Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

by J. K. Rowling

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Compare and contrast constructions of education (formal and/or informal) in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Tom’s Midnight Garden, and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry receives a formal education at school. In contrast, the other two characters receive an informal education. For Cassie Logan in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, this means learning what to do in dangerous situations amid racial hatred. For Tom Long in Tom's Midnight Garden, his informal education involves the discovery of the garden and of Hatty.

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In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, education is a formal, if unconventional, affair. Students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry live in a boarding-school environment, in which they sleep in dormitories, spend free time in common rooms, and attend lessons every weekday. The fact that these lessons are in subjects like "Transfiguration," "Defense Against the Dark Arts," and "Potions" does not detract from the formal nature of the education received by Harry and his classmates.

For Cassie Logan in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, things are very different. As a Black child growing up in rural Mississippi, Cassie would have had no access to formal education. For the Logan family, there are far bigger concerns, such as the racial tensions in the neighborhood and the fact that the surrounding White farmers resented the Logans. The type of education that Cassie receives is informal, and it revolves around survival skills.

The education that Tom receives in Tom's Midnight Garden is also informal in nature. The story does not deal with Tom's schooling, but rather with events that take place during a summer holiday at his aunt and uncle's apartment. Tom learns that at night, he can escape into a magical garden, and in this garden, he meets Hatty, a Victorian girl who becomes his friend. I would argue that the lesson Tom learns is that with imagination, anything is possible.

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