Opinion » Viewpoint

Satan's Helpers

Forget the real problems; Harry Potter is the bogeyman!

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Hogwarts, Hogwarts, Hoggy Warty Hogwarts,

Teach us something please,

Whether we be old and bald

Or young with scabby knees,

Our heads could do with filling

With some interesting stuff,

For now they're bare and full of air,

Dead flies and bits of fluff,

So teach us things worth knowing,

Bring back what we've forgot,

Just do your best, we'll do the rest,

And learn until our brains all rot.

-- Hogwarts School Song

The greatest quality of middle-school kids is that they want to be stars. They shoot straight for the top. They want to be millionaires, models, musicians, and professional athletes. The most heartbreaking thing about middle-schoolers is that they all know what they want to be, but most of them have no idea how unrealistic their chosen profession is.

As a middle-school teacher, I don't want to know the odds against them (I'm sure they are dismal); I prefer to feed their tremendous optimism. When I ask middle-schoolers what they've been reading, they tell me: only the books their English teacher requires, and almost all of them are regarded as a colossal bore.

But when I ask about Harry Potter -- surprise! I discover that these little hormone machines -- who curse one another in the hallways, who have friends that are nursing new infants, who have parents or siblings in prisons and gangs, who carry guns to school, who routinely dabble in cigarettes and marijuana, and who show up on Monday morning with strange injuries they won't explain -- turn into hellfire-and-brimstone ministers.

To them Harry Potter is new sleight-of-hand by Satan. And Harry Potter is real. He's not an actor and the novels about him are not works of fiction. No, Harry is a real kid who practices witchcraft and our mommas won't let us read Harry Potter, so don't try, teacher.

Apparently certain moral leaders in our community have taken it upon themselves to clean up our schools and our spiritual deficiencies by targeting the Harry Potter books. Tacked up to a bulletin board in the teachers' lounge where I work is one of those long anti-Harry Potter letters that have been making their way around Memphis and, I'm sure, every other city in the country.

As if teachers didn't have enough to worry about already, now we have to find a way to combat this sudden outcry against an imaginary boy witch. As a writing teacher who was once considering assigning Harry Potter as a last-ditch effort at the "reading is fun" angle, I'm now tucking tail and chalking another one up to ... what?

Why are ye targeting our schools, o religious ones?

Forget that the series began as a lucky break for a single mother who wrote the first book in her spare time. Forget that maybe it is one book that our students will not think is a gigantic waste of time. Because there are kids who could benefit from having a favorite book. Especially in a school system where many students can't read very well and don't have any plans to. Ever.

And shame on the "spiritual leaders" who have raised such a racket about a kid's fantasy novel that students are telling us that they believe Harry Potter to be a real person in England who flies on a broom and goes to a witch school. And what can a teacher say to convince them otherwise? No matter how much influence a teacher might have, parents always have more.

It seems inconceivable that adults would be so afraid of something imaginary.

I mean, that's the kids' job, right?

Lesha Hurliman is a teacher for Memphis City Schools and an editorial intern at the Flyer.

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