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That the Harry Potter book series is so hotly debated disappoints my literary senses. A new generation of kids have discovered the joy of reading through Harry Potter's adventures, and their discovery should be celebrated. Instead, their newfound joy is being discouraged.
Most recently, a mother in Georgia attempted to get the series banned from school library shelves. In response, first the school district's board, then the Georgia Board of Education, voted against the woman's objections, allowing the books to stay.
Good for them. Her arguments don't hold water.
I might clarify that I have no qualms with parents who wish to look out for their children, get involved in their education and teach them decision-making skills. In fact, I applaud any such parent. Our nation needs more.
The qualm I do have is with this woman's particular argument against the series. I begin to wonder where she got her information, which causes me to worry; I have a serious problem with people who act on second- or third-hand information.
The woman in Georgia, and a number of people who object to Harry Potter, cited that the books, "are an attempt to indoctrinate children in witchcraft." (I quote from an Associated Press article.)
I don't know every child, but all the children I know (and the child I was) know the difference between real and make-believe.
Like school officials in Georgia argued, if the Harry Potter series were to be banned based on its inclusion of magic, then classics like Macbeth and Snow White would have to go.
Maybe, I reason, so many people are upset because the heroes and heroines in the books are some of the ones doing magic.
OK. Let's move forward on that assumption. If that is the qualifying factor, then Cinderella would have to go. So would Fantasia, A Wrinkle in Time, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings series, and a multitude of others.
The Georgia woman also argues that the books include "murder, greed and violence" - which is certainly true. But she should consider which characters are committing those egregious acts - the bad guys.
If we must now also ban books that include evil ... well, that means away with another multitude of books. I could begin a list, but it's really quite unnecessary. I'll just mention two most poignant examples - all history textbooks and the Bible.
Yep, the Bible.
In that book, even one of the good guys, King David, commits murder, greed and violent acts. But we study his Psalms, and he's listed in Hebrews 11 as one of the "Faith Heroes."
Books must have a protagonist and an antagonist: That's how the plot advances. And that's how children learn the difference between good and evil.
I sincerely question if the people who argue the evils of such things as Harry Potter are familiar with their "enemies". So often, as is the case with Harry Potter, the arguments appear ill-founded.
Parents should strive to arm themselves carefully if they're going to debate the merits of any type of media - be it books, television, movies or music.
I've read the entire Harry Potter series to date. And I sincerely like them. I like the complexity of the plots, the vivid details of the setting and the depth of characters' emotion. So I'm not likely to argue the faults of the series.
But if I were, I certainly would not attack its inclusion of magic or of evil acts.
I would instead argue that the most recent novels include increasingly adult content - including teenage and adult humor and characters' choices involving physical relationships with the opposite sex and sometimes life and death decisions - that a younger child is likely not prepared to handle.
In the first book of the series, Harry Potter turns 11 years old. In each successive book, Harry gets one year older; as he does, the content and narration of the book mirror the age of the main character. I applaud J.K. Rowling for the ingenuity of it. But this is precisely where a parent should employ caution:
Rowling's ever-maturing content works fine if your 11-year-old child began reading Harry Potter when the series began in 1997. When Harry turned 12, the child would be 12.
Later in the series, the books no longer come out one per year. So when the once-11-year-old gets to read book six when it is released in 2005, he's 19 years old, most likely mature enough for a 16-year-old Harry.
The mature content becomes an issue, however, if the child is an advanced reader and starts at, say, age nine. For some time, the ever-maturing content of the novels would be ahead of the maturity of the child.
The content is also an issue if the child is only now discovering Harry Potter. I consider this to be the worst possible scenario: Your child, age 11, reads the first book and becomes hooked. He wants to read books two, three, four, five and six but is far too young for the later books' content.
What do you, as a parent, say to your child? "No, you have to wait a year to read the next book," when it's out on the shelf at school?
Therein lies the real problem.
Maybe, I think, some of the people objecting recognize that arguing such a position as I have posed would show them to be hypocrites.
What do I mean by the latter statement, you're asking?
I mean that while we are fighting tooth and nail against a book that exposes our children to content more mature than they are ready to receive, we are likely ignoring that they are constantly exposed to content even less appropriate than that of a teenage Harry Potter in the music on their iPods and the television shows and movies on their screens.
Sadly, I can only hope that the fear of being labeled a hypocrite is the primary reason for such arguments against Harry Potter and other material that we now hear.
Yet I suspect that most of the people arguing witchcraft and violence argue it because they are not well-enough informed to argue the position I have posed. They haven't actually read the books; they're relying on the media, their church, their friends ... whoever ... to feed them their opinions.
As parents, we have an obligation to our children to make the right decisions regarding their well-being. And it's not enough that we make the right decisions. We have the obligation to make those decisions for the right reasons.
We must not only teach our children how to make the right choices for themselves, we must set that example. Trusting any secondary human source without question is a foolish example to set.
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