Harry Potter and book controversies
Since the new Harry Potter book is about to be released I have been rereading some of the older volumes to make sure I have my facts straight before heading into the final chapter. It has got me thinking about the public outcry over the past few years on the “evil” nature of the Harry Potter series and their top ranking on the American Library Associations list of the most controversial books of the 21st century. (Incidentally, there are hundreds of articles out there both for and against banning Harry Potter books based on the moral, or immoral, weight of them. A simple Google search should yield a vast array of links.) It seems to me that the majority of the complaints I have read, and read about, are all centered around the idea that Harry is a wizard and that the books deal with witchcraft. Apparently some people feel that they books encourage children to believe in the occult and stray away from the religions of their parents.
I think that’s hog(warts)wash. Please. If children stray from their parents’ religions there is a much deeper underlying issue at hand. A fantasy story is not the cause. Of course as most sane people realize, as soon as you ban a book it makes it all the more attractive to the people for whom it is supposedly inappropriate. It also seems to me a HUGE leap to say that a child’s fantasy story about witches and wizards is akin to teaching about the occult. As the Gwinnett (Georgia) County Board of Education stated back in October of 2006, if all books mentioning or dealing with witches had to be banned “Cinderella” and MacBeth would also have to be removed from school libraries.
Personally, I love the Harry Potter books. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m eagerly awaiting both the newest movie and the final book in the series, both coming to the public eye this month. However, one thing in particular has come to my attention in the course of my preparation for book 7 and I’m not sure why more parents aren’t upset over this fact. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley are horrible cheats. Actually, so in Hermione Granger, but in an enabler sort of way. From the day Harry and his friends started attending Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry they have cheated abysmally on their papers and homework. As a matter of fact, I can’t think of a single book in which Harry or Ron did their own work. While their friend Hermione continually chastises them about their lack of effort scholastically, she eventually always gives them her notes or rewrites their homework papers for them. Why doesn’t this upset people? The protagonists, all quite likable children, cheat their way through school and the general public doesn’t even bat an eyelash at the message that might send?
Perhaps the fact that I am a teacher makes me a little overly sensitive about this issue (yes, I can admit it), but why on earth are parents more concerned with the possibility of a negative effect on their children’s perceptions of religion than an obvious breach of the honor code of every school and university in North America and the rest of the world? Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not saying that the books should be banned for telling kids to cheat – I don’t believe in banning books… for any reason. If you don’t want your child to read something, then don’t let him or her do so. There is no way I feel that anyone else should ever have the right to tell me what my child can or cannot read – but why is this issue never raised by those who protest these books? Is the message supposed to be, “it’s ok to cheat and lie your way through school as long as you don’t waver in your faith?”, because, I gotta tell you, that’s hypocritical to the Nth degree.
In my years teaching at the university level I have come across many papers that were blatantly plagiarized, and this after I had spent at least one whole class discussing the meaning of ‘plagiarism’ and the individual universities’ policies on the issue. At nearly every institution I have worked the plagiarism policy clearly states that any student proved to have cheated or plagiarized materials and attempted to pass them off as his or her own work will be severely reprimanded, brought before a disciplinary committee, will fail the class and possibly be expelled. Of course, that almost never happens. The plagiarizer is almost always let off with a warning, a mere slap on the wrist. How is that right?
My intention is not to rant about the evils of student cheating. I’ll leave that for another post. I just noticed the hypocrisy of those so-called ‘moralists’ complaining about J.K. Rowling’s books and felt the need to rant a bit.
Any other Potter fans (or not) out there with opinions?