantastic imagination, but she’s not a great author. A-level kids studying her will only have their literature skills suffer. Makes me glad I’ve chosen the IB. Seriously, Harry Potter is enjoyable, but I would hate to study it. Give me Harper Lee or May Gibbs any day.

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wow, that’s great, i wish i’m in UK,

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Lol, thanks for the Wiki link xD had no idea what an A Level was

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I think this is a fantastic idea. I have always believed that the so-called “literary canon” needs to be updated to contain todays classics. Who decided that something like Hamlet is so much better than a series like Harry Potter? The old great works are included on the list, ensuring their survival through the ages, yes. But newsflash, those authors are all dead. If the canon does not start including modern great works they will be the ones to disappear in time, and the loss of a work like Harry Potter, that have gotten SO many children interested in reading for the first time, would truly be tragic.

Congrats to the AQA for realizing that, like all things, the appreciation of literature must change, update, and improve over time.

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Harry Potter IS great literature. Its not just to keep ppl busy or entertaining. I wish we took test on HP in my school

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Oh man, that’s awesome! I wish I lived in the UK! We could all own that test. If only the SAT was based on HP..

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I love Harry Potter and do regard it as a great work, but considering I read the first book as a third grader, it’s a little strange that they would make high school students study it.

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YOU ARE KIDDING ME!!

I’m just coming to the end of that A Level! We got to choose the books for our coursework for the second year but I was told Harry Potter wasn’t deemed suitable! What a joke! Might fail on purpose so I can retake with that coursework!

Having said that it did lead me to reading A Clockwork Orange which I though was class.

Still, Seems like a good idea to me, though maybe Deathly Hallows is more appropriate- possibly comparing with another novel on the representation of death? Maybe that’s asking too much!

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awesome, they finally did this. one question though don’t they need Jo’s approval?

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That is so cool. all hp fans should do well

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man—that makes me actually want to take a test!!! awesome!! maybe soon it’ll become part of my schools required reading! vive xe

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I don’t know about this. I love Harry Potter but it honestly hasn’t been around long enough to be considered a literary classic…yet. I definitely think that students should be allowed to write about it. The book has had a huge impact on pop culture and it would also be in an interesting study into the models of classic mythology and the idea of the hero and death…but I just don’t think that it should be REQUIRED reading, especially the first book which is definitely not as literarily advanced as the the others.

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I wish it were a part of my Interpretation of Fiction course. That would be sweeeeeet. And to the people who are like, “JK Rowling isn’t a good author” wtf are you doing on this website? lol

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I think that Harry Potter is marvellous in introducing young kids to reading, but there is a point where you have to move beyond Harry Potter. Sure it’s fun, but it doesn’t challange your thinking at all. However, from what I see, it’s just the first book that they’re including – which should be fine as long it hasn’t replaced something better like Great Expectations or Nineteen Eighty-Four. It would be rather interesting to study the Harry Potter phenomena and get students to think about why it’s so popular, but the UK education system should be extremely careful in how far they push with it. To me, writing a tiny 800 word story ‘inspired by the book’ would be a waste of everybody’s time at this level of schooling. But if the students are made to think analytically and critically about it, this might not turn out to be the worst idea proposed in the history of the 21st century.

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I wish they do it here in the U.S. I will past the test with flying colors. I believe that they should go through with the idea and let students enjoy studying Rowling’s books.

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I think it’s a great idea. Harry Potter is not only a novel, it’s a phenomenon, and I think that in itself makes it suitable, even necessary to study, particularly for the British.

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Posted by Sam: “I love Harry Potter and do regard it as a great work, but considering I read the first book as a third grader, it’s a little strange that they would make high school students study it.”

I don’t think it is strange at all. Consider an example from American Literature, Huckleberry Finn. There are many third graders out there with the capability to read and enjoy Huckleberry Finn. However, Huckleberry Finn is also perfectly acceptable reading for the AP Literature and Composition test. The story is easily understood and enjoyed, however it has compex themes, symbolism, and allusion that are not so easily understood and that are prime material for sophisticated analysis. I think that Harry Potter is very similar in this respect, and anyone who has the capability of seeing this complexity, but refuses to do so because HP is “popular” or “modern” is seriously underestimating and disrespecting the text.

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Harry Potter has been studied in the lower levels (13 and 14 year olds) at the high school I went to for the past 4 or 5 years, and the English department is very highly regarded … so I don’t find this that bizarre.

However, it does weird me out that students are basically being asked to write fanfiction …

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What exactly are A-levels?

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“inspired by the book” does not neccessarily, and most likely does not mean fan fiction. I took that to mean a story that draws on themes from the book, not a story that uses the HP characters.

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Pockin, take a look at this: http://www.bellerbys.com/english/study/education.aspx

How awesome would this be if they incorporate HP into the AP English curriculum here in the US? I think this is wonderful that it is now part of a widespread, highly regarded course in the UK. To have students analyzing it amongst other brilliant works will be a fantastic undertaking. And I love that there’s a fanfiction component… this really just make me so happy!

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I really don’t think Harry Potter is suitable for A-levels. Harry Potter, is, can we say, entertainment? Given it’s of a higher caliber than Twilight or Gossip Girls, but it doesn’t serve much literary value.

If anything, it can only serve as a good discussion for an example of the “Hero’s Journey”, but that’s about it. As much as I LOVE Harry Potter, I don’t think it can be taken this seriously.

