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If every former Hogwarts student who goes bad was in Slytherin, why has Hogwarts kept the house over the years? Why not disband it?

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Related: Is Slytherin evil?. The perception that Slytherin is wholly evil is at least in part a stereotype driven entirely by students of other houses. –  alexwlchan Jun 3 at 11:26
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Maybe some "bad" examples of non-slytherin houses are in order. –  this Jun 3 at 14:18
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I'm joking, but if all Slytherin truly were evil it would be useful to group all the evil wizards in one place to monitor them. –  Dr R Dizzle Jun 3 at 14:46
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If you disband the Slytherin house, it'll just make all the supposedly bad wizards of that house be in a different house... It's not like changing the name will suddenly change the people. "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." –  Doc Jun 3 at 16:08
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Be careful, @Slytherincess must be around! –  Awal Garg Jun 4 at 8:03

8 Answers 8

up vote 44 down vote accepted

Not every member of the Slytherin house has gone bad and neither has every bad wizard been in Slytherin.

For instance:

Here’s a little-known fact that the other three houses don’t bring up much: Merlin was a Slytherin. Yes, Merlin himself, the most famous wizard in history! He learned all he knew in this very house!

Quote from Pottermore, Slytherin Acceptance letter.

Also Draco Malfoy was not bad (in the end), neither was Regulus Black. I could make a list but that's not really the point.

The house would also not be disbanded as it would be disrespectful towards one of the founding fathers of Hogwarts, Salazar Slytherin.

In relation to @Pickett's comment, during the epilogue of The Deathly Hallows when Harry is talking to his son about his son(Albus Severus) possibly being in Slytherin.

“Albus Severus," Harry said quietly, so that nobody but Ginny could hear, and she was tactful enough to pretend to be waving to Rose, who was now on the train, "you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew.”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - In reference to Snape obviously.

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Also, Horace Slughorn. He was ambitious, but not evil. –  Jack B Nimble Jun 3 at 15:00
    
Nice call @JackBNimble forgot Horace but like I said there is a List of people you can mention. –  Simon Jun 3 at 15:13
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Not to mention that disbanding the house doesn't solve anything. You'll just put bad-wizards-to-be in other houses. –  Plutor Jun 3 at 15:34
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They both happily and voluntarily joined the Nazis.... Err Death Eaters. Not being a complete psycho murderers doesn't make them "not bad", either Regulus nor Malfoy –  DVK Jun 3 at 19:20
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This answer desperately needs a period in "Regulus Black I". –  Brilliand Jun 3 at 20:08

Since the other answers only mention bad non-Slytherins in passing, I'll contribute to the defense of my house with a few examples of evil outside Slytherin (possible spoilers):

Gilderoy Lockhart - Wiped the memories of many incredible people in order to take credit for all their achievements, and thus composed a corpus of lies as his biography. Also a complete coward. Belongs to Ravenclaw House.

Peter "Wormtail" Pettigrew - Betrayed his best friends to Lord Voldemort and became a Death Eater. Revived Voldemort some years after his first downfall. What he lacked in loyalty he made up for in cowardice. Belonged to Gryffindor House.

Quirinus Quirrell - Allowed Voldemort to use his body as a vessel for recovery, sought the Philosopher's Stone, attempted to kill Harry Potter. Belonged to Ravenclaw House.

So disbanding Slytherin House would not end evil. Additionally there's the issue that disbanding a house won't get rid of the wizards. If people are predisposed to evil actions, the absence of a house is hardly going to stop most of them. They would just find somewhere else to commune with their co-conspirators and they'd find a way to do the things they want. Thus it wouldn't be an effective measure anyway.

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I really like the last paragraph. So true. –  Sulthan Jun 20 at 19:17
    
The last paragraph is either terribly naïve or terribly misleading. Disbanding Slytherin would not end evil. What it might to is reduce the severity. The concept of social reinforcement is well-known, and is particularly apt in terms of extreme (or extremist) groups. Putting a bunch of bad apples together allows them to reinforce each other's tendencies, and provide positive reinforcement of whatever rationalizations they may come up with. This can be clearly seen on the web, as social groups get dominated by a particular viewpoint, and their behavior deteriorates. –  WhatRoughBeast Jul 14 at 12:19

Slytherin was the house for the ones that can do anything for reach success, or that was what the Sorting Hat told Harry in his first year of Howarts.

