Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

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Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Swindle1984 » 2017-01-03 05:04pm

I was forcibly introduced to the Harry Potter movies by a friend of mine; we marathoned the first three, will continue with the rest when we have time. I had previously read the first book when it was new and dismissed it as stupid.

Is Hogwarts run by complete idiots?

They leave Harry, their magical wizard Jesus, with a bunch of cartoonishly abusive morons for the first 11 or so years of his life, then continue sending him back with them every summer.

The poor bastard who gets shit on by life at every opportunity (no, not Ron, the other one; Neville? I think that's his name.) could have died countless times when he was flying all over on his broom out of control, and the only thing the teacher did was stand there and yell at him to come down. Then when he miraculously didn't die after a fall that realistically should have killed the poor kid, the teacher leaves the rest of the class unattended while she takes him to the nurse's office, something no teacher would ever do. Hell, if you have to talk to someone out in the hall, you leave the door open and stand where you can see and hear what your students are doing, you don't just leave them unattended. And predictably, the instant she's out of sight, they start flying on their brooms exactly like she told them not to. When Harry gets caught, does he get in trouble? No, he's recruited to play Quidditch!

Oh cool, they fly around on brooms and play an aerial version of cricket? No, these children are flying at an altitude of several hundred feet, at high speeds, without so much as a bicycle helmet, much less padding! And they kick and punch at each other while chasing the ball. And they have balls whose purpose is to deliberately chase after and knock people off their brooms, hitting one kid's broom with enough force to blast the handle into splinters. They even mention that students playing the game occasionally disappear for no apparent reason, but they "usually" come back in a month or so. And somehow not a single student has died playing this game in several years, even though high school football results in death or brain damage on a regular basis and is FAR less dangerous. When Quirrel starts fucking with Harry's broom, Snape is the only one who actually does anything about it, while the rest of the faculty just watch and gasp while he tries not to fucking die. Not one of them thinks "hey, I'm a wizard with magic powers, maybe I should prevent this kid from falling to his death" or anything.

When Snape suspects Quirrel of being up to no good and catches him in the act, he doesn't inform the other faculty or Dumbledore and instead just threatens him so Harry can misinterpret what's happening.

Students aren't allowed outside after dark, especially in the spooky woods full of monsters. For breaking this rule, you are sentenced to... going outside after dark into the spooky woods full of monsters. And when some monster is powerful enough to take down a unicorn, you... split up and send two children to search for it with no adult supervision.

Slytherin house is set up for failure; they stereotype every kid that goes into it as sneaky, untrustworthy, and evil. And when they legitimately win the most points (not really sure what that gets them, all we see is cheering kids), Dumbledore is a complete dick and humiliates them in front of all the other students by awarding extra points to Harry and co. to make them the winners, after declaring Slytherin the winners! It's like they want these kids to turn into supervillains.

They have a basilisk sneaking around the school petrifying students and literally the only precautions they take are "tell everyone to be careful" and "from now on, you're not allowed to go anywhere unless escorted by a teacher", which there aren't nearly enough teachers to do that and we never see them actually doing it. FINALLY, after half a dozen people (and a ghost? how does that work?) have been petrified by the thing, they decide that now they should send the students home, instead of sending them all home as soon as they knew a dangerous monster was on the loose and hunting it down.

Dumbledore actually hires Lockhart, an obvious fraud, as a teacher. You'd think after his predecessor turned out to have the devil on the back of his head, they'd at least run a background check or interview the guy before hiring him. Snape, once again, exposes Lockhart as a fraud who doesn't know anything about magic and is useless at his job, and says... nothing. In fact, the entire faculty is utterly useless, makes no attempt to find the basilisk or protect their students, and it's up to a handful of school children to save the day.

Daddy Malfoy is apparently stupid enough to cast a lethal spell on a child right outside of Dumbledore's office. Even if Gollum's inbred cousin hadn't stopped him, that's... actually, he probably could have gotten away with it. Dumbledore is no Sherlock Holmes.

Harry is constantly breaking the rules, and instead of getting punished they just wag their finger at him while winking, because he's their lovable magical Jesus scamp or whatever. Other than being less of an idiot than his teachers, Harry has done nothing so far to indicate that he should be allowed to get away with anything.




So what the hell? Am I missing some "this was all part of the plan" thing that's revealed later on, or is Hogwarts actually run by incompetent idiots?
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Elheru Aran » 2017-01-03 05:32pm

A lot of your complaints can be explained by, quite literally, "it's magic".

Seriously; a lot of stuff in the HP-verse simply doesn't follow rules that we understand in the real world. Slytherin consistently turning out villains is one example. It's not logical, but it happens.

That said. The Hogwarts staff and Dumbledore are indeed responsible for their own students to a certain extent, but they can't protect the kids from their own stupidity. Half the Harry Potter books consist of the kids sneaking about on their own, and there's nothing that Dumbledore and company can do about that short of locking down Hogwarts-- which notably they do a few times.

Bear in mind as well that Dumbledore is, while a respected figure in the wizarding world, short of actual authority outside of Hogwarts. If the Ministry of Magic tells him to toe the line, he doesn't have much choice, hence the whole mess with Umbridge. Gilderoy Lockhart is an interesting situation, and perhaps a calculated move by Dumbledore to publicly deflate his reputation. He may have figured Lockhart was a safe enough instructor in that he wouldn't actively endanger the kids the same way Quirrell did, out of pure cowardice.

Also bear in mind that Hogwarts during HP's time is only about a decade or so after Voldemort's reign of terror, during which many good English wizards were killed, literally driven insane, or maimed. English wizarding society still hasn't recovered, and the Death Eaters are more or less actively destabilizing that society from within-- Lucius Malfoy appears to be rather prominent in said society, for example, and we all know what he was up to.

