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Harry Potter and the Chain of Fools

Dateline: 08/09/00


The American Library Association reports that at least 13 states witnessed attacks on the Harry Potter novels last year, making them the most challenged books of 1999. Given the enormous publicity and forecasted sales of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, we can expect the attacks to escalate when schools reopen in September.
Education Week, August 2, 2000

To my mind, the strangest byproduct of the Harry Potter mania which peaked recently with the release of the latest installment of J. K. Rowling's immensely popular series of children's books is the Christian backlash against it. Some – though certainly not all – self-identified evangelicals and fundamentalists object that the Potter books exert an "evil" influence on children and ought to be banned from classrooms and school libraries.

For the benefit of the cloistered few who have no idea what these books are about, Harry Potter is a fictional kid, orphaned and living with his abusive aunt and uncle, who finds out at the age of 10 that he's a natural-born wizard and is whisked away from his unhappy surroundings to live at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. There, when he finds the time between harrowing adventures, Harry learns to cast spells, concoct potions and ride a broomstick in preparation for a career in the magical arts. Along the way he befriends or does battle with witches, ghosts, pixies, trolls and other familiar beings from fairy tales and legends of times past.

Kids can't get enough of the stuff – to the delight of a good many parents who are thrilled to see their children reading, but to the chagrin of a zealous few who fear that Rowling is purposely seducing children into occultism and undermining Christian beliefs and values. As one parent put it during a TV news interview, she is "mainstreaming witchcraft." Others disagree, countering that the magic depicted in the Potter stories is harmless fantasy and that the books actually teach healthy moral lessons.

Ironically, one hot issue in the debate is the question of whether or not children who read Harry Potter are able to distinguish sufficiently between fantasy and reality to have a healthy perspective on it. I say "ironically" because just last week I received a forwarded email the very existence of which suggests that some adults aren't quite capable of making that distinction themselves.

The bulk of what you're about to read is not only false, it's pure satire – whether the originator of the email was aware of it or not....

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