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it’s about time something new makes it into the curriculum. I haven’t any doubt that Harry Potter will be regarded fifty years from now as JRR Tolkien novels are today, and it’s the perfect opportunity to study them while there’s still more to learn from the author.

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Thanks, Finn BV. I wonder how this will be taken by students taking the exams, though.

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I was going to write loads but Fossil sums it up nicely. I was reading classics by the age of 10 – but that didn’t mean that I fully understood the multiple meanings that the text generally had. Harry Potter includes many relevant themes and allusions, and is therefore perfectly acceptible for studying.

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burningpumpkins: I disagree, see the previous page for my response.

Posted by Finn BV : “How awesome would this be if they incorporate HP into the AP English curriculum here in the US?”

Unfortuneatly that is not as easy as it sounds because of the way the AP Lit is set up. In AP lit there is no required reading. In fact, technically, you could read anything you wanted and be able to answer the questions (although you may not neccessarily be able to answer them well). How it works is, in the essay portion, the questions ask you to analyze specific rhetorical devices and/or specific themes in a text of your choice. They then give you a long list of texts that they think would be good for that specific question, however you do not have to use a book that is on the list. In theory, you could write an essay about Harry Potter as long as you analyze what is asked and draw a conclusion. However, the catch is, the person who grades your exam will probably be extra critical of your essay if you do that, especially if they believe HP has no merit. Therefore, you do not write about HP on the AP test because you just do not want to take that risk, it is just not worth it.

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In addition, one of the many excellent things about the Harry Potter books is that they can be read from so many angles. You can read it as a simple fictional story, study the writing style, analyze the themes, explore the meanings behind names, and I’m sure there’s more.

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Perhaps 1 book is not enough… I think it would be interesting to study the whole cannon and THEN compare it to another work.. not simply the first one… it would be interesting to compare it to the Chronicles of Narnia with a theological lense. I think that would be the basis of an excellent paper or class for/in college. wouldn’t be surprised if someone at Scribby already did it. I’ll go look.

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Very well said Fossil!!!!

And to answer burningpumpkins’ post : what does entertainment mean? I think I was very entertained when I read Romeo and Juliet…

I’m italian and in the italian school is required for everybody to read “La Divina Commedia” (The Divine Comedy) by Dante Alighieri. It’s a classic for us!!! And that’s not the only one… they teach us about italian Writers, Painters, Architects, Compositors.. all who lived at the most in the first half of the 20th century. But what about now??? What about all the amazing … Writers, Painters, Architects, Compositors…. that we have now!!! In the present!!! I think it’s a great idea to have students studying something that they can relate to more easly!

Just because the HP books came out in very nice, colorful, laser printed covers, doesn’t mean they are not literature!!!

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they are so lucky there in the UK. they should totally do that in the US for Honors/Advanced students. and i think HP is very suitable for studying because it isnt all fantasy, there are a lot of real life connections in the books and i think it would be really cool to study the series even more in depth than i already have.

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As much as I love Harry Potter I don’t think it should be required reading. It’s yet to stand the test of time. Give it another 20 years and if it still has a strong influence then I guess you can justify its use. Then again this move might encourage more people to take up literature. I think the best solution is to make this an optional module in the course.

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very cool Jo should be proud ! and no Jo’s spproval wouldn’t be needed as no money is being made, and i think she would gladly give it any way

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Now that is some amazing recognition.

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Forcing any literature is bull. Whether it be considered a great author, a top seller, or not, it does not matter. Making children aware of those works is great, but expecting them to read them and worship them just because the last generation did the same does not help them broaden their views.

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It´s a great step and yes HP is a worthy literature. The onlt thing is they should have let the students choose which book they would like to resume as there would have been much more fun sitting together in groups writing diferents parts and comment them.

Anyway I don´t like Hamlet it´s a terrible story, so yes Hattys world is much better and nicer

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SS:

At some point though, you do have to “force” certain books upon students. It may be the teacher, it may be the school system, it may be the government. But at some point, someone must make the decision of what students learn. An english classroom would not be an effective learning environment if all the students were reading different texts.

English teachers (or at least any good English teachers) do not expect students to worship texts. Religions expect their followers to worship religious texts, but the word worship is much too strong to apply to the English classroom. Rather, the teachers expect the students to appreciate the texts, to be able to recognize the value that the “last generation” saw in the text, to be able to draw fresh conclusions, and even to be able to criticize the text and/or the “last generation’s” interpretation.

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Oh, and thank you Ally and FraA for the compliments!

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I honestly wouldn’t want to study Harry Potter. I think it would ruin the “magic” of the book. I wouldn’t want to be reading, and get to a part I wrote about, and start thinking about alliteration or allusion or any sort of literary crap like that. I just want to enjoy the story.

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Oh, but the “literary crap” you speak of makes the books so much more meaningful!

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A few others mentioned it, but the “They will also have to write their own 500 to 800-word story inspired by the book.” bit made me laugh so hard. I too first thought “OMG fanfic!”

Even if it is intended to be taken as inspired on the themes rather than just lifting the characters, that could still fall into the Uber category of fanfic if done in a way which is true to the character archetypes.

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Slightly off topic, but I wonder when the last time the average American student sat an exam that required a 1200 to 1500 word essay, and a 500 to 800 word story? It seem education in the USA has descended to A, B, C, D, T, or F, or as we called in ‘multiple guess’.

