British Principal Says Harry Potter & Lord of the Rings Encourage Difficult Behavior in Children

McGonagall

Graeme Whiting, headmaster at the Acorn School in Nailsworth, England has had a blog post go viral in which he claims Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and more encourage difficult behavior in children.

HarryPotterEyeRoll

In the post on the private school’s website titled “The Imagination of the Child,” Whiting never really gets specific on what kind of difficult behavior the content of these books might cause but starts off by discussing how events in our childhood shape our brains, and how therapists around the world now make a living trying to make sense of it all for us. Things quickly devolve from there with him citing “particularly inappropriate images or text that confuses their imagination, as they do not have thinking brains until, at the earliest, fourteen years of age.”

Sure, not all images and text are suitable for all kids but what does Whiting single out? Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, and… anything by Terry Pratchett, apparently.

Now to me anyway, one of those is certainly not like the other and can be considered definitively for adults but peruse what Whiting thinks are appropriate works for children.

I stand for the old-fashioned values of traditional literature, classical poetry, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Dickens, Shakespearean plays, and the great writers who will still be read in future years by those children whose parents adopt a protective attitude towards ensuring that dark, demonic literature, carefully sprinkled with ideas of magic, of control and of ghostly and frightening stories that will cause the children who read them to seek for ever more sensational things to add to those they have already been exposed to. What then of their subconscious minds?

Yes. William Fucking Shakespeare.

Shakespeare

The author who included tons of sex, death, violence, and magic in his stories. (And yeah, those other authors weren’t ignoring that stuff either.) “I want children to read literature that is conducive to their age and leave those mystical and frightening texts for when they can discern reality, and when they have first learned to love beauty,” he writes. What gives?

Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, and Terry Pratchett, to mention only a few of the modern world’s ‘must-haves’, contain deeply insensitive and addictive material which I am certain encourages difficult behaviour in children; yet they can be bought without a special licence, and can damage the sensitive subconscious brains of young children, many of whom may be added to the current statistics of mentally ill young children. For young adults, this literature, when it can be understood for what it is, is the choice of many!

Buying sensational books is like feeding your child with spoons of added sugar, heaps of it, and when the child becomes addicted it will seek more and more, which if related to books, fills the bank vaults of those who write un-sensitive books for young children!

Don’t forget the covers of the books are also to blame, “Such colourful covers attract children to the point of mesmerising them, and they make demands of their parents stating that they want one because every other child at school has one!”

Whiting doesn’t give any statistics or studies to back up his thinking that these books somehow cause a mental detriment to children. And his conclusion isn’t that dark stories are inherently bad but that parents need to be involved in their children’s lives which, duh. Though what he finds objectionable in the Harry Potter series and not say, MacBeth, remains to be seen.

The really odd thing is, Whiting came to these thoughts because he reminisced on his own real-life traumatic experiences, not those he had from reading books.

This morning, I recalled the many memories that lie deep in my own subconscious; the deaths of my loving parents, my three brothers, my wife and perhaps even more deeply entrenched are the experiences I had as a young child growing up after the war in a very different England. I recalled vivid pictures of the school bullies, and of the grim-faced teachers as they beat me. I can remember their smelly clothes, and can recall those smells and facial grimaces when they carried out the barbaric punishment that was meted out to many young, poor children, in the nineteen-fifties. I have dealt with those images and memories without the help of a therapist and I feel I have put them away from my daily life, to be recalled if they need to be.

Looks like perhaps Whiting is trying to work out his own shit, very publicly.

J.K. Rowling, fairly outspoken on Twitter,  has not commented on the matter. However, she did retweet an account today quoting Doris Lessing, “Parents should leave books lying around marked ‘forbidden’ if they want their children to read” which may or may not be a dig. I kind of hope it is.

One final thought, Whiting admits to having a limited view of today’s literature. “At school I had a passion for literature; indeed I felt that by the age of thirty I had read all the books I wanted to read. ” I feel sad for him.