The other requirement to enter slytherin is to be a pure blood wizard, but that isn't a bad requirement, if you don't hate the others.

A lot of good magicians come from slytherin: Regulus Black, Severus Snape... Narcisa Malfoy is not bad, and she's from Slytherin too.

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There's no requirement (at least in modern times) to be a pureblood wizard in order to join Slytherin. Voldemort and Snape were both half-bloods, and I doubt the Sorting Hat particularly cares about blood status (like much of the magical community at the time) –  Anthony Grist Jun 3 at 14:00
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In agreement with @AnthonyGrist - the sorting hat at the beggining says Harry could have great fame and glory by joining Slytherin House harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Sorting_Hat - and since Harry is definitely half blood (Mom is a muggle), it would seem pure-blood is not a hard and fast requirement. –  WernerCD Jun 3 at 14:40
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@WernerCD Lily Potter was most certainly not a muggle. She was a mudblood if I remember correctly. –  Dr R Dizzle Jun 3 at 14:45
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Ahh... you are absolutely right. I thought Lily was muggle, but she's just muggle born. They were once pure-bloods, but James Potter married Muggle-born witch Lily Evans, thus their son Harry was half-blood. - harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Potter_family –  WernerCD Jun 3 at 15:01
    
When I said Pure bloods, it was a mistake, I mean at least half blood... the Sorting Hat sure doesn't care about the blood, but I think it follows the original founders' wishes, and Salazar Slytherin argued with the others because of that. Of course there is no need of being a pure blood, because there isn't enough Pure Blood wizards in the world, as Hermione said about the Death Eaters. –  Khaileena Jun 3 at 16:58

Similar questions can pop up in the minds of naive political activists:

  • Left-wing activist: why aren't all right-wing parties banned? They are all evil!
  • Right-wing activist: why aren't all left-wing parties banned? They are all evil!

Slytherin is not a crime organization. It's a House. The fact that some people view it as the "House of Evil" doesn't mean that Slytherin is, in itself, evil. Yes, some students from Slytherin might turn out to become evil, but the House itself is not inherently evil. The fact that more students from Slytherin turn out to become evil than from other houses, can be caused by, among other factors, that the most defining characteristic of Slytherin is ambition. Ambitious people have a higher tendency to act, students from other houses can also harbor evil desires, they just lack the ambition to act them out.

Don't forget that the main characters are all from the House which is the greatest rival of Slytherin, and we view the story from their point of view, this might also make Slytherin look more evil than it really is. There were probably many cases where Griffyndor bullies were abusing Slytherin students, but as the main characters weren't the victims in these cases, they don't play a big role in the story.

Practical concerns

Let's put all the above issues beside, and take a look at what would happen if they indeed tried to disband Slytherin:

  • A lot of Slytherin students come from powerful and respected noble houses. Pissing them off might not be the best idea.
  • Students start at Hogwarts at the age of 11, not 7. They already have a much well formed personality than Muggle students starting their first year at 6 or 7. Just dividing them up among the other houses would probably not change their personality very much, and if the four Houses represented temperament, like-minded students would probably find each other and form small cliques anyway.
  • If you wanted to entirily avoid students who would have ended up in Slytherin, what would you do? Have a sorting ceremony, and send home all students who got into Slytherin? What would this blatantly prejudicial discrimination accomplish? Refusing education from them would make them uncontrolled hazards to society, now add the feeling of bitterness against all those who rejected them to the already strong superiority complex many Slytherins tend to possess. As a lot of Slytherins come from aristocratic families, they might even found their own school where they would become even more smug in their "special school for the elite".
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You're making the wrong assumption here.

Did they (i.e. the dark wizards) become evil after they joined Slytherin, or where they already evil before that?

The answer would usually be the second one (some people may have been affected by bad influence from their fellow students).

Voldemort was already evil before he joined Slytherin. If Slytherin had been disbanded before he attended Hogwarts, he would have just joined another house, but it (probably) wouldn't have changed much in the end.

