So, for a reasonably detailed version of my magic system, go here. Because I'm pretty sure no-one went there, it says,

Brief Overview of Magic

These powers manifest themselves any time from birth to the end of puberty. These magical powers fall under seven broad categories. Air, water, earth, plasma (fire/lightning), plants, light, and animals. Animal magic is tricky, because living things resist magic. But, many animal mages can influence animals, and some can control dead animals (this is called necromancy and is a big societal no-no.) The strength and scope of magic varies from individual to individual. But, these are the most common in order. Earth, water, air, plants, animals, plasma, and light.

These magical capabilities are like the show Avatar, the Last Airbender, in how controlling magic works. However, in my book magic is much less powerful. For instance, an earth Mage may only be able to influence as much dirt as they could lift, and lifting this dirt would take about as much energy as doing it by hand, except you don't have to touch it, and it could be a perfect brick shape. No force is exerted in separating the dirt or material from other similar material attached to it. So if you were to pull this rock in two, that would take little effort, other than the force of pushing the pieces apart.

Magic is like a muscle that is really hard to develop.

The level of magic described above is only about 75% of magic users. Everyone else is more powerful.The strongest people can do things like shoot lasers, uproot trees, be human flame throwers, make zombie hordes, create small tornadoes, cause rovers to overflow or to break dams, or cause small earthquakes. This is about 7% of the population. Everyone else is in between.

My Question

So, in my world, depending on where you live, you attend school for about eight years. You graduate at 12-16 years old. Most people then proceed to get an apprenticeship or learn a trade. The time period is not specified, but it is probably comparable to the 18th century. However, any time between 1750-1875 would probably be fine.

Given the specified time period, and that a lot of society is fueled by magic, what subjects would be taught in school? Assume that a lot more people have access to these schools, and that magic is taught a lot more after graduation.

  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, if the only difference we're postulating is the existence of magic, then: Students take classes in various branches of magic, or magic is added to the curriculum of other classes. Maybe technology as we know it is unknown or less important, so there is less or no chemistry, physics, etc. I'm not sure what else one could say. $\endgroup$
    – Jay
    Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 5:26
  • $\begingroup$ In that time periods, in many countries, school and education were limited to only a certain portion of the population. And some of that portion had private tutors. But your question seem to imply a system more like today's (at least as far as western countries are concerned). $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 7:53
  • $\begingroup$ It's a little bit complicated of a situation. The technology is that time period, but magic has elevated society to a more modern period. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 13:48
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    $\begingroup$ One notable effect is that there would be so many more things for helicopter parents and nervous nellies to be afraid of. Talismans would be banned with zero tolerance for violations, students would have to walk through a manna detector to enter the building, and little Johnny would be arrested for pretending his popsicle stick was magic wand. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ Oh my fliggerwabs. Did anyone read the link I provided? worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/33507/… Talks about my magic system. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 18:49

3 Answers 3


So, Magic is a natural part of your society? Then it might be handled as easy as we do it with science topics this day.

Small kids will learn "how not to burn your house down" probably by their parents, "how to use it without roasting your other students" in school and "how to use it to burn down a house and roast other people" in the battlemages university.

It would be the same as it is with potential dangerous stuff today: don't mess around with fire, when we are young, how to separate H and O from Water and making it pop in School, and for people which do show signs of potential in that specific area there are many ways to use this, from creating pyrotechnic, over controlled destruction of buildings, up to creation of new burning agents for weapon usage in war.

So these who are talented would be reported by the teachers to... whatever authority could be interested in that. Find out what the kids are good at and try to put them somewhere your group of interests would be happy about. Expect teachers, who do it the government-way and sending talented flamers to an institution where they can benefit their country by... well... burning down something.

These who do show more talent than common folk in an area of magic may get access to special universities, where they dedicate themselves to ridiculous magic science. These are the guys which shoot fireballs at volunteers which happen to wear experimental protective gear. So expect five mages with lists which do make notes, one who runs in circles screaming because the protective gear didn't work, one who is standing around looking sad because he was the one who shot the fireball, one fire department mage that is trying to put out the flames, at least one magic nurse who will try to fix that burning guy and about fourty students standing behind a marking observing the scene with their mouth wide open. Its science! Well, you could invoke circumstances that are more professional than these at the Unseen University in Ankh-Morpok, but that would be boring.

Rich people would stuff their heirs into exclusive colleges (yes, like that one where they play Quidditch) to get more exclusive teaching in the art of magic. These who excel there will someday become archmage of such a school or get other well paid positions.

Then there are these guys which don't had access to a proper school. Either you have that guy who becomes the greatest mage off all time by himself, or you have those kids ending up in more shady groups, which may use talents detected for less lawful stuff when grown up. In that case you should put the more motivated but less gifted kids from the lawful end of societies spectrum into some kind of magic police. Have your Inspektor Average Magic Joe beating absurd powerful shadow mages by using his brains (or the horse of his partners after getting suspended from job) could be a fine plot point, if you are into such things.

