The Real Cost of a Magical Education

Naomi Novik started her fantasy series. bildungsromansThis was partly because Harry Potter annoyed her. She was most annoyed by the insufficient economic thinking behind J.K. Rowling’s world-building. She explained that the world isn’t working when you get into it. Polygon. Magic doesn’t have to cost any money, is it? So, why is the Weasley family poor? They are half adults and fully-grown certified wizards. All of them seem to be very talented and intelligent. Magic doesn’t have a cost other than the time required to learn and use it. Therefore, you will be richer if you have more wizards. The goal of wizards is to get as many kids as possible.

Although it is not a good idea to make a Death Eater sound, one must be careful because the Harry Potter world doesn’t seem very cohesive. What’s the point of having Ron wear new robes made by the Weasleys? Hand-me-downs are common in wizarding realms. What has happened to the Weasleys or other wizarding families? Why would anyone with magic be able to send their child to school, where they are often turned into stone and set upon by the Dementors.

Novik stated that “there must be some kind of horrible reason.” Polygon. It can’t be just that you desire power. Power is selfish. You don’t have to risk your life to achieve it. No one says, “I want to be more powerful by jumping off the cliff.” So what does drive you to a school like this?…I decided, for my story, the only possible answer was that the alternative was worse.”

Novik’s revision of the young adult novel “magical schools” and her detailed exploration of the notion of scarcity in a magical world will provide enough pleasure for many. This is a tremendous pleasure. The series can be viewed more as a meditation on two larger questions. What’s the best relationship between self-interest and altruism? What education should be given to children?

An Analysis of Scarcity

Novik was already aware of her economic concerns in previous works. The 2018 novel is her. Spinning Silver In a tale set in an Eastern European fantasy setting, (Del Rey), the theme of Rumpelstiltskin was explored by a family that lends money to a wealthy family. The Temeraire dragons have complex economic needs and a monetary system. It is not surprising that she was determined to create a magical system with costs and benefits. It is amazing to see how a school-based fantasy universe changes when faced with limited resources. This is in line with Thomas Sowell’s observation, “There are no solutions. Only tradeoffs.”

The Deathly Path to EducationThis is the first Scholomance novel Del Rey has published. It’s a story about scarcity. The book introduces the reader to the school known as the “Scholomance”, which was established in 1800 to safeguard the wizard children. Wizard children, magical beginners whose powers grow faster than their skill, are an irresistible source of food and power for the vicious magic creatures Maleficaria or Mal. These children are irresistible. The Scholomance was created to protect children from the powerful and wealthy wizard guilds. Before that, a mere 1 in 20 child could survive adulthood without protection. Inside the Scholomance, things are still grim, but about 25 percent of the class survives to graduation—though most survivors are still children from enclaves.

Scholomance students are allowed to study for four years. They have to adhere strictly with weight limits for their personal needs and magic items. They are not allowed to leave until graduation or death. Graduation Day is a massive battle between senior students and Mals. The students race for the gates using all of their magic to get out before being eaten. Your survival chances are enhanced if you form alliances before your graduation. Students who don’t make these alliances will be eaten first.

This is more Hunger Games than Hogwarts. As our narrator Galadriel “El” Higgins notes, a 25 percent shot at survival is “plenty decent odds….But we have to pay for that protection. Our work is what we pay, but our misery, terror and other afflictions all contribute to the building of mana. [power]That is what fuels our school. The school pays most. They are not the most successful. Power is required to make magic work. And big magic—like a school built to teach and protect wizard children—costs big power. Hogwarts is known for its celebrations, feasts, and trips to the shops. But, Scholomance’s power and protection are constantly lacking. The energy students use to fight to survive gives the Scholomance energy to continue its work. All of that means that along with building alliances, students compete—often violently—for resources.

Novik paints a vivid picture of the reality of scarcity living in a world full of danger and violence. We find out that students who practice dark magic or “malia” sometimes kill other students in order to gain power—and we find it out only six pages into the first book.

It soon becomes apparent that Orion Lake is responsible for the worsening scarcity problems this year. Orion is the Maleficaria-fighting superstar. He gains magical power with every monster that he defeats. This magical power is shared with his Enclave students, who fuel their magical studies as well as their protection wards. Orion is saving many students from being eaten before they graduate. So as the school year goes on, the Scholomance has fewer and fewer supplies to feed and protect its students—and the Mals, who would ordinarily dine on several students a week, are wild with hunger and increasingly bold in their attacks. It becomes clear that Novik is not Hogwarts when the seniors start plotting to allow the Mals early access to freshman dorms to satisfy their hunger.

If I’m not for me, then who am I?

It is the natural outcome of this that senior citizens have a lifeboat ethic. Scholomance suffers from an immutable, terrible scarcity. How much do we owe our fellow human beings, even if they live at the margins of existence? How much do we owe one another? Novik is very interested These problems and the compromise between self-interest and altruism are key. El is the narrator of these meditations. Half-Indian, half-Welsh daughter of a famed healer is predicted to be a sorceress with almost unprecedented power. El must draw on the energy of her surroundings to tap that power. El is unable to accept the fact that she can have virtually unlimited magic, even if it means she has to kill other students.

The dangers and scarcities of the Scholomance make it difficult for El to resist her fate. Problems get worse when El’s dark, untapped powers can be seen in her aura and facial expressions. It is difficult for people to like El, and it becomes impossible to make alliances with her or engage in useful trades. She is an isolated person and everything she does seems driven solely by her self-interest. She has—as the story begins—no crew of friends and no allies she works to support and to save. All her attention and all the mana she can gather without resorting to dark magic are dedicated to keeping her alive till graduation.

