Theory Design Lab/Defence against the dark arts

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This resource is intended for

use in the subject social studies.

This resource is intended for

use in the subject citizenship education.

This resource is intended for

use in the subject philosophy.

This resource is intended for

use in the subject practical philosophy.

This resource is intended for

use in the subject religion.

Defence against the dark arts

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  Moral culture must be based upon 'maxims', not upon discipline; the one prevents evil habits, the other trains the mind to think. We must see, then, that the child should accustom himself to act in accordance with 'maxims' and not from certain ever-changing springs of action. 

On education (Über Pädagogik), Immanuel Kant

Unlike the world of the Harry Potter novels there are no dark arts in the real world, unless you choose to name something so, of course. This module is named after the subject Defence Against the Dark Arts in the Harry Potter novels mostly for humorous reasons.

Almost magical effects

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Are there real-world effects that might appear as wizardry, seen from a certain perspective?


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An example could be predestination as a metaphor for lack of planning. From the perspective of the planner there is no magic involved. From the perspective of the unsuspecting observer some of the effects could appear almost like magic. One defense against this form of magic would be mentoring.

How is it possible that the best pupils know the topics of the lesson in advance? Surely they will not have read ahead in the school book, or even learned something beyond the school book in their free time?


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Knowledge of psychological effects can also appear as wizardry from the perspective of the unsuspecting observer.

Especially cognitive biases may lead to observations where the unsuspecting observer may behave less rational and less sensible than the informed person and where the informed person may gain an advantage through his knowledge of psychology. Prejudices, group effects and social cohesion could also be seen to have "magical effects" on the unsuspecting observer.

See also: Observer-psychology effect


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The science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke is often quoted as saying: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Obviously any sufficient knowledge and technology can appear as wizardry from the perspective of the unsuspecting observer.

What did the Native Americans at first think about the steam locomotive?


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Many religions claim that there is something like karma. If this were the cases then, for the unsuspecting observer again, the world might exhibit inexplicable phenomena that could amount to magical effects. Consequently one could see "good karma" as a necessary means of self-defence. Unfortunately different cultures and religions have quite different notions what karma would be. Some religions, for instance, recommend vegetarianism. Thus the question would remain: Whose theory of karma would apply?

See also: Karma theory


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Companies could be seen to exert "magical forces" on customers and employees. The defenses against this form of magic would be consumer protection, strike action, ethical consumerism and demanding corporate social responsibility in the workplace.

See also: Respect economy

Defence against these effects

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The pupils should prepare and discuss all concepts in this text that are linked to Wikipedia articles. Every article or group of articles should be given to between two and four pupils as homework in order to prepare lectures about the topics.

  • Can you find more examples for the mentioned effects?
  • Are there other imaginable (types of) effects in the mentioned categories or in other categories?
  • What are possible measures against the effects mentioned (and the effects the pupils found)?
  • What would be resulting behavior patterns and strategies one might want to follow?

Answers to some of the questions can be gathered as mind maps.

This resource has been released into the public domain by the copyright holder, its copyright has expired, or it is ineligible for copyright. This applies worldwide. You are advised to consider the possibility of extraterrestrial intellectual property rights claims that do require mentoring duties in compensation ("either mentoring or trouble with extraterrestrials").

Content released into the public domain may be used for any purpose without attribution, including commercial activities and creation of derivative works.

The content is provided without any warranties of fitness for a particular purpose or suitability for pupils in a specific grade.