June 29, 2014

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Wizards Don't Know Math: Notes on Contemporary Education, Muggles and Magic and Smashing the Ministry of Magic

Oh sure, we've all read what they tell us in the magical papers, but what of the truth? Are wizards being fed a line from the (often corrupted) Ministry of Magic about the overwhelming number of humans who are designated as Muggles?

Shem Shacklecrack, the author of this treatise, posits that the phobic portrayal of non-magical people is a scheme to keep wizards in the dark of all the things humanity is capable of, such as the application of science to solve problems instead of a wand. Arguing that treating "Muggles" (a term that Shacklecrack feels is demeaning) worse than house elves is a major issue that breeds the evil of He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, the author points out the privilege of having magical powers while noting that reliance on such power could in fact be the downfall of magical society.

After all, even the most advanced wizard can't pass a simple test that a 15-year old non-magical human can complete with flying colors!

Shacklecrack has a solution: Get out, get informed, get involved. He argues for magic users to stop being afraid. Go live outside a wizard community! Share your magic with "Muggles!" Better yet--try not using magic at all!

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This is obviously a tongue-in-cheek satire of zines which advocate for social change. Using the world of Harry Potter, with which most readers will have at least a passing familiarity, the author points out just how strange the world created by Rowling really is, along with the fact that it's far from perfect, with class imbalances among the magic-using races and even within the magical families themselves. Those wishing they lived in the Potterverse instead of reality might want to re-think things, after reading this zine.

At the same time, there's also a gentle poke at folks who write political zines. While I am very much a left-wing individual (no shock to anyone who's read my past articles about comics and social issues), sometimes the zines targeted to those who want to make society a better, more egalitarian place tend to take themselves a bit too seriously when constructing their arguments. They go out on limbs, take things to an extreme, and don't stop to think about the difficulties involved in societal change. In the end, their greater point gets lost.

Here, "Shacklecrack" shows how exposed a zine of that nature can be, by comically showing off the flaws of such an approach via taking them to an extreme. Any good satire should be able to pull this off, but it's not easy to write good satire. This zine, however, is textbook case of how to do it right.

As with all zines, finding this won't be easy, but if you do, definitely grab it. It's a lot of fun to read, even if you're not a Harry Potter fan. Political wit is rare, and should be cherished. This is one of those zines, and I'm happy to have it in our private collection.