Albus Dumbledore

Albus Dumbledore

If you are not a Harry Potter fan, this post probably won’t interest you.

Dumbledore was a great wizard. No question about that. He was the only one whom even Lord Voldemort feared. He defeated Grundelwald in a great duel. He had the elder wand. He inspired great loyalty among his followers. Even Snape, who probably was as talented as Dumbledore, was loyal to him.

However, how did he perform as the headmaster of Hogwarts? If you are among the governors of Hogwarts, how would you rate him? That’s what this post attempts to do.

The official picture of Dumbledore is that he is practically a saint, and a great Headmaster, who did a brilliant job of grooming young wizards and witches. Deathly Hallows does show that he has a manipulative side to him. I think that his brother Aberforth is the only person who has something to negative to say about him, even though he was against Voldemort.

However, for such a brilliant wizard, Dumbledore was hoodwinked several times.
1. Riddle, who unleashed the basilisk from the chamber of secrets was never caught by Dumbledore. I cannot understand how Dumbledore ever believed that Hagrid unleashed the basilisk. OK, perhaps we can say that he suspected Riddle, but didn’t have proof; and he didn’t think Hagrid was guilty, but couldn’t do much about it.

2. The Marauders learnt the tricks of becoming animagi during his headmastership, and he never suspected it. Rita Skeetter, who probably went to Hogwarts, was another unregistered animagus, though there is no evidence she learnt this when she was at school.

3. Quirrel had Voldermort under his turban for a whole school year, and Dumbledore never caught on. Dumbledore did ask Snape to keep an eye on Quirrel; but he clearly didn’t have any inkling that the greatest threat to wizards is right under his nose.

4. He never suspected the fake Mad-Eye Moody, despite being an old friend of Moody and being in close touch with the fake Moody for a year.

5. Umbridge almost got the better of him.

However, I cannot in all honesty blame him if somebody is actively trying to hookwink him. Dumbledore tended to trust people as a strategy, and if a few clever witches and wizards tricked him, many idolized him. So overall, it was a good strategy.

I see two major problems with his headmastership.
a. Several of his teacher appointments were very poor at teaching. Trelawney, Quirrel, Lockhart, Hagrid all are poor teachers. Trelawney’s appointment came through only because she made one “real” prediction. Of course, Lupin was excellent; Barty Crouch Jr. aka false Mad-Eye Moody was probably ok. Firenze and Slughorn were probably very good. Perhaps good wizard teachers were hard to find.

1. Why in the world did he give Professor Trelawney a job? He knows that she is a fraud – remember his remarks when Harry tells him about her prophecy on Voldemort coming back? Dumbledore then says that she has made two real predictions so far. Doesn’t he want his students to get a good education? How can he do that if he appoints people like Professor Trelawney?

2. Did he seriously think that Hagrid would make a good teacher? What was he smoking when he appointed him? The only good thing about this appointment is that Hagrid is better than Trelawney. Perhaps after a few years, after he overcomes his nerves, Hagrid may turn into a good teacher.

3. Snape is clearly a very biased teacher. Forget his antipathy towards Harry, he consistently favored Slytherins, and was harsh on Gryffyndors, especially Longbottom. Dumbledore needed Snape for the big plan and Snape is a great wizard – probably a great teacher too, but he didn’t want to teach everyone. Why didn’t Dumbledore do anything to deal with this overt bias?

4. It is difficult to understand how Quirrel was allowed to do whatever he wanted. How was Voldemort’s presence in the school not recognized? Quirrel is a known expert at handling of trolls. His fainting at the sight of a troll should have been investigated. If nothing else, Snape knew that Quirrel was trying to jinx Harry during his first quidditch game. Snape would have undoubtedly told Dumbledore. And Dumbledore allowed Quirrel to continue? Allowed a teacher who actively tried jinxing a student so that he would fall from a flying broom to continue? No questions? No suspicions?

b. He seems to let things drift. Whenever there is a problem in the school, he almost seems to feel that somebody would take care of it, and he should just let things be.

1. The chamber of secrets has been opened for the second time. Hermione, a brilliant but a second year student, figures out that there is a basilisk in the chamber of secrets. Dumbledore, with all his years of experience, and undoubted talent, cannot figure this out? If he did, why didn’t he warn the students to look into a mirror before turning corners?

2. Sirius Black is believed to have escaped to kill Harry. Black and Lupin were close friends. Lupin knows all about the Shrieking Shack-Whomping Willow route into Hogwarts. How come Dumbledore never told the dementors to keep an eye on the Shrieking Shack? At least, he could have got the dementors out of Hogwarts earlier.

3. The goblet of fire chooses four champions instead of three. And Dumbledore doesn’t do anything to find out how this happened!

There are several good points too. His tendency to give the students a long rope is a good thing. His tolerance – no, active encouragement of other “people” like centaurs, werewolves, free elves etc. would of course encourage a sense of tolerance among his students. He is a great example to his students. The bigger thing – the war against the second coming of Voldemort – may have made him focus less on his headmasterly duties.

If I were a governor, I would give him a B+. Although a great wizard, he doesn’t seem to be in control of the school, and doesn’t really try hard to fix problems that come up. His teacher appointments, overall, is a mixed bag.