But yes, there is in fact a pretty decent amount of incompetence that's hard to explain away otherwise, whether it be the result of paranoia, terror, or simple lapses of mind.
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby TheFeniX » 2017-01-03 05:39pm

Expand "Dumbledore" to "Any wizard in a position of authority" and your statement holds true. A few notes:

Wizards from what I know are naturally tougher than muggles, able to survive feats that would be nearly always fatal. Some baby wizard was tossed (or fell) out a window and survived with a couple bumps and bruises.

You could just lock up any wizard the sorting hat put into Slytherin and solve 99% of the wizarding worlds problem. As you said, Malfoy was going to straight up murder Harry and nothing is ever mentioned of it again. That right there has to be one of the most damning scenes against both the Wizard concept of justice AND how shitty Slytherin wizards are.

Voldy is able to completely take over the Wizard gubment within a few months and not only does no one really seem keen to stop him MORE THAN A FEW wizards seem completely on board for it. When even Ron's mom (a wizarding nobody) can throw down with and kill Lestrange in a magic dust-up, it really isn't that these wizards are all that more powerful (Voldy aside, but that's less about being good in a straight up fight), it's that they are so self-assured and content they seem willing to throw in with any moron.

There's so many holes to poke in the series you really just have to ignore them if you want to enjoy the movies.

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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Swindle1984 » 2017-01-03 06:01pm

And was Ron's dad, a member of the government, seriously too stupid to figure out what a rubber ducky is for? Hogwarts is full of kids who live in the "muggle" world, including Harry; if he's too stupid to figure it out from simple observation, he could just ask someone.
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Khaat » 2017-01-03 06:02pm

Elheru Aran wrote:A lot of your complaints can be explained by, quite literally, "it's magic".

Aww, I was hoping for "a wizard did it!", but I'll have to settle. :D

First and foremost, it's supposed to be a child hero story (though why Rowling didn't write her daughter or daughter-insert as the hero, I will never know - except as a whole "King Arthur" riff), with the requisites: kid overcomes baddie, parental-type units are unable/unwilling to do the job, rules inconsistently applied to make it work out, good defeats evil.
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Crazedwraith » 2017-01-03 06:12pm

Swindle1984 wrote:And was Ron's dad, a member of the government, seriously too stupid to figure out what a rubber ducky is for? Hogwarts is full of kids who live in the "muggle" world, including Harry; if he's too stupid to figure it out from simple observation, he could just ask someone.



... Do you understand the concept of 'comic relief' in a film?

Or just how films and stories work in general? If Hogwarts was sanely and competently run there would be no story.

The films exaggerated danger for drama and miss out some details that might make the adults a little more competent (but also lots more incompetance) but I would like to mention that the only reason that the Slytherins win all the time is that they have Severus Snape in there corner who is ridiculously biased while the other house's teachers are scrupulously even-handed.

So 'won fairly' is a bit of an exaggeration.

eta: If you go in biased against something of course you're going to find stuff to bitch about. If you don't want to watch it... Don't?
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Eternal_Freedom » 2017-01-03 06:14pm

Something worth considering that may help explain some of the weirder escapades and details of the setting - Harry and Voldemort are bound together by a prophecy (which despite Dumbledore's comments, do seem to carry weight), so fate/destiny/magic itself may be futzing around with things.

EDIT: Also, there are some things that don't make sense in the first few books if you've read the whole series, things like "why did Sirius get thrown in jail without being questioned under veritserum?" If he really was Voldie's right hand man like everyone seemed to think, he'd be a priceless source of information.

Additionally, Dumbledore has a pensieve, that can store and replay memories (which are apparently far more detailed POV recollection would be), why does he not ask Harry to give a pensieve memory to show the Minister that Black really was innocent?

Because Rowling didn't include pensieves/veritaserum until book four. Humbug.

Oh, also, Galvatron: Dumbles did have authority beyond Hogwarts; up until book 5 he was Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot and Supreme Mugwump (whatever that means) of the International Confederation of Wizards. They might be ceremonial roles but they give him access to government types, it's mentioned that he frequently gets owls from the Ministry asking for help/advice.
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Crazedwraith » 2017-01-03 06:15pm

Eternal_Freedom wrote:Something worth considering that may help explain some of the weirder escapades and details of the setting - Harry and Voldemort are bound together by a prophecy (which despite Dumbledore's comments, do seem to carry weight), so fate/destiny/magic itself may be futzing around with things.


heh. Or just the narrativium.
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Tribble » 2017-01-03 07:14pm

Out-side universe: they are children's fantasy books first and foremost (especially the earlier ones). Suspension of disbelief and all that.

They leave Harry, their magical wizard Jesus, with a bunch of cartoonishly abusive morons for the first 11 or so years of his life, then continue sending him back with them every summer.


Dealt with in the later books: due to Harry's mother voluntarily sacrificing her life to save him, he was granted a great deal of protection against evil wizards (and Voldemort in particular). Part of that protection was that his Aunt's house (as that's his last living relatives) is practically immune to attack until he becomes an adult. Apparently the protection was far greater than anything else Dumbledore could provide, and even Voldemort couldn't attack him there.

IIRC, Dumbledore eventually calls them out on their abusive behaviour, and they do make amends of sorts by the final book.

snip Quidditch stuff


To be fair, most of the staff was on hand and perfectly capable of catching him if he actually fell off, so he wasn't in really in danger. And in any case as others have noted, wizards seem to be far more resistant than an ordinary person when it comes to non-magical physical harm.

