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Meditation 32
Still Banning Kids' Books in the 21st Century

by JT

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I have been watching with some bemusement the attempts of some Christian fundamentalists in the USA to have the Harry Potter books removed from schools and libraries. And some of them have even been collecting and burning these books (to the profit of the publisher and author.) But recently this has struck closer to home as two concerned fathers recently made a presentation to a Catholic school board in Saskatchewan[1] to have Harry Potter removed from their local schools libraries and reading curriculum.

Why are these people opposed to this series of children's books, which by most reports are well written and are interesting enough to encourage children to read more? Surely, this is a good thing.

Because, apparently magic is contrary to the Bible. And by reading Harry Potter, children will come to believe in magic and all its accoutrements such as sorcery and spells; potions and parchments; wizards, warlocks and witches

But, if these books are actually teaching children to believe in magic; that is, to believe in supernatural powers, then why aren't the skeptics of the world protesting? Why aren't the atheists and agnostics of the world demanding these books be burned? Call in James Randi to investigate! After all, the supernatural is contrary to our core beliefs.

I think that kids with the reading skills to handle Harry Potter generally have the capability to distinguish fact from fiction. And even if they come to believe in magic for a while, most eventually recognize it as an imaginary power.

I think that the real underlying reason that fundamentalists oppose Harry Potter is not that it leads children to believe in magic, but rather that eventually children stop believing in magic. And if they can successfully put that element of the supernatural behind them, there is a good chance they will critically assess all their other supernatural beliefs.

Keep the kids reading. Let them have their Harry Potter. And if there is a movement to ban these books where you live, protest!

 

Comment: There may be those who consider it inconsistent that I support Harry Potter books in schools, but oppose the posting of the 10 Commandments. It is not. I support Harry Potter as an exercise in reading, not in ethics, even though there are certainly moral and ethical issues in Harry Potter. I oppose the 10 Commandments in schools as a guide to morality - which they demonstrably are not. I would not be concerned if the 10 Commandments (the full version) were part of an English literature course. I'll even propose an essay assignment for interested English teachers: "Discuss the character of God as illustrated by Deuteronomy 5. Is this character consistent with the claim ' God is love?'"

Footnote

  1. For those unfamiliar with Canadian geography, Saskatchewan is the province to the immediate east of Alberta (where the Church was headquartered at the time of writing.)