Orion Lake, El’s school hero is his apparent opposition. With his altruistic attitude, he positions himself as the hope of the next generation of wizards. However, El is an outsider and can see the dangers that he represents before any other. El thinks about killing Orion in the opening book. She then concludes with her grim assessment, “too bad that the losers couldn’t remain afloat without him.” This is not the case.  to all survive, anyway. “The school must be fed.” It is essential that the school is fed.

Orion and El both come to understand the limitations of their individual approaches over the course the series. El starts to manage her self-interest, and finds ways to assist others while protecting herself. It isn’t easy. El must weigh the risks and rewards of sacrificing herself in order to help others or risking the ability to protect many students from future harm.

Orion, a slightly shrewd Orion, who would not be able to get into Ravenclaw if he had his intellectual faculties intact, begins to understand the issues with the “kill all the beasts at any cost” strategy. El, for instance, criticizes him for killing a creature hiding inside a steam-table tray of scrambled Eggs. He could have easily gotten her some eggs if he didn’t attack it so quickly and violently. then killed the monster. After she explained that her saving 600 lives has increased the scarcity of supplies in the world, he starts to grasp the difficulties they are experiencing. After convincing El that he isn’t a manipulator, the two form an amicable friendship.

El and Orion’s friendship—and later romance, or something like it—becomes the means by which they negotiate an uneasy truce between the two most necessary and conflicting actions for students in the Scholomance: Survive at any cost and help others survive. The push pull between altruism and self-interest, and the constant need to recalibrate how much of which is appropriate at any given moment, make the books engaging. They also lead to an inexplicable volume 2 cliffhanger with the third book. The Golden EnclaveThis is unlikely to happen until September.

Our Future Depends on Our Children

The sequel to A Deadly Education, The Final GraduateAlso, it forces readers to consider what education really is. For. Scholomance has been designed not to aid students in their emotional or social development. It’s designed to serve social needs. As El notes, “Everyone in the school could make themselves somewhat useful—that’s what all of us have been doing all four years of this, finding ways to Be useful.” To be attractive in trading and alliances, students must become productive. You will need to work hard to get to graduation. To do this, build a team that each member can contribute something.

The Scholomance—which seems to be at least somewhat sentient—forces students to develop that usefulness through a rigorous curriculum that centers on a magic system where spells are acquired by brute memorization of languages. The harder or more obscure language a spell is, the better. Scholomance is a punishment for students who do not learn properly. Badly executed laboratory assignments can lead to fatal poisoning. Failure to complete a shop assignment can lead to death or dismemberment.

It raises an important question. If education is to make young people ready for the world outside of school, then would Hogwarts and the Scholomance be better? These young adults will graduate with incredible amounts of magical ability. They ought to be skilled at using it. Without practice, how can they become expert? Scholomance, it is true, has stopped functioning as intended. The students are at greater risk than they need to be. Even in nonmagical realms, there is some great learning that comes with at minimum a Very little bit of risk.

Novik connects this need to accept risk and be practical with education, as well as the need for an education that recognizes instantiated privilege. Students note the irony in the Scholomance’s founding words, “To provide sanctuary and protection for all the wise-gifted child of the globe,” noting that they were not believed by any student. It was not true.

Scholomance children arrive literally loaded with privilege from their wealthy and powerful family. The seniors who have graduated from their respective enclaves are permitted to take in the same amount of luggage as other students, but they leave their belongings behind for the incoming students. Enclave students inherit everything, from clothing and food to magic items to term paper libraries to books of written terms papers. They can also use this as an incentive to outsiders who want to make alliances. You can even offer to get a job as a guaranteed employee in the enclave after graduation. El explained that the enclaves have no reason to be concerned about us. We’re not their children….And if we happen to be faster than their children, more powerful, then their children will get eaten….You can’t blame people for wanting their own kids to live.”

As devastating as any fantasy book could portray Ayn Rand’s “aristocracy” of pull, it is a stark illustration of her true nature. The book mirrors modern understandings of privilege, inherited wealth more precisely than the Harry Potter series. Novik is very nuanced in his discussion on class. As El views outsiders as El, so are the Enclaves. This is when El realizes some of her enclave friends are intelligent and caring, and not only wealthy. She soon realizes she will end up saving and working alongside some of these kids.

These questions will be explored further in the final installment of the trilogy, I believe. El is given a series of spells at the end of book two that she will be able to use to create her own enclaves, provided she lives beyond graduation. It will be fascinating to see the impact of this possible increase in the magic supply on the story’s economic concerns. Novik may be too concerned about scarcity to magically remove it. However, will El create new enclaves to allow her to change the impugned privileges and the oppressive class structure that so crippled many wizards of her world? Will she be able to solve the problem if she does?

The Scholomance series is not moving towards a joyous conclusion that sees all abilities and classes of wizards unite in happiness and unity. El finishes the second book much as she began the first—threatening to kill or maim Orion Lake. However, the students discover that even under extreme circumstances, when the only options are painful and exhausting tradeoffs they must make, they are more efficient, smarter and can use their resources better when working together. They are preparing for graduation at the end The Final Graduate, they come to realize that “this whole term, all the endless outrageously horrible unsurvivable runs, pushing and pushing and pushing all of us to find completely new strategies, to learn to work as a single enormous alliance,” was “to defeat—whatever was on the other side.”

The series acknowledges the huge problems with a tragically flawed system, and then it insists that human creativity in conditions of extreme scarcity, a tenuous alliance between altruism and self-interest, and an education gained by sheer grit can find ways to create change—and to kill a lot of really revolting monsters along the way.