As for Dumbledore I wouldn't be surprised if he allowed things to continue on deliberately, as constantly exposing Harry to danger was part of his overall plan.

When Snape suspects Quirrel of being up to no good and catches him in the act, he doesn't inform the other faculty or Dumbledore and instead just threatens him so Harry can misinterpret what's happening.


In the last book it's revealed that Dumbledore was fully aware that Quirrel was up to something, which is why he set Snape on him in the first place. And it's also revealed that he more or less deliberately chose not to get involved and let Harry and co. try to beat Quirrel on his own, in order to gain experience.

Students aren't allowed outside after dark, especially in the spooky woods full of monsters. For breaking this rule, you are sentenced to... going outside after dark into the spooky woods full of monsters. And when some monster is powerful enough to take down a unicorn, you... split up and send two children to search for it with no adult supervision.


The ladder part is because Hagrid is an idiot, yes. As to sending Harry into the forest in the first place... while it's never really talked about, I wouldn't be surprised if this was something Dumbledore cooked up just for him. Malfoy was just a poor smuck who got caught up in the scheme.


Slytherin house is set up for failure; they stereotype every kid that goes into it as sneaky, untrustworthy, and evil. And when they legitimately win the most points (not really sure what that gets them, all we see is cheering kids), Dumbledore is a complete dick and humiliates them in front of all the other students by awarding extra points to Harry and co. to make them the winners, after declaring Slytherin the winners! It's like they want these kids to turn into supervillains.


I always saw that as a "chicken and egg" kind of thing - almost all the evil wizards are Slytherin and they are specifically sorted into the House because they are power hungry and willing to do whatever it takes to win... so the other wizards treat them like shit, which just makes them want to be evil even more.

They have a basilisk sneaking around the school petrifying students and literally the only precautions they take are "tell everyone to be careful" and "from now on, you're not allowed to go anywhere unless escorted by a teacher", which there aren't nearly enough teachers to do that and we never see them actually doing it. FINALLY, after half a dozen people (and a ghost? how does that work?) have been petrified by the thing, they decide that now they should send the students home, instead of sending them all home as soon as they knew a dangerous monster was on the loose and hunting it down.

Dumbledore actually hires Lockhart, an obvious fraud, as a teacher. You'd think after his predecessor turned out to have the devil on the back of his head, they'd at least run a background check or interview the guy before hiring him. Snape, once again, exposes Lockhart as a fraud who doesn't know anything about magic and is useless at his job, and says... nothing. In fact, the entire faculty is utterly useless, makes no attempt to find the basilisk or protect their students, and it's up to a handful of school children to save the day.


It turns out alter on that Having Harry and his friends go into mortal danger on a routine basis was actually part of Dumbledore's plan. He's not being incompetent, he's just training his child soldiers to be ready for war. I'm not kidding. :twisted:

Daddy Malfoy is apparently stupid enough to cast a lethal spell on a child right outside of Dumbledore's office. Even if Gollum's inbred cousin hadn't stopped him, that's... actually, he probably could have gotten away with it. Dumbledore is no Sherlock Holmes.


It's unknown whether or not the spell would have worked due to Harry's connection with Voldemort... but ya, prettys stupid.


Harry is constantly breaking the rules, and instead of getting punished they just wag their finger at him while winking, because he's their lovable magical Jesus scamp or whatever. Other than being less of an idiot than his teachers, Harry has done nothing so far to indicate that he should be allowed to get away with anything.


Again most of this was later revealed to be deliberate on Dumbledore's part. He was training a child soldier to fight a war, not teaching a typical student. The reason why it's Harry (apart from Harry being the main character) is because of the various magical bonds Harry and Voldemort share. In a nutshell, Harry was the best person to fight Voldemort because Voldemort was literally incapable of killing him, while the reverse wasn't true. Voldemort created his own worst enemy, and Dumbledore exploited it to the hilt.
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Adam Reynolds » 2017-01-03 08:02pm

This is epidemic to young adult fiction in general, in which adults have to be incompetent so that the children have something to do.

Of the young adult stories I have familiarity with, one of the few that I can think of in which adults are largely competent is The Hunger Games. It then has the problem that Katniss comes across as lacking agency.

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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby The Romulan Republic » 2017-01-03 08:19pm

First of all, keep in mind that some stuff is more clearly explained, or just handled differently, in the books than in the films, or covered in stuff you haven't gotten to yet (though I will do my best to avoid major spoilers).

Swindle1984 wrote:I was forcibly introduced to the Harry Potter movies by a friend of mine; we marathoned the first three, will continue with the rest when we have time. I had previously read the first book when it was new and dismissed it as stupid.

Is Hogwarts run by complete idiots?

They leave Harry, their magical wizard Jesus, with a bunch of cartoonishly abusive morons for the first 11 or so years of his life, then continue sending him back with them every summer.


The reason for that was because due to his mother's sacrifice, he would be under magical protection as long as he was with her family.

Well, that and Dumbledore wanted him sheltered from his celebrity in the Wizarding World, but that's a much weaker reason, and I wouldn't be surprised if that was largely a cover story.

Its unclear, as well, exactly how much Dumbledore knew about Harry's circumstances, though he should have kept a closer eye.

