John Monk, an editorial
writer for Knight-Ridder's daily newspaper The State in Columbia,
SC, wrote an editorial in response to the protests, noting:
claim the Potter books lure children into witchcraft.
Poppycock. You might as well say Gone With the Wind teaches
young readers to be slave owners, or Treasure Island entices
children to be pirates, or Peter Pan urges children to run
away from home."
2003, the Vatican made an official statement regarding Harry Potter's magic
relationship with children. Rev. Don Peter Fleetwood,
a Vatican culture official, stated that he saw no problems with the
magic embraced in the Potter books. "If I have understood
well the intentions of Harry Potter's author, they [magic and
occult forces] help children to see the difference between good and
The key to preventing a book challenge from
dividing a community is to ensure the "hearing" is conducted
in a civilized, rational manner.
In the decade since the arrival of the Potter books,
school crime dropped ("Crime in Schools
Fell Sharply Over Decade, Survey Shows," by Fox Butterfield, The
New York Times, Nov. 20, 2004), teen pregnancies declined (www.teenpregnancy.org/america/),
and teen smoking and drug use dropped (Associated
Press, “Smoking and Drug Use by Teenagers Drop Again,” The
New York Times, Dec. 22, 2004). Additionally, the thousands
of midnight Potter publication parties in bookstores
were marked by nothing but orderly, good-humored behavior
on the part of nearly one million children and their parents—something
that probably couldn’t
have been said about similar gatherings of children and
parents at a thousand midnight Little League games. If,
indeed, there were all those Satanic connections to the Potter books,
where is the evidence of the devil's work upon tens of millions of children's
souls in the last decade?
If you are a school district or library being challenged
on the Potter books, you might wish to call up support from
two Christian (one Protestant and one Catholic) resources: Looking
for God in Harry Potter(Reed Elsevier) by John
Granger, a home-schooling Christian father of seven; and Father
Roderick Vonhögen, a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese
of Utrecht (The Netherlands), who has explored the positive
classical and Biblical origins of all the Potter books in his
popular podcasts ( www.catholicinsider.com/scripts/index.php).
And by all means visit the American Library Association's
Web site for support materials (www.ala.org/ala/oif/challengessupport/dealing/Default1208.htm).
The key to preventing a book challenge from dividing
a community is to ensure the "hearing" is conducted in
a civilized, rational manner. Two books on this issue
stand out in bold relief. Both are written by experienced
educators and offer striking examples of how easily good
teachers, students, and schools have been railroaded
into silence by censorship or its fears — something
we normally associate with totalitarian countries, not
democracies like our own.
CENSORSHIP: A Threat
to Reading, Learning, Thinking,
edited by John S. Simmons (International Reading
Association 1994 | 278
This is the more comprehensive
of the two books, covering censorship threats in nearly all the academic
disciplines, from elementary to high school. Its 19 chapters have
been authored by national experts, writers, educators, and even school
board members. The text straddles the line between excoriating censorship
and the ways to negotiate one's way around it, including advice for
principals, librarians, and school boards.
AT THE SCHOOHOUSE
Lessons in Intellectual Freedom by
Gloria Pipkin and ReLeah Cossett Lent (Heinemann,
2002 | 230 pages)
The authors, two veteran Florida secondary teachers,
describe the long, winding road they traveled in that state as they
attempted to educate and expand the minds of young people through reading
and writing. Their approach was often in direct contrast with the traditional
approach — memorizing fact-bits to be regurgitated at test time
but hardly productive when it come time to think or act
critically or intelligently. The book is both inspiring
and frightening in its scope and ramifications.
not touch' the forbidden fruit!
The book-banners might also consider
the concept of "forbidden fruit" and its effect on human behavior.
Seldom is a book successfully banned but sales and circulation always
increase as a result of the attempt. Book bannings make as much sense
as a parent telling her children in December, "Don't look in the
back of the hall closet." You've just advertised the fact that
something is there you don't want them to see. This is true for both
children and adults.
"Make movies of great books, and
then forbid children to see them."
The adult reaction is exemplified in the
story told to me by Nancy Weatherman of the Tennessee
State Library and Archives. She had successfully weeded
an antiquated library collection in one of the state's prisons when
the warden wanted to know how she planned to dispose of the hundreds
of books she'd weeded.
"That's easy," she told him. "Just
pile them on tables under a sign 'Do Not Touch!' They'll be gone in
days." They were.
Children's reactions are much the
same. When Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize-winning editor
of the Washington Post's Book World declared the film "Jurassic
Park" to be too frightening and therefore off-limits to his nine-year-old
son, he failed to take into consideration the lure of "forbidden
fruit." That attraction, combined with the television commercials,
were enough to provoke the boy to go to the original
source. Painstakingly but with great motivation, the nine-year-old read
the entire 399-page book that summer. This, in turn, provoked the father-editor
to wonder if maybe this isn't the key to turning on all those reluctant
readers: Make movies of great books, and then forbid children to see
The humorous aspects of the forbidden
fruit is explored further by storyteller Bill Harley in
his Nov. 27, 2001 essay for NPR in which he describes his sixth-grade
idea of sneaking James Bond books to school. Soon everyone
was bringing in their parent's books, hoping for cheap thrills. The
essay can be heard with RealAudio player at Forbidden
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