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If I had this for my A-Levels,I’d have aced them! Lucky students! :-D

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I read Philosopher’s Stone when I was 38. Actually, I read it with a view of criticizing it. My then eight-year old son had asked me for it and as he was an avid reader, I thought that he had long surpassed the ‘fairytale’ stage of witches and wizards. However, as I am not one to discourage anyone from reading anything they find enjoyable, I bought the book and decided to give it a read despite my prejudice. I was hooked from page 1, though I felt too shy to admit it to anyone for a long time. But it gave me hours of discussion with my son and dealt with topics that would not otherwise have cropped up. There are many levels to these books and each can view them at whatever level of maturity one has reached. So yes, they are enjoyable for third-graders – they will probably go for the story line and enjoy it. But adults can read the story too and enjoy it in a different way. They would still enjoy the story of course (there is no age-limit to liking a story) but there are so many other things to enjoy: the moral themes, the derivatives of names, the mythological references, the stereotypical characters, the deep and mysterious characters, the comical ones. So yes, a brave but wise decision by the board.

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personally the most important thing in education, is to keep the students interested in the subject, a select few of a-level students will admit they honestly enjoy texts like shakespeare,

this will greatly improve their grades without a doubt, not to mention encourage them to work harder.

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Me and my friends have been begging for this for years. I have already decided I’m taking English A-Levels as it’s my best subject, even though i’m only in my first year of GCSE’s (Yr 10)! I love English and I’ve always thought that Harry Potter would be on the list, like when the nxt generation come along, as the things we’re doing (as well as Shakespeare) are To Kill A Mockingbird, An Inspector Calls and Frankenstine. Slightly older literature. xxx

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I am actually an Egnlish A Level student, and a Harry Potter fan, but I don’t think this is a good idea.

Firstly, Harry Potter is a series, not a single book. It would be difficult to stop yourself from analysing the way that the first book compares to the other books, instead of just writing about PS.

Secondly, it’s a children’s book. Let’s face it. And PS is the most child-friendly one of them all in my opinion. So I’m not sure how much stuff there would actually be to write about in essays etc. I’ve read it a billion times but if you got me to write an essay on it now, I’d probably be somewhat stuck for things to put.

And I had another point as well but I have in fact forgotten it lol.

Still, I can’t imagine that my school will let anyone do it hahh.

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Maybe put it in the gcse foundation tier exam, but definitely not A levels. The language is too easy and besides, A levels are supposed to be boring and hard, not fun!

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Awesome!!! Harry potter blows all those other books out of the water…I hate great expectations, most boring book i have ever read in my life…if i wanted to be entertained by a soap opera I would’ve watched t.v. ...

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I want to take a test on hp!! haha

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OMG THAT’S ME!!! I’m taking that next year cries I wonder what the other text will be…

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A) PS is not a children’s book… How many of the people who are saying it is are children? None? Thought so. And when was the last time you read the book?

B) No, the book isn’t yet a literary classic, but the A Level isn’t Literary Classics, it’s LitLang, you could study any book!

pigwidgeon- have you taken an English A Level? It’s not about how easy/hard the language is, it’s about the way you analyse it! One of the things we had to do was “SPOCAing” [Subject, Predicator, Object, Complement, Adverbial]... If I went and picked a sentence from PS, would you be able to pick all of those out? Besides, A Levels aren’t supposed to be boring, you CHOOSE to do them, therefore you choose the ones that interest you!

Anyway. I think it’s great news _ I analysed the first chapter of PS for my English Lang A Level coursework because we could do absolutely anything we wanted, but I don’t think we were with AQA [and it was just Lang, not LitLang].

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omg!!this has got to b the most surrealist thing ever!emma’s taking/finishing her A levels this yr..soon…does that mean the girl who plays hermione and is friends of JO has to take HP for A levels too?? tht’s like…..wow….she’’’ aCE it…lol.. i hear she’s in U6 anyway…

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I think that this is a brilliant idea. I’m taking my A levels thew year after next and i really hop that they include it in the syllabus by then. I respect to it being too modern, for my GCSE English lit i’m studying “Paddy Clarke ha ha ha” which is a elatively modern piece of writing. I think it a little hyppocritical that some modern texts are acceptable whereas Harry Potter is not. Its totally unfair to think that just because a text is modern or popular it is a lesser piece of work. So keep fighting AQA

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I think Harry Potter is a valuable piece of literature to study- just think how deep people like the essay writers here on leaky can go, analysing themes, context, language, history etc in the books. Especially as it is going to be compared to another, different, approach, i think this will be an enlightening exercise for students. Having done English Language and Literature at A-Level myself, I can say that I would absolutely have treated this as a worthwhile acedemic task, and not just an enjoyable read. These ‘advisors’ the government have need to give “children” (by the way, most of those taking the A-Level will be around 18 years old, hardly little kids!) more credit!

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i don’t think anyone cares what we considered to be great literary work to be put on the A – levels. get over it.

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When I read HP and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone, it always seems so primitive compared with the others. Half the time, the dialogue makes me wince because it sounds so unnatural. Don’t get me wrong – I love the books! :)

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Aah, it’s a bit of a shame that I’ve started my AS Levels already and so this won’t apply to me, and I think I’m on a different examination board anyway.

