Today, the Georgia State Board of Education will hold a hearing to consider a request to ban Harry Potter books from school libraries. We get to have more national press attention at the ‘intolerant’ people of Georgia.
A concerned mother, Laura Mallory, previously requested that her children’s school, Magill Elementary School, and the Gwinnett County School system remove the books. They refused. So now she is approaching the state board.
I applaud any parent who cares enough about what their children are reading and seeing to make it their business to get involved. She can certainly let her children know that she does not approve of their reading Harry Potter, whatever the reason. But her quest is about more than that – she wants to make sure that other children are also denied access of these books. Reports of her previous attempts to remove the books, however, give more cause for concern.
“I think the anti-Christian bias — it’s just got to stop.”
Whoa… you lost me! I agree that much of society today, for all of the talk about ‘tolerance’, instead tolerates bashing Christians and many times focuses on anti-Christian attitudes. But the Harry Potter books are just not an example of those things. The books are fantasy about the struggle between good versus evil. There are no references to organized religion, and certainly not an “anti-Christian bias”.
So where does the religious tie-in take place? She goes on:
Mallory wrote on her appeal forms that she was objecting to the books because of their “evil themes, witchcraft, demonic activity, murder, evil blood sacrifice, spells and teaching children all of this.”
The mother of four said she was opposed to the messages of the books, which describe a young wizard’s adventures in a school of magic. She said she had done much of her research online, reading a variety of Christian message boards and Harry Potter fan sites.
“Their thinking has changed. They’re designed to think that witches and witchcraft and wizards and all this is just normal. And that it’s OK. And that it’s even good. I strongly disagree with that. I don’t think it’s OK, and I don’t think it’s good at all,” Mallory said.
Yes, it’s true that the heroes of the Harry Potter books are young wizards and witches. Magic is used as a plot device. But this is a fantasy. This is not a glorification of demonic activity or blood sacrifice or any such thing. Any child who aspires to become a wiccan after reading these books would surely soon become disappointed. Are all books that contain characters who are wizards or witches to be removed because their very presence could be corruptable? Should Macbeth be pulled from shelves as well?
And what of the talk about reading and researching on the internet to learn about Harry Potter books. Surely Mrs. Malloy has actually read at least something from them before leveling the charge that they corrupt youth! Maybe not:
Mallory said she has been contacted by other Christian parents who were concerned about the content of the books. On her complaint form, she suggested they be replaced by C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia” series or Tim LaHaye’s “Left Behind: the Kids” series.
She admitted that she has not read the book series partially because “they’re really very long and I have four kids.”
“I’ve put a lot of work into what I’ve studied and read. I think it would be hypocritical for me to read all the books, honestly. I don’t agree with what’s in them. I don’t have to read an entire pornographic magazine to know it’s obscene,” Mallory said.
First, it’s not “hypocritical” to read the material that you seek to have banned in schools across an entire state. You should at least have an understanding of what it is. Reading from a message board on a web site is not enough. The analogy with a pornographic magazine is ridiculous. It would take but a few seconds to confirm that Playboy Magazine does, in fact, publish material that is not age-appropriate for an elementary school library. At least read one of the books.
Second, although I am a Christian, I would certainly want to council my children more before they read the Left Behind books, rather than Harry Potter. The treatment of the rapture and some of the ideas expressed there, do not sit well with me. But Harry Potter and Left Behind are not means to reach different ends… they are different kinds of stories.
Third, we must always be careful about letting our feelings overwhelm us. I’m sure this is more true when considering “banning” books and the free flow of ideas. When thinking of our kids, it’s never easy to know when to stop. I’m sure that Mrs. Mallory is sincere in her conviction, and she believes that Harry Potter contains inappropriate content. But what if the next person who comes to the Libary Board is an atheist and demands that the C.S. Lewis book that Mrs. Mallory loves be banned because it contains symbolism influenced by Christianity, and they find it somehow inappropriate for their children. Where do we stop then?
Finally, each parent has the responsibility to do their best to raise their own children. I do not believe that “anything goes”. But if you believe that having Harry Potter books in the school library is too scandalous for your children, then I would suggest that perhaps you should consider finding some other place for your children to be schooled rather than rely on the public school system. You need some place where you can exercise greater control of your own.
I think that Mrs. Mallory’s heart is in the right place. This is just the wrong battle to be fighting.
UPDATE: Another interview available this afternoon adds more from Mallory:
“It’s appalling that we want our children in the post-Columbine era where we’ve seen repeats this week of school shootings that we don’t want to remove evil from our schools. You would think that we would want to do everything we can to get any form of evil out of our schools,” argued Mallory.
True enough… but Harry Potter is not the evil that has brought Columbine or incidents in Bailey, Co, Cazenovia, WI, or Lancaster, PA.