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Leader Resource 2: Harry Potter's Moral Compass

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling has many examples of using a moral compass. One such example comes from The Prisoner of Azkaban, illuminated by Edmund M. Kern in The Wisdom of Harry Potter: What Our Favorite Hero Teaches Us about Moral Choices (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2003).

Ask the group if any of them have read the Harry Potter book, The Prisoner of Azkaban. Tell them that one theme of the book is that submitting to authority is not always the moral thing to do.

After you read the excerpt aloud, if children in the group have read this or other Harry Potter books, invite them to contribute examples of times when Harry used his "moral compass" to determine his course of action.

[Tell the group: "There is a part in The Prisoner of Azkaban where Dumbledore, the school headmaster, lays out a situation that challenges Harry to find the right direction, and act with integrity."]

Sirius is innocent of the charges against him, but no one knows it, and it can't be proven . . . Making matters worse, the Ministry of Magic is intent upon deepening an already long-standing injustice. Dumbledore explains, while Sirius awaits his fate:

"Listen to me, Harry. It's too late, you understand me? You must see that Professor Snape's version of events is far more convincing than yours."

"He hates Sirius," Hermione said desperately. "All because of some stupid trick Sirius played on him —"

"Sirius has not acted like an innocent man. The attack on the Fat Lady — entering Gryffindor Tower with a knife — without Pettigrew, alive or dead, we have no chance of overturning Sirius's sentence."

"But you believe us."

"Yes, I do," said Dumbledore quietly. "But I have no power to make other men see the truth, or to overrule the Minister of Magic . . ."

[Tell the children: "To make sure Sirius is not wrongly punished, the children realize that they will need to break more school rules than they already have."]

Harry learns an important lesson. Rules have their place but, at times, they can serve ends other than what their creators intended.

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Last updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.

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