The poor bastard who gets shit on by life at every opportunity (no, not Ron, the other one; Neville? I think that's his name.) could have died countless times when he was flying all over on his broom out of control, and the only thing the teacher did was stand there and yell at him to come down. Then when he miraculously didn't die after a fall that realistically should have killed the poor kid, the teacher leaves the rest of the class unattended while she takes him to the nurse's office, something no teacher would ever do. Hell, if you have to talk to someone out in the hall, you leave the door open and stand where you can see and hear what your students are doing, you don't just leave them unattended. And predictably, the instant she's out of sight, they start flying on their brooms exactly like she told them not to. When Harry gets caught, does he get in trouble? No, he's recruited to play Quidditch!


Yeah, that sequence is kind of inexcusable, though Harry is, of all the guilty parties, the one least deserving of getting into trouble.

Oh cool, they fly around on brooms and play an aerial version of cricket? No, these children are flying at an altitude of several hundred feet, at high speeds, without so much as a bicycle helmet, much less padding! And they kick and punch at each other while chasing the ball. And they have balls whose purpose is to deliberately chase after and knock people off their brooms, hitting one kid's broom with enough force to blast the handle into splinters. They even mention that students playing the game occasionally disappear for no apparent reason, but they "usually" come back in a month or so. And somehow not a single student has died playing this game in several years, even though high school football results in death or brain damage on a regular basis and is FAR less dangerous. When Quirrel starts fucking with Harry's broom, Snape is the only one who actually does anything about it, while the rest of the faculty just watch and gasp while he tries not to fucking die. Not one of them thinks "hey, I'm a wizard with magic powers, maybe I should prevent this kid from falling to his death" or anything.


I believe its mentioned somewhere, in the books at least, that no one has actually died playing Quidditch at Hogwarts. Keep in mind that wizards seem to have a somewhat greater physical durability than ordinary humans, and that their are injuries that would take months to recover from, or even be lethal or permanently crippling, that can be quickly fixed with magic.

As to why more of the faculty (I think Fred and George tried to help, at least in the book) didn't intervene- I really don't know. It may be that not all of them could perform the types of magic that would be helpful in that situation. Snape is portrayed as an exceptionally capable wizard, and countering dark magic is one of his specialities. Dumbledore probably could have, but he was apparently not at that first game (he attends the second one, implicitly to ensure that no one goes after Harry again).

When Snape suspects Quirrel of being up to no good and catches him in the act, he doesn't inform the other faculty or Dumbledore and instead just threatens him so Harry can misinterpret what's happening.


Dumbledore was already perfectly well aware of Quirrel's dubious loyalties at that point in the book, I think (their's a flashback later in the series which shows Dumbledore telling Snape to spy on Quirrel).

As to why he allowed Quirrel to continue teaching- well, he may not have had sufficient proof to sack him, but their's another reason that I'll get to in a bit.

As to Harry being misinformed- I doubt anyone else knew that he and his friends suspected Snape. The only staff member they told their suspicions to was Hagrid, who immediately dismissed them.

Students aren't allowed outside after dark, especially in the spooky woods full of monsters. For breaking this rule, you are sentenced to... going outside after dark into the spooky woods full of monsters. And when some monster is powerful enough to take down a unicorn, you... split up and send two children to search for it with no adult supervision.


I'd say that that's less Dumbledore's incompetence, than Hagrid's. And its repeatedly established that Hagrid, while meaning well, has a very warped perspective on dangerous magical creatures.

Dumbledore could be held at fault for not sacking Hagrid, though. Obviously he's trying to look out for a former student who's been persecuted for things he didn't do and aren't his fault (and also, more cynically, he's keeping a loyal agent close at hand and indebted to him), but one could argue that he is negligent for putting Hagrid's well-being over that of his students.

Slytherin house is set up for failure; they stereotype every kid that goes into it as sneaky, untrustworthy, and evil. And when they legitimately win the most points (not really sure what that gets them, all we see is cheering kids), Dumbledore is a complete dick and humiliates them in front of all the other students by awarding extra points to Harry and co. to make them the winners, after declaring Slytherin the winners! It's like they want these kids to turn into super villains.


Well, I do think that Harry and company's actions at the end of the book (stopping fucking Voldemort) warranted a large amount of points. :wink: And their was probably a sense of "let someone else have it", since as I recall, Slytherin had then taken it every year for seven years running.

As to why Slytherin House is regarded so negatively, that's probably something out of Dumbledore's control somewhat- we see that Dumbledore himself has no problem working with Slytherins and respecting them as colleagues (Snape, Slughorn later in the series), so its likely that this is simply a societal prejudice brought about by years of conflict over the blood purity issue.

It is idiotic that they have a House specifically designed to select for ambition, cunning, and racism, but that's people being stupid for the sake of tradition. Again, not something I think you can lay at Dumbledore's feet specifically. What's he supposed to do, abolish Slytherin House to stop the persecution of Slytherins? I don't know if he'd even have the authority to do that.

They have a basilisk sneaking around the school petrifying students and literally the only precautions they take are "tell everyone to be careful" and "from now on, you're not allowed to go anywhere unless escorted by a teacher", which there aren't nearly enough teachers to do that and we never see them actually doing it. FINALLY, after half a dozen people (and a ghost? how does that work?) have been petrified by the thing, they decide that now they should send the students home, instead of sending them all home as soon as they knew a dangerous monster was on the loose and hunting it down.


They didn't know it was a basilisk, but that's a fairly minor quibble.

Keep in mind that the Wizarding World is quite small, population-wise, and that Hogwarts is the only notable magical school in Britain. They're... kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place, here.

Its strange that they didn't have Aurors (magic cops, basically, since you haven't gotten to number four yet) guarding the place, but frankly, I doubt it would have made that much difference. Hogwarts' staff includes Dumbledore (considered the greatest wizard of the age) and several other veterans of the last wizarding war. They ought to have been able to handle it, and if they couldn't, I doubt anyone else would fair better. And you'll see when you get a bit further in the series that Dumbledore has excellent reason to not want the Ministry anywhere near Hogwarts, if it isn't apparent already.

