Authority figures have always sought a figurative bogeyman to blame for corrupting that day’s youth.
From rock and roll all the way to video games, blaming external influences has always been the go-to excuse for people not aware of their own shortcomings.
Now, according to one alarmist headmaster, Graeme Whiting, of the Acorn School, Nailsworth, we should be less concerned with poisonous ideologies influencing kids and more worried about them getting the wrong ideas from books like Harry Potter.
Yes, Whiting has made the rather bizarre claim that popular fantasy books “can damage the sensitive subconscious brains of young children, many of whom may be added to the current statistics of mentally ill young children.”
The loony headmaster specifically criticised books by authors J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin and Terry Pratchett, claiming they “contain deeply insensitive and addictive material which I am certain encourages difficult behaviour in children.”
In his words, modern books contain far too many ‘demonic, influential and unacceptable words’ even arguing that parents should ban their kids from reading them.
Instead, he harks for a return to a purer, simpler world where we read the classics, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Dickens and Shakespeare.
A noble and hilariously hypocritical ideal, considering the amount of dark deeds that those writers wrote on. In Romeo and Juliet alone you have five character deaths, – three of which are murders and two suicides – parental disobedience, violence, fighting and sex.
And that’s before we even discuss some of his other plays like Titus Andronicus…
Dickens, of course, never wrote about ghosts – except in The Signal Man, A Christmas Carol, The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, The Haunted House and another half dozen of his novels.
My issue with this isn’t Whiting’s wrong opinion, he’s entitled to his wrong opinion. It’s that he’s basically saying that we shouldn’t challenge kids with some of the darker aspects of life.
Okay, while it’s undeniable that there are darker elements in these works, the point of them is almost always that good triumphs over evil in the long run.
And to use Harry Potter as an example for his anti-fantasy argument – a story which is built on the notion that despite how seemingly invincible evil can seem at times, it can be beaten with friendship, kindness and love – is just ridiculous.
The joy of Potter is that, ultimately, optimism triumphs over cynicism. Is that an evil message? Is this opposite world?
It’s not for me to say that Whiting is close-minded, that would be wrong, I don’t know the man and it would be an unprofessional and personal attack. Thankfully though I don’t have to, because he admits it himself.
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.
Because, as we all know, true literary enthusiasts get to 30-years-old and suddenly realise they’ve read every book that’s worth reading, past, present or fucking future. Oh wait, no they don’t, that’s what pretentious fuck-wits do.
Honestly, with such a close-minded man teaching kids it seem pretty obvious what’s corrupting the youth of today and it’s not reading.
Even worse, this guy dares to say that by reading fantasy we dull our imaginations and that we need to preserve our imaginations, by reading the aforementioned classics.
Surely, by reading the classics and newer fantasy we actually enrich our imaginations? Isn’t that a fundamental facet of literature? That previous works inform those that come later, leading to new worlds and works.
To finish, let’s ask ourselves the question Whiting asks: “Where will this addiction to unacceptable literature lead?”
I don’t know and that’s what makes it exciting.
More of a concept than a journalist, Tom Percival was forged in the bowels of Salford University from which he emerged grasping a Masters in journalism.
Since then his rise has been described by himself as ‘meteoric’ rising to the esteemed rank of Social Editor at UNILAD as well as working at the BBC, Manchester Evening News, and ITV.
He credits his success to three core techniques, name repetition, personality mirroring, and never breaking off a handshake.