This principal’s claim about “Harry Potter” being bad for kids is pretty nuts
Graeme Whiting wants to tell you that the Harry Potter books can cause brain damage in children. No, Graeme Whiting isn’t a scientist. He’s not a licensed psychiatrist. He’s not a doctor, either. He’s the headmaster for a private school called the Acorn School in Nailsworth in the UK, and he recently published a blog post claiming that books like Harry Potter “can damage the sensitive subconscious brains of young children, many of whom may be added to the current statistics of mentally ill young children.” Okay, Graeme.
He tosses George R. R. Martin under the bus too, claiming texts like these “contain deeply insensitive and addictive material which I am certain encourages difficult behavior in children.”
While it is Whiting’s job to care about the wellbeing of students, particularly students at the Acorn School, most people are reading his opinion with a profound eye roll. Especially if you hear what he recommends as required reading in place of the Harry Potter series.
“I stand for the old-fashioned values of traditional literature, classical poetry, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Dickens, Shakespearean plays,” he says. Apparently, parents who give their kids this literature have a “protective attitude” and make the right choice in staving off “dark, demonic literature.”
Mr. Whiting, do you know anything about Shakespeare? Because Samantha Shannon, dystopian fiction writer and author of best-selling The Bone Season, is here to set the record straight. She wrote for the Guardian about Titus Andronicus, in which Titus’ daughter Lavinia is violently raped by a group of men, who are murdered by her father, who in turn kills her for being raped. Oh, and the rapists are then baked in a jolly pie.
Whiting may not realize the pungent sex references in Keats’ “Lamia” either. Or the fact that there is a lot of prostitution in Dickens’ stuff, as well as the devastating abandonment of innocent kids. I guess all that real-world tragedy is much easier for pre-pubescent children to handle because there isn’t any, like, dark magic going on.
Whatever Whiting’s wild opinion may be, at the end of the day it’s not within his area of expertise to claim that children will experience permanent brain damage or be more likely to develop a mental illness because of J.K. Rowling’s magical landscape. That borderlines on offensive to people who struggle with mental illness on a daily basis and can tell you that it didn’t come from some scary story they read when they were in primary school.