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Aww! Sooo unfair! Why oh why do i live in scotland where our education system is different (we do Highers instead of A levels) i doubt i’ll get to read HP next year it’ll probebly be robert burns and shakesphere… :(

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I really love Harry Potter and have no doubt it will go down in history as a literary classic, but that doesn’t mean it’s a classic now. Everyone already knows HP’s place in the modern world, the controversies that went with it, and the social issues it questions. I’d like to think kids were studying something they haven’t necessarily read or heard of before, something that stood the test of time. Should Harry Potter be included in university classes such as ‘YA Literature?’ Absolutely! First on the list! But Harry hasn’t earned his place with the big boys and girls yet, in my opinion. Huck’s got a hundred years on him. Shakespeare (blegh) has at least four times that amount. The list goes on. He’ll be there somebody, though, no doubt about it.

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By somebody, I meant someday. :)

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L.J Voldelocks-this has acturly made me look forward 2 my A levals [though ihave got 6yrs till i tacke them] and hay J.K not maching up 2 Shackespere ect i mean she can top them all ur quite Sam or fossel its not strange AT ALL!!!!!!!! Odment , Blubber & Tweek.

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I don’t see a reason to limit the exam syllabus to ‘tried and tested classics’. I studied The French Lieutenant’s Woman, a very modern text, alongside Arthur Miller, quite modern, and Congreve, Dickens, Shakespeare and poetry criticism. But they were all adult literature at least. Much I love HP, I’m shocked that they’d put it as an A Level text.

Also, the point of school IMO, is to broaden horizons and do stuff that you wouldn’t do at home. We were introduced to a whole range of children’s and adult fiction from the age of 11, alongside a drip feed of standard authors like Shakespeare, Orwell, Bronte. What I’m shocked about with this is that children are reading the book from age 5, carry on reading it until they are teens, over and over again (my nephew is on his eighth reread and won’t read anything else!) and can now apparently take formal exams in it at 18?

I think this is a typically narrow minded, dumbing down, lets not upset students by giving them stuff they don’t know, approach from the exam boards. Especially because they are including only one of the series, IMO the worst written, so no opportunity to study themes or character development even, or to study the whole series in relation to the genre as a whole. We are talking about 18 year olds who ought to be preparing for University study. No wonder Universities are starting to consider their own entrance exams.

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Yay i’m taking English Lit for A level next year! I can’t wait, i’ll be looking forward to doing homework now.

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I dreaded the day that Harry Potter would be included on the syllabus. I thought it would be much longer until the day happened admittedly.

But when when I did English Lit for GCSE, all we did was read books that could be enjoyable but make them “unfun” because we’d have to try and find meanings in the text that probably weren’t there. I might have enjoyed Wuthering heights but I didn’t because of the way it was tackled in class.

Admittedly I think it’s pretty awesome to have HP on the syllabus but not practical. Oh well. I didn’t even take English Lit. Is it for AS or A2 I wonder. My friends could end up doing HP. That would be funny.

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Just to clarify a bit what I just said, which sounded a bit negative. I mean no disrespect to the HP series. As a series I think it is very complex, fantastically researched (I am full of admiration for Jo for this in particular), and I love all the linguistic and mythological references in it, which are right up my street.

There’s plenty to get your teeth stuck into if you wanted to study it at A Level standard, but only as a whole series, not as a single book. The first book is also substandard compared to the rest IMO, and barely gets started on themes and characters, so I have a problem with their choice of book.

Also, I do think there’s a danger of stifling exploration of other literature. It’s great that HP has encouraged people to read, but it seems that it is not encouraging people to move onto other books and this is just going to underline that. I’m speaking as someone who had to be weaned off Enid Blyton by my mother forcefeeding us the classics (she read them to us). I’m grateful to her for that. Now I’m an (ex)librarian, so I’ve come a long way since then, but only through being weaned!

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Eurgh! Not fair! I’m just about to complete my first year on this course. If I could of just been a year or two younger!! :( At the moment we have to do Wuthering Heights and Chaucer…and I’m all for the classics…but come on Harry Potter for A-Level would be amazing!!!!

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I am so glad I’m doing English lit! This is fantastic news! Only trouble is everyone will be expecting top marks of me now…

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If only it had been on the curriculum when I did my A-Levels! I do think Harry Potter is worthy of being on a curriculum, it certainly can be studied as our fan conventions have proven. However I’m still unsure how to feel about this as I really do believe that putting a book on a curriculum, giving people a deadline to read it, making them go over it again and again and again, analysing it in minute detail, and then making them write essays on it is one of the best ways to kill the enjoyment of it for at lot of students. At least, that’s what happened with my English class in school when we did Lord of the Flies, after studying primarily the same passages of it for months people just got so sick of it. Of course, not every student will react that way and for those who are already fans of the series it is great, but others I think will grow to resent it for the stress it caused them approaching coursework time.

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I´m sure most students will laugh about that. Kids outgrow Harry Potter with 16! It´s only us retarded adults that think it´s great literature.

But what really is well, almost brilliantly done in PS is the way Harry is introduced.

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wow! i might switch subjects for next year

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Well I’ve already got my B in English Lit but perhaps I would have got an A if I had this over Jane Eyre. To be honest though I’m a huge Harry Potter fan but cmon this DOES NOT deserve to be an A Level text

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I’m with Anne, certainly as a series but not as one novel, I always thought the series would be perfect for GCSE, but they’d never study 7 novels for one question

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I do think that having to study about all the literary aspects of the book will suck the fun out of it. The whole point of the books, in my opinion, is not to analyze it at every possible moment and take it into different contexts, but to enjoy it. It is one of the many books you can reread over and over again, and not get bored. But having to study it, I would never really enjoy the book again. Lucky for me, I’m in America.

