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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. -Hogwart 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 heart breaking thing about a middle schooler is that they all know what they want to be and most of them have no idea how unrealistic their chosen profession is. As a middle school teacher, I don’t want to know the statistics (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 required, almost all of them regarded as a colossal bore. And when I ask about Harry Potter, surprise! I discover that these little human hormones -- 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 are routinely dabbling with cigarettes and marijuana, and who show up on Monday morning with strange injuries they won’t explain -- turn into hell-fire-and-brimstone ministers. The problem? Harry Potter. He is obviously a new sleight-of-hand from sneaky Satan. And of course 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 teacher’s 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 from both our parents and our students. Writing teachers like myself who were once considering assigning Harry Potter as a last ditch effort at the “reading is fun” angle, are now tucking tail, chalking another one up to ... what? Why are ye targeting our schools, oh religious ones? Because there are kids who could benefit from one favorite book in a school system where some of us can read and like to read, but where most of us can’t read very well and don’t have any plans to, ever. Forget that the series was a lucky break for a single mother with her own kids, who wrote the first book, now out in theaters, in her spare time. Forget that maybe it is one book that our students will not think is a gigantic waste of time. Shame on the spiritual leaders who have caused enough racket about a kid’s fantasy novel that our students are sitting in our classrooms telling us that they actually believe Harry Potter to be real -- 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. But shouldn’t it be inconceivable that adults would be so afraid of something imaginary? I mean, that’s the kids’ job, right? (Lesha Hurliman is a teacher at Craigmont Middle School and an editorial intern at the Flyer.)

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