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Because this is the type of question that only a Slytherin would seriously entertain.

Hufflepuffs aren't about trying to do away with things, they'll take anybody the other houses don't want, and will live and let live. Ravenclaws don't seem to like Slytherin, but from an intellectual point of view we never see anything beyond that. Gryffindors are brave, and how is it brave to want to disband your opponents rather than standing up to them and facing them?

On the other hand, Slytherins are about ambition and blood purity - doing what it takes to get it done. Slytherin himself even broke away from the other three in his own lifetime, even going so far as creating the Chamber of Secrets.

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Your answer assumes disbanding Slytherin would be the other houses' decision. –  René Roth Jun 19 at 9:22

J.K. Rowling has specifically answered this here. Firstly, as other answerers have pointed out, they're not all bad. In the books, we see the very worst of Slytherin.

But the main point, which seems to be very important to JKR herself, is the key running idea (whether of the founders or the past Headmasters, or something/someone else entirely) that only together can the students be stronger, drawing on their different strengths. Snape and Harry have very different strengths and weaknesses, and neither would have been able to do what they did if they had been members of any of the other houses.

The relevant section is below; I've bolded some of the key points.

Emerson Spartz: Why is Slytherin house still –

J.K.Rowling: Still allowed!

[All laugh]

ES: Yes! I mean, it's such a stigma.

JKR: But they're not all bad. They literally are not all bad. [Pause.] Well, the deeper answer, the non-flippant answer, would be that you have to embrace all of a person, you have to take them with their flaws, and everyone's got them. It’s the same way with the student body. If only they could achieve perfect unity, you would have an absolute unstoppable force, and I suppose it's that craving for unity and wholeness that means that they keep that quarter of the school that maybe does not encapsulate the most generous and noble qualities, in the hope, in the very Dumbledore-esque hope that they will achieve union, and they will achieve harmony. Harmony is the word.

ES: Couldn’t —

JKR: Couldn't they just shoot them all? NO, Emerson, they really couldn’t!

[All laugh]

ES: Couldn't they just put them into the other three houses, and maybe it wouldn’t be a perfect fit for all of them, but a close enough fit that they would get by and wouldn't be in such a negative environment?

JKR: They could. But you must remember, I have thought about this —

ES: Even their common room is a gloomy dark room—

JKR: Well, I don't know, because I think the Slytherin common room has a spooky beauty.

ES: It's gotta be a bad idea to stick all the Death Eaters' kids together in one place.

[All crack up again ]

JKR: But they're not all — don't think I don't take your point, but — we, the reader, and I as the writer, because I'm leading you all there — you are seeing Slytherin house always from the perspective of Death Eaters' children. They are a small fraction of the total Slytherin population. I'm not saying all the other Slytherins are adorable, but they're certainly not Draco, they're certainly not, you know, Crabbe and Goyle. They're not all like that, that would be too brutal for words, wouldn’t it?

ES: But there aren't a lot of Death Eater children in the other houses, are there?

JKR: You will have people connected with Death Eaters in the other houses, yeah, absolutely.

ES: Just in lesser numbers.

JKR: Probably. I hear you. It is the tradition to have four houses, but in this case, I wanted them to correspond roughly to the four elements. So Gryffindor is fire, Ravenclaw is air, Hufflepuff is earth, and Slytherin is water, hence the fact that their common room is under the lake. So again, it was this idea of harmony and balance, that you had four necessary components and by integrating them you would make a very strong place. But they remain fragmented, as we know.

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So much for taking the trouble to reopen the question so that I could post an answer that wasn't a duplicate of the other question... Sigh. –  starsplusplus Jul 26 at 13:43

Why in the world would they disband ANY of the houses of Hogwarts or maybe they should have disbanded all of them. The positive traits that are associated with Slytherin is found in those who are ambitious, can keep their own counsel. Their best traits are cunning, resourcefulness, and ambition. Remember all houses had Voldemort supporters. Peter Pettigrew was a Gryffindor and one of the Maurauders and not only did he betray James and Lily but he helped to bring Voldemort back to human form (sort of).

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