Harry Potter and the Rabid Fundamentalists

If I'd ever actually read any of the Harry Potter books, then I'd be able to entertain you with a hilarious parody of the books where the hero gets attacked by mindless American Christian fundamentalists. As it is, I can't. You can't have everything, eh?

A few months ago, it hit the news that a group of Christian Fundamentalists in the US were trying to get the Harry Potter books banned. I think it got about quarter of a page in The Times, so we're talking about real news here. Apparently the books 'promoted witchcraft' and 'disrespect for adult authority.'

Not only that, but people were asked 'Would you like your children to be reading about magic, witches and evil?'

Perhaps they should have come out and just said 'We don't think kids should be exposed to any hostile outside influences that could possibly help them become mature adults able to face the injustices that regularly beset grown-ups. So they shouldn't read about evil. And while you're about it, you'd better go and burn all that CS Lewis and Tolkien stuff you have on your bookshelf, never mind the fact that they were Christians. Hell, you may as well just go and burn the entire Crime/SF/Fantasy section of your local bookstore. Can't be done, exposing kids to that kind of stuff.'

That is the hidden implication there. No, I am being serious.

Let me take an example they cited. In the latest book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (or whatever it is), apparently a major character dies, and there's some guy who's 'pure evil'. Well, boo-hoo. I mean, what the hell are we supposed to tell kids when someone they know dies? That they're off living on a farm in the American Mid-west, or they've gone to a 'happier place'? Do you not think it might be better for the kids to read about death so at least they'll know about it? It might even make they deal with death better, if they can identify with someone, fictional or not, about it.

And 'pure evil'. Are we supposed to pretend that, at heart, everyone in the world is a nice guy? You could say that, and you can even believe that. But in practice, we all know that that isn't true. Children, in order to become adults, have to be exposed to the full range of emotions and experiences.

There's even an analogy for this in biology. Some parents warn their kids about the deadly 'germs' which they might pick up if they play in the dirt or generally aren't spotless all the time. The problem is, once these kids go to school and meet people who haven't avoided the 'germs', they'll contract the whole lot and the usual exchange of colds which all kids encounter when first going to school will be even worse for them. You need to build up a resistance to these germs so you'll be able to weather them later in life.

Germs are a bad thing, no doubt about it. And mostly you should avoid them, but first you need to encounter them. Same with this so-called 'evil'. If you grow up thinking that the world is a nice cuddly place where everyone cares, you're in for a nasty shock when you venture outside.

We can't possibly protect our children from all outside influences, even if we wanted to or thought it'd be a good thing. People don't realise that the very curiousity that makes us humans is our main mechanism for learning, and for surviving. We should let children explore the world so they can learn - after all, that's what every parent wants their children to do.

Still, it'd be a good idea to keep an eye on what they're reading, even if you're not going to stop them... who knows, they might be reading some books you'd enjoy.