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i think this is a horrible idea, harry potter is such an easy read, and it’s definately not suitable for A-levels in my opinion. The stuff i had to read in GCSE were harder (e.g. To kill A Mockingbird and Equus)

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When I read HP and the Philosopher’s/Sorcerer’s Stone, it always seems so primitive compared with the others. Half the time, the dialogue makes me wince because it sounds so unnatural. Don’t get me wrong – I love the books! :)

Posted by Martyn P on April 27, 2008 @ 05:44 AM

I love the dialogues in PS best of the whole series.

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Kids are a lot more likely to read HP on their own than they are to read some other books that are equally as good or better, and that are also a part of culture and literature. Not fond of this idea. They have pop culture to introduce them to HP; school ought to introduce them to something else.

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I read HP1 when i was abot 9, why are they making 17-18 year olds studying it? They really are dumbing down the education system.

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I think that its a great idea and I would have given anything to read it in Highschool. Huck Finn, and others are really easy too, so I dont see what the big deal is. I think that Harry Potter has indeed proved to be a classic, it maybe hasnt been around as long as other classics but giving an updated and modern touch to literature is a fun and good idea.

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That is definitely a test I’d take without complaint. (: And just for fun! Haha.

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I’m mixed, it’s a great book but like Smithers says, I’m not sure it meets the standards. It hasn’t “stood the test of time” – yet! As far as he saying that it doesn’t allow people to “understand their place in the world”, if they are just reading the first book then that is correct. The series as a whole, however, totally fits that standard though.

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Students “taking the English language and literature A-level next year

THAT’S ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

gaspdies

On the one hand, that’s really cool. On the other, it’s slightly worrying. I love Harry Potter, but do I want to write my coursework on it? Why do we have to do it on the first book and not one of the longer ones?

Oooh, it would be interesting if we compared it to a complete ‘classic’ though.

Hmmm.

Yay for A-Level English!

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OMG!!! great. i’ll get an A* if i’m studying harry potter :D its way better than shakespeare :( haha cannot wait!! :D:D:D

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As an educator who consistently has urged the inclusion of HP in college literature classes, and even played a role in creating one of the first courses devoted just to Rowling’s novels, I must admit I find AQA’s decision a bit much

As a teacher I am generally frustrated by the lack of breath and depth that US college students enter higher education with. If the standard of the A levels is to ensure students have achieved a degree of understanding of English lit, then wouldn’t Dickens (Oliver Twist? Hard Times? Bleak House?), Jane Austen (yeech..ok, I may not LIKE Austen, but still I recognize her importance), Gaskell, Shaw, Eliot, Richardson, Joyce, Conrad …in short, a long list of authors.. be far more important at this time for students to know? Rowlings might be added to the list down the road, but sorry, not yet. And I want to emphasize the distinction between including HP, or any individual text, in the classroom discussion compared to assessment examinations of the importance of A levels.

(for US readers, while the education system here does not yet have the equivalent of A levels, there are discussions underway that imply we may be moving in that direction. The closest equivalent would be if the SAT or ACT exams that many US students take as part of the college application process included a mandatory essay on HP)

On a larger scale, I am appalled every year when I learn students have never heard of Sophocles, or when they think Victor Hugo wrote musicals. I love popular culture….I wouldn’t visit Leaky as often as I do if I did not …but there is a definite problem when my students watch film versions of (for example) the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Les Miserables, War and Peace, Last of the Mohicans, Catch 22 or even Lord of the Rings, Forrest Gump (! trash novel, but truly a brillant film), the Natural, and other literary works of varying importance that have been transformed into film and somehow think they “got it”.

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OMG I have NEVER been so excited !!! im studying english lit a level NEXT YEAR ! soooooooooooooooooo excited !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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I am BEGGING my English Teacher to do some project on Harry Potter Or an essay… I could kick ASS on an essay

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Does anyone know if it for AS or A2 course ? AS is the first year of a levels that i have already done, A2 is the second. Im panicking i missed the chance of a lifetime !! PLEASE HELP i have searched EVERYWHERE!

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Hmm I wonder about this. The books as a whole do hold a lot of themes and many things that could be discussed endlessly or translated into your own stories. But for the most part most of these themes show up more strikingly latter on in the series. The first book I would say is an introduction, its the tip of the ice berg so to say.

Though I do understand why they would have to choose it. You can’t just start something part way through and though there are some that would do it asking people to read however many books just to catch up with the one their meant to be doing is a bit much.

Oh and rose I’m very sorry but having started the course I think you would be finishing up the two year syllabus you’re already on.

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:O

I’m doing A level language and literature next year on AQA exam board :O

So exciting :D

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gosh i wish we were tested on harry potter, i would own that test!

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Oh no books_4_eva , im gutted !! :(:(:(

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I thought I already had at least an A level in English Lit just by passing the three WOMBAT levels.

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I think “waiting” a little before including Harry Potter, just to make it a “classic, sounds a little artificial to me. Shouldn’t modern literature be just as important as classics? It represents the world we live in today, and of course it’s different.

Today’s successful books are enjoyable primarily because they’re entertaining, so, in my opinion, good writers today should be able to produce texts that are entertaining on one level and rich in themes on another (think of The Matrix even: immensely popular, while doctoral theses have been written on the movie). Now I haven’t really studied the books closely but I’d say especially the first one falls into this category.

