Graeme Whiting, the headmaster of a private school in Gloucestershire, England, wants to save your children from the maddening clutches of… Harry Potter? In a lengthy blog post that went viral this weekend, Whiting made the apparently serious claim that Harry Potter and other popular fantasy books are a “trap of falsehood” that “can damage the sensitive subconscious brains of young children, many of whom may be added to the current statistics of mentally ill young children.” Yes, you read that correctly: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and other fantasy classics will irreparably damage your child’s brain.
“Buying sensational books is like feeding your child with spoons of added sugar,” Whiting continued, oblivious to the irony that he is already living in a fantasy world of his own creation. Even English national treasure Terry Pratchett did not escape the headmaster’s scorn, as Whiting claimed — in a tone we can only describe as serious — that Pratchett’s books “contain deeply insensitive and addictive material which I am certain encourages difficult behaviour in children.” As a substitute for such rubbish, Whiting suggested promoting “the old-fashioned values of traditional literature.” Among the authors he recommended were Charles Dickens, whose most famous villain is an antisemitic caricature, and William Shakespeare, who invented approximately 700 new ways to refer to the human vagina.
Over at the Guardian, fantasy writer Samantha Shannon published a lengthy response detailing the myriad ways in which Whiting is wrong. As Shannon put it, “The problem here is selective perception about how many writers have made use of fantastical and magical ingredients in their work over the centuries. They are as inescapable in the classics as the are today.”
Well said. It makes you wonder if the kids aren’t the ones who should worry about getting their brains checked.