|Monday, July 10, 2000||
Volume 65, Issue 157
Mitchell on perceptions
Ed De La Garza
Free Harry Potter!
Many children have waited tirelessly at ticket offices to purchase tickets for the next boy-band concert, or at toy stores for the next addition to the Pokemon craze, but it's not very often you hear of children waiting in long lines at midnight to purchase a 734-page book.
Thousands of children eagerly awaited the July 8 release of the fourth installment of J.K. Rowlings' popular series of Harry Potter books.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is deals with the experiences of a young boy with magical powers and his encounters with witches, goblins and sorcerers.
While extremely popular among many children, the books are not universally accepted at schools and among parents and critics who believe the theme of the books, despite being targeted at a young audience, is not appropriate for many young readers.
The first book in the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone introduces Harry as a young boy who is living with his aunt and uncle because his parents have been murdered by an evil sorcerer and who is living with his aunt and uncle.
The book then proceeds to detail Harry's life with his relatives. There Harry is locked in a small, bug-infested closet where he is forced to sleep and eat and is not allowed to come out when other people are around. He is continually beaten up by his spoiled cousin, and cannot participate in holidays or even speak if not spoken to first.
Harry's treatment in the books and the use of witchcraft and sorcery has resulted in its ban or restriction at some schools and libraries.
"Much discussion is presently being generated across the country regarding the Harry Potter book series. People ... have voiced their views concerning the appropriateness of the series for our children," Zeeland School District Superintendent Gary L. Feenstra wrote in a memo to administrators and teaching staff in the district.
He then said that the books are only appropriate for grades five through eight, will not be placed on the shelves in Zeeland Public School's libraries, will not be used in the classroom for read-a-loud purposes and that no future books beyond book No. 3 in the series would be purchased for the school.
When libraries, courts and schools like those in Zeeland place a ban or restriction on a book because a few parents disapprove of its theme, it stifles a child's learning opportunity and places a restriction on the selection of works children are able to chose and learn from.
These institutions should not allow a minority to dictate what others have the right to read and let them limit the opportunities for children to expand their minds and discover and imagine new ideas.
Book-banning is simply another way to limit freedom of expression. It inhibits authors from writing stimulating, entertaining, educational or informative books if there is even the remote chance of them being banned or censored. Children will instead be left with books that bore them away from reading.
Having come under heat from organizations such as the National Coalition Against Censorship, Feenstra recently rescinded many of the restrictions he originally placed on the books. However, Harry Potter is still under fire in at least 13 states, according to the American Library Association.