(via LA Times)

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15 Responses to “British Principal Says Harry Potter & Lord of the Rings Encourage Difficult Behavior in Children”

  1. Erik Boesen says:

    The school’s website boasts about how they build “freethinking students.” Heh.

  2. Nuuni Nuunani says:

    Ah, classic ‘its good because its old’ logic. XD

    Also I just want to point this out as everyones focused on Rowling, but Terry Pratchett’s also done a number of children and young adult books. Such as Tiffany Aching’s series.

  3. Alder says:

    I particularly like “her child who by then will certainly not be seeking sensible literature, but will almost certainly follow the masses, the modern trends, for whom reading will have become a thing of the past.”

    Yup. In 13 years, reading with have become a thing of the past.

    …wait…

    …so what’s he worrying about then, if teenagers are not even going to be reading at all? This makes all his worries about books a non-issue!

  4. SpottedSeaJelly says:

    So, if kids don’t have “thinking brains” before they’re 14, what do they have? Zombie brains? A hive mind? Are they just a bundle of nerves that automatically react to stimuli? Are they mind controlled by aliens?

  5. lev36 says:

    WTAF? I think somebody never got his “thinking brain” at fourteen like the rest of us. Confession: I actually snuck in and swiped a thinking brain when I was eight.

  6. the silver ravens says:

    This is horrible…i don’t think this person has actually read a book before…

  7. Stephen "Soup" Strange says:

    Bah!

  8. WheelchairNinja says:

    Buying sensational books is like feeding your child with spoons of added sugar, heaps of it, and when the child becomes addicted it will seek more and more, which if related to books, fills the bank vaults of those who write un-sensitive books for young children!

    Good-freaking-grief, it’s like a Seduction of the Innocent reboot!

    Compare that quote to what Dr. Wertham said in 1954:

    To advise a child not to read a comic book works only if you can explain to him your reasons. For example, a ten-year-old girl from a cultivated and literate home asked me why I thought it was harmful to read Wonder Woman (a crime comic which we have found to be one of the most harmful). She saw in her home many good books and I took that as a starting point, explaining to her what good stories and novels are. I told her: Supposing you get used to eating sandwiches made with very strong seasonings, with onions and peppers and highly spiced mustard. You will lose your taste for simple bread and butter and for finer food. The same is true of reading strong comic books. If later on you want to read a good novel it may describe how a young boy and girl sit together and watch the rain falling. They talk about themselves and the pages of the book describe what their innermost little thoughts are. This is what is called literature. But you will never be able to appreciate that if in comic-book fashion you expect that at any minute someone will appear and pitch both of them out of the window.

    In this case the girl understood, and the advice worked.

  9. Zatar says:

    So in a a way the principal is right. Many of the books he describes encourages “Difficult” behavior. Harry Potter, the Hunger Games And Sir Terry Pratchett’s work in particular all encourage questioning and in some cases outright rebelling against authority. However the thing the principal is missing is that this is not a bad thing.

    Sure it can be annoying if you are the authority but if you think that questioning authority isn’t an essential skill for both children and adults that says more about you as an authority figure then it does about these books.

  10. Zefram Mann says:

    William Shakespeare? William Shakespeare?!

    Please go sit down and read Titus Andronicus, the play that openly laughs at Game of Thrones both in terms of lascivious behavior and body-count, or MacBeth with its witchcraft, or A Midsummer Night’s Dream for light fantasy, and the author of those is who she’s holding up?

    https://cdn2.rsc.org.uk/sitefinity/images/productions/productions-2009-and-before/titus-andronicus-1955-2006/titus-andronicus-2006-blood-541×361.jpg
    Is nightmare fuel, by any other name, not as terrifying?

    What they say is true. The Bard is the author seemingly everyone talks about and seemingly nobody has bloody read.

  11. Vissum says:

    “I felt that by the age of thirty I had read all the books I wanted to read.”

    That tells you everything you need to know about this “educator”.