Dumbledore actually hires Lockhart, an obvious fraud, as a teacher. You'd think after his predecessor turned out to have the devil on the back of his head, they'd at least run a background check or interview the guy before hiring him. Snape, once again, exposes Lockhart as a fraud who doesn't know anything about magic and is useless at his job, and says... nothing. In fact, the entire faculty is utterly useless, makes no attempt to find the basilisk or protect their students, and it's up to a handful of school children to save the day.


I believe its been stated somewhere that Dumbledore deliberately hired Lockhart for the cursed Defence position, hoping he'd be exposed as a fraud. This also ties into my main point reg. Dumbledore, which I'll get to in a moment.

Daddy Malfoy is apparently stupid enough to cast a lethal spell on a child right outside of Dumbledore's office. Even if Gollum's inbred cousin hadn't stopped him, that's... actually, he probably could have gotten away with it. Dumbledore is no Sherlock Holmes.


Dumbledore probably would have figured it out, given the circumstances, but Lucius might still have gotten away with it. Because he's a rich, well-connected fucker, and he got off working for Voldemort even though it was obvious he was guilty. And the only witness would have been a house elf- they're not at all respected in the Wizarding World, for the most part. It would be like trying to convict a rich white plantation owner on the word of a recently freed black slave in the Civil War era South. Good luck with that.

Remember: Dumbledore knows Lucius is guilty. He just can't do anything about it unless he's prepared to play vigilante.

But yes, stupid, stupid move on Lucius's part. Pretty obviously acting out of anger without thinking it through. Especially since the last person who tried to throw a killing curse at Harry Potter got disembodied, and Lucius doesn't seem to know why.

Though in the book, he didn't try to use a killing curse. I think I read somewhere that the actor improvised that.

Harry is constantly breaking the rules, and instead of getting punished they just wag their finger at him while winking, because he's their lovable magical Jesus scamp or whatever. Other than being less of an idiot than his teachers, Harry has done nothing so far to indicate that he should be allowed to get away with anything.


Or, you know, Harry has repeatedly saved their asses, and while its inexcusable that a pre-teen kid has to deal with that shit, they're not going to punish him for saving lives.

And he did get punished by McGonnagle (rather harshly) for being caught out of bed in the first story, among other examples.

Likewise, Snape is taking points from him constantly.

The only one who actively seems to encourage rule-breaking, over all, is Dumbledore, as part of his plans (I don't really recall the film, but in the first book, its pretty clear that he intended Harry to track down and fight Voldemort, for reasons that should become a lot more clear when you get to part five).

Which brings me, finally, to my main point reg. Dumbledore.

So what the hell? Am I missing some "this was all part of the plan" thing that's revealed later on, or is Hogwarts actually run by incompetent idiots?


To some extent, you are missing the plan, though I'm hesitant to tell you more because of spoilers for later in the series.

See, I think that Dumbledore's problem, more than anything else, is that he's trying to do two jobs at once that don't really go together.

On the one hand, he's trying to play the kindly, eccentric but loveable old schoolmaster. That, I think, is where his heart really lies more than anything else.

On the other hand, circumstances have required him to take the role of opposing Voldemort, to take the role of politician and spymaster.

These are two careers that don't really go together, especially not when you're trying to do them simultaneously and from the same base of operations. Hogwarts is Dumbledore's main power base and a very secure location, so it ends up being simultaneously a school and a base of operations for paramilitary operations against Voldemort. The former is to the detriment of its security as Dumbledore's HQ, and the latter is to the detriment of the quality of education and the safety of the staff and students.

Dumbledore is trying to do two conflicting jobs, and thus doing worse at both. But its hard to see how he could have avoided this trap, other than by abandoning a Hogwarts career and focussing entirely on a political one, which would have left him without the power base Hogwarts offered. And frankly, Hogwarts was going to be a target anyway from the moment Harry started going their, and so its arguably better to have the only wizard Voldemort feared on the staff.

A lot of Dumbledore's worst decisions: exposing Harry to danger and encouraging his rule-breaking, leaving him with the Dursleys, keeping Snape on the staff despite his dislike for the job and his abusive treatment of students, keeping Hagrid on the job despite his negligence, etc., all become very clear when you realize that they were moves to counter Voldemort or for some other political or security purpose, not to encourage the optimum management of a school.
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Swindle1984 » 2017-01-03 08:25pm

Again most of this was later revealed to be deliberate on Dumbledore's part.


See, I can buy "the adults were deliberately letting things happen while lurking just out of sight in case shit really got out of hand in order to toughen the kids up for a future conflict" more than "this story was only possible because adults are fucking useless".
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby The Romulan Republic » 2017-01-03 08:29pm

Well, some of it isn't revealed until late in the series, but yeah, Dumbledore was playing a very long and arguably unethical, but arguably necessary game against Voldemort, using Harry and Snape as his main pieces. He did make some genuine missteps, but a lot of what appears to be incompetence or even malice at first glance is actually a carefully planned chess move.
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Tribble » 2017-01-03 10:42pm

The Romulan Republic wrote:Well, some of it isn't revealed until late in the series, but yeah, Dumbledore was playing a very long and arguably unethical, but arguably necessary game against Voldemort, using Harry and Snape as his main pieces. He did make some genuine missteps, but a lot of what appears to be incompetence or even malice at first glance is actually a carefully planned chess move.


