(Editorial Opinion, "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution", October 5, 1999)
|A few Cobb County parents have done something to the plucky Harry Potter that his evil nemesis Lord Voldemort has never been able to do: Banish him.
A fifth-grade teacher at A.L. Burruss Elementary School had to stop reading the best-selling children's series to her students because some parents expressed concerns about its themes of magic and wizardry.
The books are "on hold," says Principal Jerry Locke, who plans to evaluate the three volumes to determine whether they're suitable for the classroom.
By British author J.K. Rowlings, the Harry Potter books are undeniably magical, captivating millions of young readers around the world and inveigling them away from their Game Boys and Nintendos. Dozens of Atlanta area children lined up at dawn last month to grab up copies of the third installment as it arrived in bookstores.
The parents objecting to Harry Potter probably haven't read the books.
Otherwise, they would realize that they speak to far more than magic and sorcery. The main message of the books is the redemptive power of love.
The Harry Potter books belong in the Burruss classroom and classrooms everywhere.
If parents object to magic, they object to childhood. Magic is what children live and breathe.
Magic transforms a swing set into a castle, wooden blocks into a city and a playmate into a cowboy.
If the magic leaves the classroom, so do "The Wizard of Oz," "Macbeth" and "Peter Pan," among others. Besides, the appeal of such films as "Toy Story" and "Star Wars" to children and adults alike suggests that we all could use a little magic in our lives.
by Jim Galloway and Chris Burritt ("The Atlanta Journal-Constitution", October 13, 1999)
|A Marietta elementary school has given a green light to Harry Potter, student wizard.
Last month, Principal Jerry Locke of A.L. Burruss Elementary School asked a fifth-grade teacher to stop reading one of the Potter books to her class until he could review it.
Now he's read the book and thinks it's just fine, a Marietta school official said Tuesday.
In fact, Harry Potter books are now being read to two classes at Burruss. And as it turns out, a Harry Potter book has been in the school library since spring - the principal simply didn't know about it, said Kelly Henson, associate superintendent for the 7,228-student Marietta schools.
"There was no ban. There is no ban," Henson said.
The highly popular Harry Potter book series by British author J.K. Rowling outlines the education of a broomstick-riding student at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Burruss' Locke declined to comment on the issue.
Speaking for him, Henson said the Marietta schools have not received any complaints about the Potter books. But, at a September meeting, Marietta elementary principals were cautioned that the book could provoke the concerns of parents who object| to the| literary themes of magic and witchcraft.
That warning, and the fact that Harry Potter made the cover of Time magazine, prompted Locke, the Burruss principal to scrutinize the book.
"When new material comes into the school, any good principal is going to review it," Henson said.
While a flap over Harry Potter may have ended in metro Atlanta, another has begun in South Carolina.
"The books have a serious tone of death, hate, lack of respect and sheer evil," said Elizabeth Mounce of Columbia, who asked that state's Board of Education to remove the books from school libraries. Protesters who identified themselves as "concerned Christian parents" told the board the books promote violence and interest in the occult.
The South Carolina protest is the fourth serious challenge to the book series in the past two weeks, according to the American Library Association's office for intellectual freedom in Chicago. The other challenges have come in New York, Michigan and Minnesota - the incident in Marietta isn't counted.
Three Potter books have been printed. New York-based Scholastic Inc. has published 5 million hardback copies of "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and last month's release, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."
"The books are not about witchcraft," said Judy Corman, senior vice president for Scholastic. "It is about the power of the imagination.
Rowlings, the author of the Harry Potter series, will make two appearances next week in metro Atlanta.
(Reuters, October 13, 1999)
|CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters) - From fictional wizard Harry Potter's perspective, Muggles among us are trying to keep the magic of Scottish author J.K. Rowling's best-selling books out of U.S. public schools, charging they glorify the occult and encourage rebellion.
In Potter-ese, Muggles -- regular humans unaware of the magic surrounding them -- have petitioned school boards from South Carolina to California to pull the wildly popular books off library shelves and out of classrooms.
``It boils down to the question of whether or not the books, in these parents' opinions, promote witchcraft and the occult,'' Greg Plagens, a public school spokesman in Columbia, South Carolina, scene of the latest protest, said Wednesday.
A group of parents Tuesday urged South Carolina's state and local school boards to ban the books, which chronicle the adventures of orphaned wizard Harry Potter and his tenure at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
The first book in the series, ``Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone,'' has spent 42 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, and remained on Sunday alongside ``Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets'' and the newly released ``Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban'' at the top of the list. Five million hard-bound copies of the book are in print, along with another 3.2 million paperback versions, said Judy Corman, spokeswoman with U.S. publisher Scholastic Press.
``There's something these parents are missing, which is it's a magical book. It takes its place along the best in classic literature for children, along with 'The Wizard of Oz,' 'Alice in Wonderland,' 'The Chronicles of Narnia,' and 'Lord of the Rings,''' she said. The Harry Potter books also have been heralded by teachers and school librarians across the country for renewing childrens' interest in reading.
``The children love the fantasy aspect of these books, and they have a lot of magic in them,'' said Margaret Graham, librarian at Myers Park Traditional Elementary in Charlotte, North Carolina.
``I think a lot of families are reading the books together, and that's really exciting for the children, too.'' That has not muted criticism from some parents concerned about how children will be drawn to Lord Voldemort, an evil wizard who killed Harry's parents and menaces him, or the tools of the occult sold in the books' Diagon Alley.
``The problem is that witchcraft and sorcery exists and is something neither children nor adults should play around with,'' an opponent of the books wrote to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A Georgia elementary school teacher this week was allowed to resume reading the books to her students.
The readings were halted in September over concerns the books' focus on magic and witchcraft would provoke concerns among some parents. In an online poll being conducted Wednesday on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Web site, 93 percent of the 3,578 people who responded said the books should not be banned in Georgia classrooms.
In Ventura County northwest of Los Angeles, two parents recently transferred their son to another elementary school after learning his teacher was reading the books in class. The parents noted that the word ``kill'' appeared five times on page 12 of one of the books.
``It is clearly a parent's right to say what his child should read and not read,'' Scholastic's Corman said. ``I believe in this society it is not a parent's right to say what another parent's child should read or not read.''