Also, it’s not like Rowling replaces Shakespeare or anything, the way I see it, the book is to be compared to another story with respect to themes and language. Very harmless… And if it encourages children to read, maybe it will encourage students to study English literature? How about that?

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WOW! I am acually plannig to take English Language and English Litrature next year at College. However, I never thought for one second that Harry Potter would be envolved! English + Harry Potter = What more could HP Fans ask for! Oh I cant wait to start English! I suppose it can now be also known as An A Level In Harry Potter

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WOW! I am actually plannig to take English Language and English Litrature next year at College. However, I never thought for one second that Harry Potter would be envolved! English + Harry Potter = What more could HP Fans ask for! Oh I cant wait to start English! I suppose it can now be also known as An A Level In Harry Potter

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This is rather controversial, but totally deserved, I think.

Rowling’s works are by far the best children’s literature I’ve ever read, with the possible exception of Lewis Carroll’s works. Far from being pure escapism, the Harry Potter books address both classic and current themes and teach important lessons in imaginative and compelling new ways. Plus, they’re extremely readable; even adults like myself enjoy them!

I do hope you’ll let Sofia read them one day.

Laurel

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I’d love it if this was on AS level…but it’ll probably be on A2. Which is annoying because im going to do AS English LIt and Lang next year…That would be awesome.

It does make sense reading it, because its got so many levels, and it’s just like the books usually studied. If the college doesnt think so, then they can choose another book.

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Sorry ‘bout that, everyone—the latter note, which is marked “from Heather,” was intended to be a private message sent with a copy of the article. My goof!

But my sentiments remain the same …

Laurel

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Having worked at a bookstore in the US, I must say I was also appalled at what high schoolers had not read, and what they were reading (mangas and sci-fi). One girls actually had been sent to buy a copy of The Yearling, a book most kids had read in the first or second grade.

Not only that, but they now publish “dumbed down” simplified versions of classic children’s books, so they aren’t even reading the real book anymore. I’m talking about books like “National Velvet”, and “The Chronicles of Narnia”.

I don’t see any harm in including the Harry Potter books in the curriculum, they would be fun for kids to read and discuss in a group-but it’s the only thing JKR has written really. She hasn’t written anything on the scale of Dickens or Austen (both of whom she greatly admires, by the way, which should encourage others to read them). She’s a best-selling author and I think they should throw something fun in there, but I don’t take Harry Potter so seriously; maybe because there are already plenty of conventions and contests and things where people basically do the same thing, analyze the books and write fanfic.

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Cool:P

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This is appalling. Even diehard fans cannot suggest that Harry Potter is great literature – so to put it on lists with Shakespeare, Austen, Chaucer, Hardy and Keats is disgraceful. This undermines all the hard work us English A level students are doing. It discredits the qualification we are trying so hard to achieve.

English Literature could now be quite easily considered a joke subject for prostituting itself to increase the number of takers while sidetracking the greatest works written in the English language.

I am an ardent and avid Potter fan—but to study it for a serious qualification is apalling.

NB it will not be compulsory. Only Shakespeare is compulsory for the other texts teachers have to choose from a selection of other authors. So only very foolish teachers will select this to make up a major part of what their students study. They would be a laughing stock. I recognise that Harry Potter might have some place in the classroom but for far younger students. NOT for people who want to study the serious literature for the qualification which is the highest that the English School System offers.

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I think that all the people who are saying that HP isn’t “serious” enough to be considered for this should pick up a book of scholarly essays on the series. You would be amazed at the amount there is. I am currently writing my Master’s thesis on Animal Studies in Children’s Fantasy Literature, and HP is one of my sources. Before I decided on that I was using Joseph Campbell’s Cycle of the Hero in Fantasy Literature. I have a friend who just finished her thesis on The Role of the Environment in Fantasy Literature . All of them included Harry Potter, and the amount of scholarly and academic work we found to use in the them was astounding.

Think about it this way: if the group of work considered “classics”, “great works of literature”, or the “canon” had never been expanded upon and improved, it would not contain people like Jane Austin or Charlotte Bronte, because women wouldn’t be on it. People HAVE to start considering new works of literature.. new genres.. otherwise literature becomes stagnant.

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Also, I do not think that people necessarily need to compare Rowling to Shakespeare or Chaucer. Their works of literature are not supposed to do the same thing. Shakespeare and Chaucer show the evolution of the English language (olde and middle), but cannot be appreciated by someone who is just beginning to be interested in reading. When a child first picks up their first book BY CHOICE, do you want it to be something like Romeo and Juliet (which, quite apart from being inappropriate for a small child, may turn them off from reading with its complexity) or Harry Potter (which is something they can more easily understand, and therefore probably enjoy)? I vote Harry Potter.

My little brother has never read an entire book in his life. He is 22 years old, and do you know why he has no appreciation for literature? Because the people at our private school had us read “great” literature, the kinds of things that probably should have been reserved for when we were older. It was different for me, because I started reading before I was in school, so I appreciated more approachable books earlier. He didn’t. His first exposure to literature were things that were considered classics..things that are sometimes dull for children.

There are some books that are considered classics that even I, who have a GREAT appreciation for literature, cannot stomach reading all the way through. Who decided that The Canterbury Tales was a great work of literature? Obviously they haven’t read the Parson’s Tale or Melibee… the book is useful because it opened the doors to studying Middle English. Harry Potter is useful because it opens the doors to an interest in reading. It should therefore be given a proper place of respect.