Well... after all, things will not go to fancy when magic is a part of you world that did exists as long as people can remember. It would become something common that isn't handled in any fancy way. Just install 1800 A.D. societies and put magic inside like its something the kids do as soon as they can talk. Darn, I won't thing there could be any insurance company that is making any profit...

That's how I think magic stuff might be handled in such a society. But as I always say: look into computer games where magic is more common. There where a lot of (more or less) creative heads, who did the worldbuilding way before you. Skyrim might not be the best reference, Dragon Age... maybe (they do have an anti-magic-templar force to keep these giftet ones at bay)... if I remember a good example, I will add it if needed.

  • $\begingroup$ I like your answer for different reasons. Objective and sensible. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ + 1 for basically what childhood is: You're taught everyday up to a certain age to do/don't do something, then the instant you reach a specific age, you're told to do the exact opposite the rest of your life ;P $\endgroup$ Commented May 12, 2021 at 16:54

A day in magic school:

Good morning class, please sit down. Please stop trying to blow the girls skirts up Johnny. Girls, I know he's a creep, but please put him back down. Gently!

So, first lesson today is English - could you pass your homework down to the front please.

Ok, which one of you wrote this essay? Come on, I wasn't born yesterday - all of these essays are identical apart from the handwriting. Oh, except yours, Johnny, which is in mirror writing - you need to spend more time on practical magic instead of trying to see knickers.

Seeing as none of you can be trusted, we'll spend the lesson redoing the essay, properly. Stop groaning - what did you expect!

Ok, English books away. Let's do some maths. Who can tell me the area of a right angled triangle?

Excellent. Could you write that on the board please. No, get up and do it by hand - we can't afford any more blackboards this year. I know it was an accident, but you still managed to shatter the last board, didn't you...

Lunch time, class! Form a line by the door and we'll go down to the dinner hall. Johnny, have you left any surprises in your desk? Go and sort them, then go to the back of the line. Did you really think that would work?

Ok, we've got art and magic this afternoon. Art first. Don't groan.

Right, we're going to work on still life drawing today. Here is a bowl of fruit. Get out your sketchbooks and draw what you can see, concentrating on the shadows between the fruit.

Stop moving that banana and those plums, whoever it is. Actually, it's you Johnny, isn't it...

Whoever is using the light spell, please stop it. You've washed out all the shadows for everyone.


Why has that apple turned brown? Who is messing with the local time field around it? Can you undo it? No? Fine, get another apple and put that one in the bin. I know it's disgusting - you made it like that.

No! Don't try lift...

Ok, you two, take Johnny to the toilets and wipe off as much rotten apple as you can. You, get the mop and start cleaning. By hand.

We're supposed to be doing magic class now, but because you've been practising all day, I think it's safer for us all if we just sit quietly until it's time to go home, don't you?

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    $\begingroup$ Not quite the way magic works, but still pretty funny. I pity that poor teacher. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 20, 2016 at 13:49
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    $\begingroup$ There's a Johnny in every classroom. $\endgroup$
    – cobaltduck
    Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 16:27

How do you teach magic in a 1750-1800 school ?

First a note : your world's society is really advanced for having public schools for every one before 1800.

So, back to school !
Children are left in the care of their family up to 8 years old. Somehow, they managed not to burn their parents or their house during that time. All this was stated before : start small, build the appropriate social restraint, then use the skills at full power for the chosen ones.

I have two points : In such an era, most of the teaching will probably be linked to some religious authority (not all, but a lot of it : the clergy were the one with most time to think, then teach) so if this fit your world, theology and metaphysics will be quite important.
Then you have to think about the way magic works. It's not really a science. Partly, but not entirely. It is also a form of art.
Students geared toward magical careers will learn to think of imaginative and original solutions to apply their power. The idea here is that a limited power can be as useful as a great one, if applied correctly.

I'll direct you toward the Eddings' books (The Belgariad) and Mercedes Lackey's Sisters series where they explain exactly that : apprentice (mages with low abilities) with enough knowledge of the world and imagination to use their abilities can be more useful, at the end of the day, than adepts (mage able to channel a lot of energies) who would be more blunt in their ways. Of course a smart adept can wipe both the smart apprentice and the stupid adept, probably together.

So, those school would work toward giving their student as broad an education as possible, so that they can get the most out of their magic. From this point, it all depend on how advanced is your civilisation. Think "antique philosophers", "edge steampunk", "the art of war" but also "out-of-school excursion", "practical cases",... Everything that can open those mages' mind.

  • $\begingroup$ Magic means little technology. So while they may not be teaching computer science, their society is a lot more advanced. And, it could just as easily be compared to 1875, although society is a little more advanced and technology a little less. But your answer is still pretty good. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 22, 2016 at 14:49

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