Jeff Scanlon, head of the English department at Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor, is a bit reticent when it comes to Harry Potter.
"I don't want to sound snobby or elitist, but it's sort of middle- or lowbrow literature," he explained. "I can't honestly ever see us using something like Harry Potter."
The texts used at Loomis, Scanlon said, tend to be "more challenging, more artistic."
Harry Potter has made it in the movies and onto every kind of product imaginable - lunch boxes to boxer shorts - but has he flown his Firebolt into muggle classrooms?
Not exactly, according to teachers and reading experts. Not, at least, in elementary, middle and high schools. (This may be just as well, but more on that later.) On the other hand, the subject of Harry is no stranger in college course catalogs.
It may be surprising that a book of such huge popularity isn't on many curricula or required- reading lists, but the reasons for this are myriad.
First, there's the basic bureaucratic hurdle: It takes time and money to get a new book into a school curriculum. And trying to add the Harry Potter books can present special problems, as some elements of the Christian right oppose having the books in school libraries, much less incorporated into lesson plans, on the grounds that they promote a belief in witchcraft.
Then there are the peculiarities of this series: The early books appeal more to younger readers, while the later ones are more appropriate for middle-school or older readers. Do you start at the beginning? How many do you read?
At the high-school level, the books aren't often used, partly because, as Scanlon said, teachers don't think the text is rigorous enough, and they already have an established canon of books that must be taken up.
In the lower grades, the books are sometimes read aloud but aren't included in the curriculum in large part because of just how popular they are.
"So many kids have read the books on their own, it doesn't make sense to devote a lot of classroom time to it," said Richard Dlugos, Glastonbury's director of language arts and reading. "We feel that if it's something children loved or found on their own, it doesn't make sense to turn it into an assignment."
Karen List, assistant superintendent for curriculum in West Hartford, agreed that part of education is exposing kids to books they otherwise might not read. "With Harry Potter, you're guaranteed they are exposed to the book or the movies," she said.
Like so many educators, List said she finds J.K. Rowling's series "thoroughly engaging" but adds, "I guess I think of it as a recreational kind of literature."
Gerry Kuroghlian, an English teacher at Staples High School in Westport, said he doesn't expect Harry Potter to become part of the high school literary canon but that teachers are using the books to discuss themes. He teaches a course on mythology and uses Harry Potter as an example of a perfect mythological hero.
The question of exactly what kind of literature the Harry Potter books are has been hotly debated by literary leaders. Are they the equivalent of Stephen King for kids, or is there something deeper?
Could you, for instance, write about Harry Potter on an advanced-placement English test on which you are required to use a work of literary merit?
Yes, a few students have done this, said Trevor Packer, director of operations and publications for the Advanced Placement Program of The College Board in New York.
The students have one question on the test that allows them to choose a work of "literary merit." Suggestions include books such as "Middlemarch" and "Oedipus Rex." No Harry Potter book is on the list. Packer said he finds the books "simplistic."
However, he said, the test is not designed to gauge whether students can define a work of literary merit. It's about developing the ability to analyze literature effectively. "If a student uses a Harry Potter novel and writes a powerful essay, I don't have a problem with it," he said.
(He said he didn't know the grades on the essays already submitted.)
Now, back to the question of whether Harry Potter should be used in school.
Kylene Beers of the school development program at Yale University has written study guides on Harry Potter for the publisher of the series, Scholastic Inc. "Is that not silly? Who would ever think you would need a study guide for Harry Potter?" she said.
Even though the series isn't used much by teachers, she isn't disappointed. "School can easily ruin a good book," she said. "I have fears of children having to make dioramas of their favorite scene. ... I see 10-question multiple-choice quizzes. That is not what this book is about."
Beers, who believes the Potter series is definitely a work of "literary merit," said it offers kids "a place to be a little scared and yet be safe when looking at huge issues of loneliness and companionship and good and evil, fear and courage."
Oddly, perhaps the educational setting where Harry seems to be most prevalent is on the college level, where he appears fairly frequently in course catalogs.
Victor Kling, an English professor at La Salle University, teaches an honors class on Harry Potter and on the Philip Pullman series "His Dark Materials."
"The students were looking for a fully academic experience that would yet be different somehow," Kling said. "The first difference, as I told them right away, is that I would be teaching them no factual information, because they knew the series much better than I did."
Two students wrote sequels to the book, and all wrote essays predicting the outcome of the whole series, he said.
College-level courses using Harry Potter have been taught in psychology, economics, political science and, of course, in children's literature.
Trista M. Merrill, who received her doctorate last year from the State University of New York at Binghamton, wrote her thesis on Harry Potter ("Crossing the Boundaries on a Bolt of Lightning: Mythic, Pedagogical and Techno-Cultural Approaches to Harry Potter") and has used the series in various classes she's taught.
"There is so much substance to them," Merrill said of the series. "We can talk about identity, racism, the power of the media, our love-hate relationship with technology.
"I remember one day we started having a discussion about the house elves: whether the way they were being treated was fair or not. It led to a discussion of apartheid and slavery in our own country."