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PS is a year 7 class reader (Age 11-12).

I’m studying for my alevel now and while i think the books deserve academic recognition, this is not the right way to go about it. the books are better suited to degree level where an in-depth analysis of themes and word-choice could be looked at with more freedom. DH would have been more appropriate for A-level because of the theme of death/afterlife and similarities to WW2.

There are few themes developed in PS and it is not a book that can be put into a modern context as much as other modern novels that address modern social issues in more depth like A Thousand Splendid Suns or Then We Came to The End. But books like that don’t attract more people to study english.

The exam board still have to have the six criteria for marking the essays so I guess it’ll still be as acedmic as other novels and it might be harder than people think- especially for us fans who might not be objective!!

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Wow. This is great! Lived in the US can be annoying b/ they never add newer books to the required reading. I always wish they would add HP. I would love that. I think this could be really benificial to these kids b/c her writing so so different than the traditional readings like Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, The Great Gatsby…. and so on. It gives kids a broarder view of litterature that can inspire them. I know it inspired me.

yay UK schools!

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Too many people see Harry Potter as a simple children’s book because of its story of a boy wizard yet, they are missing some of the deeper meanings. Harry Potter can be read by children because it is understandable and the plot is appealing. I, myself, read until Goblet of Fire when I was eight. At the time, I didn’t read it as a book to be analyzed; I read it as a really good story that I was unable to put down. Now, however, at fifteen, I can read past the plot and understand some of Jo’s morals and be able to discuss the series further. Hopefully people will look past the plot and storyline of Harry Potter and realize the many themes in the series. Jo has a distinct style of writing and it’s great that UK schools realize that. She may not be the greatest writer (and thus, cannot be compared to Shakepeare, Austen, Dickens) but, her use of humor, wit, sarcasm, symbolism, and mythology amongst other literary techniques make her a writer that deserves to be studied. I wish schools in America would include Harry Potter in their curriculums!

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I did my A levels 2 years ago and had to compare schol life in the first book and tom browns school days! Schools have been doing it ages so the Daily mail is a bit slow with the news!

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No way. Horrible idea. JK Rowling has a fantastic imagination, but she’s not a great author. A-level kids studying her will only have their literature skills suffer. Makes me glad I’ve chosen the IB. Seriously, Harry Potter is enjoyable, but I would hate to study it. Give me Harper Lee or May Gibbs any day.

Posted by Katie on April 26, 2008 @ 08:34 PM

Ok, so I don’t know much about A-levels since I’m only in grade nine in the US, but I was in the IB during middle school (not anymore though) and in that porgram at least I you’re right. It’d be a pain in the butt to annalyze. :-)

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Why can’t this happen in the US???? : (

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This HAS to be a joke

i dont actually believe it. im a huge fan of Harry Potter, but since when were books for 12-year-olds studied to A-level by 18-year-olds?

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I am totally taking English Lit as my A-Levels now; I could submit my fanfic as coursework (lol)!!! I wish they let GCSE English Lit students study Harry Potter too, then I would feel happy about my exams (which start in about 12hrs ARGH!!!!!) because I know it all inside-out.

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Gryffindor’sResidentDuck does raise an important question, for those of us here in the colonies: would one of the contributers from the UK take a moment to explain A levels so that we’re all discussing the same thing?

Chanal, I think your point about including HP needs to be put it into a more nuanced perspective: 1. clearly you mean including HP along with a lot of other materials, which makes sense (note the “along with a lot”), and 2. a background in Greek mythology and established literary traditions will only deepen your appreciation of HP since that is the solid grounding that JKR herself is drawing upon for inspiration.

Finally, I must point out that current popularity does not mean importance over the long term…about forty years ago, the huge best sellers were “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” and “Love Story”. Fourteen years ago it was “Forrest Gump” (people saw the film and assumed the book would be of the same calibre). Anyone here read them recently?

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for those who think jo is a bad writer, leave. now. and her workdoes provoke thought. to really understand the plots and characters you do have to think about what is going on. the later books dont just hand you the information. jo gives you time to think and come to your own conclusions before giving you her answer

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Of course anybody would study Harry Potter than the crap they teach nowadays…..at least kids will be excited about writing a test for the first time ever=))

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Wow, it’s only a year until I have to make my choices for A Levels and English Literature is now a lot higher on the list!

But on second thoughts… I don’t think my school takes the AQA exams. Sucks, hugely. =(

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I’m sure this has probably already been mentioned at some point in this response thread, but I think it’s entirely appropriate for Harry Potter to be on the syllabus.

Much like Shakespeare, Jo uses allegory to make comment on current world trends and issues. Think of all the things her books address, whether full-on or implied – child abuse, racism, slavery, government corruption, discrimination, hate crimes, ethnic cleansing, resistance fighting – and you can see that an in-depth study of PS could be the source of several excellent classroom debates.

By saying that, I’m not comparing Jo to Shakespeare – that would be an unfair comparison to make. Both authors are very much writers that are a reflection of their time.

Yes, it’s a children’s book, yes, PS is somewhat (necessarily) simplistic, but it’s the writing and the underlying adult themes that make adults a big part of the audience. If the Harry Potter series was just some rip-roaring children’s adventure story from start to finish, it wouldn’t have inspired the kind of devotion that it has.

