Children's Books Creat Conflict

October 1999

The Harry Potter series of books by J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) is creating quite a stir in school districts across the U. S. Already parent concerns have surfaced in South Carolina, Georgia, Minnesota and California requesting these books not be read for classroom reading.

The Potter books have become a publishing phenomenon selling over 5 million in paperback and millions more in hard cover. The young hero and his companions are magicians in training at the Hogwarts School Witchcraft and Wizardry. His adventures have captured the imagination of parents and adults worldwide. It's no wonder that this book would find its way to the public school environment.

And its no wonder that some parents would raise concern about the appropriateness of exposing their children to such literature. Books that address occult themes are seen by many parents to be anti-religious in nature because it exposes their children to the evil side of supernatural power in a positive light. These issues are compounded by the concern that religion is all but ignored in schools, and yet exposure to occult practices are welcomed.

Not all parents agree, of course, and even many religious classics have used the conventions of wizards and magicians on the side of good, such as works by J. R. R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and Madeleine L'Engle. The battle lines are already drawn. Some will accuse their school district of abusing the public trust by indoctrinating their children into satanic practices. Others will cry 'censorship' and mock the concerns of parents as being too protective and out of step with the times.

It is easy to let conflicts like this degenerate into who is right and who is wrong, rather than taking a serious look at how a public school can address the concerns of all parents in the district in a fair and balanced manner. If your district doesn't have clear policies and procedures regarding how books are selected for libraries and classroom reading, now is a good time to get one started. Parents, teachers and community members can work together in a common ground environment that respects the views of all, and find solutions that bring the community closer together instead of tearing it apart.

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