Exactly. Dumbledore was kind of stuck in conflicting roles and was playing the long game, but as we only see things from Harry's perspective for the most part it only gets revealed bit by bit until the end.

That being said for all of Dumbledore's planning it was ultimately Harry's personal choices that mattered the most (and Dumbledore admitted as much).
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Simon_Jester » 2017-01-04 12:03am

Swindle1984 wrote:The poor bastard who gets shit on by life at every opportunity (no, not Ron, the other one; Neville? I think that's his name.) could have died countless times when he was flying all over on his broom out of control, and the only thing the teacher did was stand there and yell at him to come down. Then when he miraculously didn't die after a fall that realistically should have killed the poor kid, the teacher leaves the rest of the class unattended while she takes him to the nurse's office, something no teacher would ever do. Hell, if you have to talk to someone out in the hall, you leave the door open and stand where you can see and hear what your students are doing, you don't just leave them unattended. And predictably, the instant she's out of sight, they start flying on their brooms exactly like she told them not to.
You can make a good case for Harry's first-year broomstick riding teacher, specifically, being incompetent.

Oh cool, they fly around on brooms and play an aerial version of cricket? No, these children are flying at an altitude of several hundred feet, at high speeds, without so much as a bicycle helmet, much less padding! And they kick and punch at each other while chasing the ball. And they have balls whose purpose is to deliberately chase after and knock people off their brooms, hitting one kid's broom with enough force to blast the handle into splinters. They even mention that students playing the game occasionally disappear for no apparent reason, but they "usually" come back in a month or so. And somehow not a single student has died playing this game in several years, even though high school football results in death or brain damage on a regular basis and is FAR less dangerous.
Gee, it's almost as if the wizard community has enough literally magical methods of keeping people alive and completely recovering from horrible injuries that their standards of "safe" are different from ours.

Seriously, you can't attack Hogwarts for having unsafe Quidditch practices, then talk about how no one is suffering lasting injury. That's just inconsistent.

When Quirrel starts fucking with Harry's broom, Snape is the only one who actually does anything about it, while the rest of the faculty just watch and gasp while he tries not to fucking die. Not one of them thinks "hey, I'm a wizard with magic powers, maybe I should prevent this kid from falling to his death" or anything.
Honestly I wouldn't be surprised if the Quidditch field itself has some kind of enchantment that slows falls in the last ten feet or so to prevent anyone from getting seriously hurt. I mean, given the violence of the sport, someone would have fallen to their death, if there was nothing to stop you from falling to your death.

When Snape suspects Quirrel of being up to no good and catches him in the act, he doesn't inform the other faculty or Dumbledore and instead just threatens him so Harry can misinterpret what's happening.
Are you accusing Snape of being an incompetent teacher, or an incompetent criminal investigator? Hint: One of those is in his job description, the other isn't.

Students aren't allowed outside after dark, especially in the spooky woods full of monsters. For breaking this rule, you are sentenced to... going outside after dark into the spooky woods full of monsters. And when some monster is powerful enough to take down a unicorn, you... split up and send two children to search for it with no adult supervision.
This one is indeed moronic.

Slytherin house is set up for failure; they stereotype every kid that goes into it as sneaky, untrustworthy, and evil. And when they legitimately win the most points (not really sure what that gets them, all we see is cheering kids), Dumbledore is a complete dick and humiliates them in front of all the other students by awarding extra points to Harry and co. to make them the winners, after declaring Slytherin the winners! It's like they want these kids to turn into supervillains.
This is a legitimate concern. I remember a particular fic in which it was pointed out that Dumbledore may be actively trying to destroy Slytherin House's reputation. Not because he hates the Slytherin kids, but because he doesn't understand what Slytherin is for and thinks it serves only as a breeding ground for evil wizards. In which case the obvious thing to do is to make Slytherin a place no one wants to go, until all the children are being sorted into Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff.

It's not a very good idea, but I've seen otherwise competent educational administrators do worse.

They have a basilisk sneaking around the school petrifying students and literally the only precautions they take are "tell everyone to be careful" and "from now on, you're not allowed to go anywhere unless escorted by a teacher", which there aren't nearly enough teachers to do that and we never see them actually doing it. FINALLY, after half a dozen people (and a ghost? how does that work?) have been petrified by the thing, they decide that now they should send the students home, instead of sending them all home as soon as they knew a dangerous monster was on the loose and hunting it down.
The blind spot around student safety that emerges when an actual threat to safety arises at Hogwarts is certainly a problem, although I must note it's hardly an unusual blind spot in works of fiction involving schools. The plot demands terrible danger and adults not reacting to the danger by simply shutting down the school, because that would end the story. Voila, the school is not shut down.

Dumbledore actually hires Lockhart, an obvious fraud, as a teacher. You'd think after his predecessor turned out to have the devil on the back of his head, they'd at least run a background check or interview the guy before hiring him. Snape, once again, exposes Lockhart as a fraud who doesn't know anything about magic and is useless at his job, and says... nothing.
Snape isn't very good at whistleblowing, agreed.

That said, a background check on Lockhart wouldn't have worked, because the one thing he IS good at is brainwashing other people into thinking he did heroic things. His entire modus operandi revolves around that- someone does something, he wipes their memory, takes the credit, and edits the memories of key witnesses so they remember him doing it.

Lockhart has nothing but character references.

Daddy Malfoy is apparently stupid enough to cast a lethal spell on a child right outside of Dumbledore's office. Even if Gollum's inbred cousin hadn't stopped him, that's... actually, he probably could have gotten away with it. Dumbledore is no Sherlock Holmes.
Not going to dispute Lucius Malfoy being a fool, though I dispute the "probably could have gotten away with it" part.