Anything that gets teenagers excited and involved can only be a very good thing.

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Harry Potter is youth books in my eyes. NOT a children’s book. I don’t think a kid can understand every level of this book.

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Kids these days don’t know how lucky they are! Getting a set text that they can relate to and comprehend is more than I could wish for when I did my A-levels!

How does Shakespeare and Jane Eyre prepare students for the real world? There must be easier and more effective ways to inspire good handwriting.

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OMG! i am sooo excited. I am stating my A-levels next year so it means i can take this course :D i’m actually looking forward to taking the exam now. i think i might actully pass with full marks for once :L my mum is always saying “if you want to do English Lit next year you better start reading other books apart from Harry Potter.” Well looks like my ignoring her paid off :D :L

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Oh no, I hope I don’t have to do this! Analyzing books like that ruins them, I still haven’t reconciled myself with “Of Mice and Men”... I love Harry Potter too much for it to be ruined by my having to write essays on it.

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Woop I’m starting my a-levels,September 2009! Would LOVE to study HP.Especially later books,give me something to really get my literary teeth into ;)

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OOO I want to have this in my school!!!

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I think it’s entirely appropriate and recognizes the value of a great piece of literature that just happened to be written in our time. I wish the literary elite would stop looking down their noses at contemporary literature and just read it!

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Hmmm. Interesting. This leads to debate as to what ‘great literature’ is. I dont know the answer. I know what popular culture is and I know underlying enduring themes – courage loyalty, hero quest etc. Interesting….I’d like to hear pottercast talk about this.

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That’s kinda cool. I’m taking English lang and lit next year so I might be studying it. Then again, I think Harry Potter is more GCSE level than A-Level. I think in way it’s to get more student to go to Collge/6th fom. It would be better if they switched Shakespeare and Harry Potter around, So you do Harry Potter at GCSE and Shakepeare at A-Level because it’s kinda step down the way it is now.

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For me the news has completely made my day (especially since i will be moving on to A-levels this year)!

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yay i was hoping this would get a mention. i have been doing enlish a level for the past year and i have been studying harry potter since september! it has actually been amazing

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I don’t mean to cause any offence by this comment, but I believe that the majority of the people opposed to this, are American. Not all, by any means, but a lot.

As a current GCSE student in the UK, hoping to take English Lit as an A-Level, I completely think this is a great idea. English Lit for A-Level isn’t just studing how the book is written, which I think is the main argument here, that Jo’s writing isn’t up to scratch. In the course, you look at plot details, how the author develops the story and characters and how that cope with certain situations, which, as we know, is something Jo is very good at.

Just my input here. :)

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My friends infact did read it for AS English Language & Literature. They had to do an essay for the exam in January this year.

I’m so upset that I only took Language!

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You know what… I remember the set texts I had to read for my English A Level, and Philosopher’s/Sorceror’s stone isn’t anywhere near complex enough. By 18, the age at which you sit A Levels, you should be beyond children’s books. The later and much darker books in the series (Goblet of Fire onwards) I could really get on board with, but Philosopher’s Stone was a poor choice on AQA’s part. I have great respect for the intelligence and depth of Jo’s writing and I’m certainly no snob about studying Harry in schools (Lord I wish i could’ve, I’d have loved English even more…), but the first book is a text that A Level standard students should have long since moved on from… then again, I suppose if you start later in the series you have the problem of having to start students halfway in who may not necessarily have read the previous books.

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JKR is an evil witch with a Capital B

I hop she loses her case

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Bob you are an idiot, why are you on this website??

Thats probably the best idea AQA has ever come up with!!

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I agree. Rowling writes wonderfull books but she herself said she wants them to deem themselves worthy to stand the test of time. this may get childrn reading them and pasing their a-levels, but not because they understand classic literature.

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I just did this for my A-Levels!!!! It was actually so fun! we had to compare it with ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’. Seriously though, it wasn’t an easy course. We had to compare modern school fiction with school fiction from over a hundred years ago. ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s stone’ and ‘Tom Brown’s Schooldays’ are remarkable similar, and they’re both very, very well written books in their own respects. Any claims of the curriculum being ‘dumbed down’ is riddiculous – the course was by no means easy! We had to read each book over and over again, and analyse almost every page. It took a lot of work! We’d also discovered so many things about the books that we would never have known before. Personally I love reading, and so it wasn’t problem for me, and I knew Harry Potter like the back of my hand anyhow :) Needless to say I got an A! x

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kidda, I think you may be correct about the UK vs US reaction, although I do think you are wrong that the issue is JKR’s writing.

After all, with the exception of the occasional troll (example, Bob on page 7 of this thread, and other ‘contributers” who crawl out of the shallow end of the gene pool occasionally), if we didn’t appreciate and enjoy JKR’s writing, why would we be here?

In my specific case, the hesitation about including JKR as a central texxt does come from my perception as a college teacher in the US that too many US students are totally unprepared for college, and lack basic knowledge in literature, critical analysis, writing and a list of fundementals. I prefer a first year college student to know a little Sophocles (and with him goes a little Aristotle, after all!), for example, over a little HP…. Including HP in a lengthy syllabus is one thing, and I’m all for it…but as a central text in exams as important as the A levels (or the US SAT and ACT), well, I am not convinced

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I’m an American. what are A levels? anyway, i think it’sa good idea tho, harry potter is changing literature culture all over the world. they certainly will become classics in time!

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