Muggles And Machinists

If you have children or grandchildren in grade school, you probably know who Harry Potter is. He's the hero in a series of highly imaginative best sellers written by J.

Columns From: 3/1/2001 Modern Machine Shop, ,

If you have children or grandchildren in grade school, you probably know who Harry Potter is. He's the hero in a series of highly imaginative best sellers written by J. K. Rowling. (Everyone in my family is reading these adventure novels, so I had to, too, just to keep up with the table talk.)

Harry Potter is a young wizard, and the books chronicle his experiences at Hogwarts, the best and most famous wizarding school in the wizard world. Of course, Harry Potter and his pre-teen friends are just like ordinary kids responding in very believable ways to some very extraordinary happenings as they learn how to use their magic-making talents (and defeat the Dark Wizard along the way.) In the books, all non-wizards are known as “Muggles”—common human beings without the gift of magical abilities. The Muggles know nothing about the wizard world that parallels their own, although the occasional encounters between the magical and the non-magical worlds provide some of the most comical scenes in the books.

The books are fun, but like all good literature, Harry Potter's adventures are full of symbolism and metaphor. They teach many important lessons: that growing up can be a mysterious, scary, wondrous experience; that what you learn in school is the key to success in life; that love, courage and moral virtue are the truest of supernatural forces, to mention a few.

And like all good literature, the tales of Harry Potter lend themselves to one's own personal interpretation. To me, Hogwarts sounds like the perfect vocational/technical high school, where Harry, Ron, Hermione and the other main characters are much like any apprentices learning a metalworking trade. They have to learn how to use tools and run powerful equipment (training and safe operation are critical, it seems, whether you're dealing with broomsticks and spell books or milling cutters and CNC). Some of their learning projects end up as scrap, too.

Even having an outside world full of non-wizards reminds me of what our industry faces many times. While sheer magic takes place on computerized, multi-axis machine tools in our shops and factories, we must deal with lawmakers, bankers, news reporters and community leaders who do not know or cannot comprehend our industry.

It may be a good thing that the Muggles are clueless in Harry Potter's world, but it’s certainly not in ours.

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