TheFeniX wrote:Expand "Dumbledore" to "Any wizard in a position of authority" and your statement holds true. A few notes:

Wizards from what I know are naturally tougher than muggles, able to survive feats that would be nearly always fatal. Some baby wizard was tossed (or fell) out a window and survived with a couple bumps and bruises.

You could just lock up any wizard the sorting hat put into Slytherin and solve 99% of the wizarding worlds problem. As you said, Malfoy was going to straight up murder Harry and nothing is ever mentioned of it again. That right there has to be one of the most damning scenes against both the Wizard concept of justice AND how shitty Slytherin wizards are.
See, that is exactly why Dumbledore is trying to humiliate and discredit Slytherin! He perceives this house as being in the process of degenerating into a bunch of bigoted criminal idiots. His reaction is to try and destroy it as an institution, which he cannot do directly but can maybe do indirectly. Of course, in the process he's making the problem worse... But then, a lot of real-world political leaders and administrators have equally ill-conceived notions about how to 'reform' the institutions they control.

Voldy is able to completely take over the Wizard gubment within a few months and not only does no one really seem keen to stop him MORE THAN A FEW wizards seem completely on board for it.
Honestly, Voldemort makes a lot more sense if there's a significant fraction of British wizards who secretly agree with his political agenda.

There were, like, 100 people actually following him personally. Probably less. How did they manage to terrorize a British wizarding community that must have at least a population the size of a small town in order to maintain a school the size of Hogwarts? Because a large fraction of that community tacitly supported his goals even if they didn't approve of his methods.

If there's a lot of people quietly saying to each other "I don't approve of he-who-must-not-be-named ripping people's skins off and twisting them into balloon animals in front of them, buuuut at leasst he's strong on the Muggleborn issue," that would do a lot to explain how he manages to accomplish as much as he does.

Eternal_Freedom wrote:EDIT: Also, there are some things that don't make sense in the first few books if you've read the whole series, things like "why did Sirius get thrown in jail without being questioned under veritserum?" If he really was Voldie's right hand man like everyone seemed to think, he'd be a priceless source of information.
Obvious answer: because Veritaserum can be fooled. It has an antidote, and people who've practiced defense against mind-reading can laugh off the effects. If Sirius Black is a powerful wizard and the Dark Lord's right-hand man, it seems very likely that if you give him Veritaserum, he'll tell you whatever he wants to tell you. His testimony is therefore useless- or rather, no more useful than it would be without the Veritaserum.

Additionally, Dumbledore has a pensieve, that can store and replay memories (which are apparently far more detailed POV recollection would be), why does he not ask Harry to give a pensieve memory to show the Minister that Black really was innocent?

Because Rowling didn't include pensieves/veritaserum until book four. Humbug.
Also, while we're at it, memories can be doctored in the Potterverse. I don't remember the exact details of this situation, but it would hardly be a stretch to claim that notorious evil sorceror Sirius Black was able to edit the memories of a twelve year old child in a way that would 'prove' his innocence.
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby tezunegari » 2017-01-04 07:26am

Simon_Jester wrote:Also, while we're at it, memories can be doctored in the Potterverse. I don't remember the exact details of this situation, but it would hardly be a stretch to claim that notorious evil sorceror Sirius Black was able to edit the memories of a twelve year old child in a way that would 'prove' his innocence.

It was claimed that Sirius Black used a confundus charm on the trio to make them believe in his innocense.
The total replacement of memories or maybe even personality can be done as a sixth year student, the one in question is admittedly supposed to be very studious, but she could do it without much apparent training.
Then again if watched in a pensieve modified memories of a Master Occlumens were easily recognizable as modified
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby FTeik » 2017-01-04 07:49am

How do you know, that Snape DIDN'T inform Dumbledore about Quirrel and Lockhart?

And where aside from Hagrid (who has reason to distrust Slytherin's since one of them got him expelled) and the Weasleys (who seem to be in a family-feud with the Malfoys, a Slytherin-family) do we see Slytherin stereotyped as evil? At best Draco Malfoy and his goons and they are a bunch of pathetic bullies, if we give them a lot of credit. And it isn't as if clique-building at school is limited to Hogwarts.
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Simon_Jester » 2017-01-04 09:04am

tezunegari wrote:
Simon_Jester wrote:Also, while we're at it, memories can be doctored in the Potterverse. I don't remember the exact details of this situation, but it would hardly be a stretch to claim that notorious evil sorceror Sirius Black was able to edit the memories of a twelve year old child in a way that would 'prove' his innocence.

It was claimed that Sirius Black used a confundus charm on the trio to make them believe in his innocense.
The total replacement of memories or maybe even personality can be done as a sixth year student, the one in question is admittedly supposed to be very studious, but she could do it without much apparent training.
Then again if watched in a pensieve modified memories of a Master Occlumens were easily recognizable as modified
Right, but suffice to say that the situation with Potterverse mind magic is very, very muddled.

There aren't a lot of absolute defenses or absolute attacks, there are very few ways to use magic to be really sure someone is telling the truth. There may well have been unique individuals who could create convincing Pensieves of false memories. Or maybe someone was once able to create 'trapped' Pensieves so that no one would voluntarily risk sticking their head in a strange Pensieve created by an enemy.

It's not hard to come up with good explanations for why magical Britain doesn't use mental magic more heavily in its criminal investigations.
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Eternal_Freedom » 2017-01-04 09:18am

Where do the books mention veritaserum can be fooled? I've come across the concept in fanfics (specifically, it compels you to answer truthfully, but it doesn't have to be the whole truth) but I can't recall i being mentioned canonically. I also can't recall an antidote either.

