Why was Snape such a Bad Teacher?!

December 9th, 2009


A friend of mine picked up the new Harry Potter movie on DVD and I plan to watch it this week.   I was thinking back to how much I enjoyed the book, but remembered something that nagged the hell out of me when the identity of the half-blood prince was revealed.

Snape, as a student, apparently used the same textbook that he is teaching with now.   When he was a student, he figured out all sorts of small improvements to make better potions more easily.   He KNOWS how to do this.   He figured it out already.   And yet he doesn’t teach what he learned.   Harry, using Snape’s original copy with his notes, outperforms his peers and has success with potions like he never had before.   As far as I can tell, potion-making can be taught like cooking, and having the right recipe matters.

Snape should either be teaching his students better recipes than the ones in the textbook — because he figured them out — or, and this is akin to the difference between engineering and science — teaching his students how to improve potion recipes.   What fundamental principles did he use to figure out how to improve the potions?   If he has potion engineers, do the former.   If potion researchers, the latter.

But Snape does neither.

He is, apparently, a really awful and stupid teacher.   Which seems inconsistent to me as he is portrayed as being very smart and competent.   So, I have to believe that Snape is a lazy dick of a teacher who does not care for his profession.   I’m not sure that’s what Rowling intended in the end, but without assuming she wrote him inconsistently to make an interesting plot point, that’s what I must conclude.


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