Though Black is another issue on Dumbledore's incompetence, he does absolutely nothing to help Sirius after the Potters are killed, not even visiting him to ask him why he did what he did...when Sirius was a trusted member of his Order of the Phoenix, well-respected by a number of members. Given how solicitous Dumbledore was to Snape, an avowed Death Eater, you'd think Albie would at least go and talk to Sirius.

You are right that pensieve memories can be modified, but on the whole pensieve memories seem to be taken as true records (otherwise why would Dumbledore show them to Harry to learn about Voldie's past). Honestly though, I'm more curious as to how pensieve memories work, you're able to walk around and see much more detail than the original person would have seen, to the point of someone in Book 6 remembering a family speaking Parseltongue with enough detail that Harry can understand it clearly (IIRC it even takes him a moment to realise it's parseltongue but he hears it clearly as English), even though the guy in question had no idea what they were saying.
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Crazedwraith » 2017-01-04 09:33am

Dumbledore mentiond the antidote in HalfBlood Prince when Harry askes why he cant get the real memory from Slughorn himself iirc.

And Fudge doesnt to take Crouch's word for it in GoF. As people can only tell what they think the truth is.
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Vendetta » 2017-01-04 10:36am

Swindle1984 wrote:So what the hell? Am I missing some "this was all part of the plan" thing that's revealed later on, or is Hogwarts actually run by incompetent idiots?


Sort of. Part of the point of the wizarding world in the books is that it is insular and strange and disconnected from the world around it. Its insular strangeness leads to a blase attitude towards eg. personal injury and abuse in much the same way that victorian boarding schools did.

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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby The Romulan Republic » 2017-01-04 10:44am

Eternal_Freedom wrote:Though Black is another issue on Dumbledore's incompetence, he does absolutely nothing to help Sirius after the Potters are killed, not even visiting him to ask him why he did what he did...when Sirius was a trusted member of his Order of the Phoenix, well-respected by a number of members. Given how solicitous Dumbledore was to Snape, an avowed Death Eater, you'd think Albie would at least go and talk to Sirius.


The difference was that Snape had come over to Dumbledore's side and given Dumbledore reason to trust his loyalty, whereas to all appearances, Sirius was a traitor.

He definitely should have been given a trial (and to be fair to Dumbledore, that decision was made by Crouch, not Dumbledore), but I suspect that Dumbledore was blinded by emotion to some extent (a human failing he is certainly not immune to, by his own admission). To all appearances, Black was guilty, and it probably cut all the more deeply precisely because he had been a trusted friend.

I mean, look at Lupin- he and Sirius were pretty much like brothers, and Lupin too believed he was guilty.

Dumbledore was wrong here, but its easy to understand why he would be wrong.
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby Zixinus » 2017-01-04 11:02am

One very important thing to keep in mind that I got from Hogwarts a very old-world impression of how things worked. That is, it operates more like boarding schools in history past rather than a modern one. To someone that takes modern schools as basic, Hogwarts may seem very cavalier in many aspects, especially safety.

Chief among these was the idea that kids had to look out for themselves. That if a kid got hurt it was because of his own fault first, rather than automatically somebody else's. Teachers are in a position when a student harmed is not automatically their fault (Hagrid's case may be something of an exception because he was a new teacher with questionable qualifications, plus it was a politically-important person's kid that got hurt). Questioning the ability of teachers to control the safety of the students is questioning the reputation of the wizard in question. Hell, Hogwarts might be tied up in all sorts of politics that is deliberately kept hidden from the students.

The other thing is you have to adjust to the attitude of wizards. They do not view things, even death, the same way as regular people. Magic is hellofa dangerous to begin with, so making completely safe school to modern standards may be unfeasible. Or more, the danger is readily accept all the dangers and expect students to do so too. A wizard is after all expected to master the dangers of handling magic and trying to prioritize safety may be seen as hindering essential education.

I am not excusing incompetence necessarily, just trying to give the context in which they happen. Part of the fun in HP books is that stupid-dangerous stuff can happen that a competent staff would never allow to happen in the first place.
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Re: Was Dumbledore utterly incompetent?

Postby The Romulan Republic » 2017-01-04 11:14am

Just going to comment on one thing here: We do see how politics affects Hogwarts many times in the series- Hagrid being arrested and Dumbledore fired for political reasons, everything else with Umbridge in book five, etc.

And of course, Dumbledore plays politics with Hogwarts too, to an extent. Or rather, he uses it as a semi-secure base of operations for his fight against Voldemort.

Snape's position on the staff is likely political as well- to Dumbledore's credit (as a spymaster, if not a schoolmaster), he was able to get his agent as head of Slytherin House and have the leader of the opposing faction (Lucius, later Voldemort) happy with it, because both sides believed Snape was their's.

And the DADA position is basically staffed according to strategic needs- due to the curse, their's constant turnover, and Dumbledore basically puts people in that post who are either experts at dealing with dark magic and are needed to address some temporary crisis (Lupin, Moody, Snape), or are expendable/people Dumbledore wants dealt with (Quirrel, Lockhart). The only time this isn't the case is Umbridge, which is also political, but not a move by Dumbledore.

And of course, a significant percentage of the dangerous things that happen their are probably simply because Harry is their, and Voldemort is after him.

Edit: Actually, come to think of it, the staffing of the DADA position is arguably Dumbledore's masterstroke in a way. He turned Spoiler
a crippling blow by Voldemort (cursing the position that's supposed to train the average witch or wizard how to resist people like him) into an asset repeatedly, by staffing it with people he wanted to get rid of.
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