The Magic of Magick

by Allison

Abstract: I wrote this essay for my AP English class in September of 2003, just two short months after Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was released. Our assignment for this particular essay was to write a persuasive essay on a current event. After scouring my brain for a few days trying to find a topic to write about, I was looking through my local newspaper and found myself indignant after reading an article about how a public school district (thankfully, not mine) had banned my favorite books from their libraries. That is how my inspiration for this essay came to be. The essay is meant to persuade the reader that the Harry Potter books should not be banned from the libraries of public schools.

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.” (J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1997), 1.) So begins the first book of the series of one of the world’s most prominent authors, J.K. Rowling. Rowling has yielded now five best-selling books to the world of readers, making her richer than the Queen of England. The first four books have been printed in fifty-five different languages and have sold over two hundred million copies in two hundred countries worldwide. Unfortunately, many U.S. public schools have banned the Harry Potter books because they are believed to portray witchcraft as “normal.” The reason for banning is the Christian faith professes that witchcraft is of sinful nature. (The Student Bible, Galatians 5:19-21)

Although many Christians theorize the books to be demoralizing because of the element of witchcraft, implied use of curse words, and perhaps sexual insinuations, they contain many valuable lessons used in everyday life. For instance, in Chamber of Secrets, Professor Dumbledore explains to Harry that “our choices… show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” (Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 333). Another lesson, found in Prisoner of Azkaban, is that loved ones who have died never truly leave us, that we recall them even more clearly when we need them the most. In Goblet of Fire, Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather, tells Harry and his friends that to find out what a person is really like, one must look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals. Other examples of these important life lessons include coping with the death of friends and family members, Fear in general, characteristics of friendship, loyalty to school and professors as well as friends, truth versus lies, and love for one another. Why would anyone want to remove these lessons from the public view of children when they are essential to childhood development?

Reading almost any novel is valuable for all ages because they are intellectually stimulating, build bigger and better vocabularies, and encourage the use of imagination. The Harry Potter books are even better because they inspire children to read rather than do less mind-opening activities such as watching television or playing video games. One of the advantages of having the books in schools is that under-privileged children are more excited to withdraw to the libraries and rent the books, which opens them to even more books because of the many, many more located along the shelves with the Harry Potter volumes. Giving children the chance to read is far better than preventing them from reading based on religious beliefs that shouldn’t interfere in public schools anyway because it violates the common belief of Americans that the church and the state should be separated.

The banning of the books in public schools is a violation of the separation between the church and the state because public schools are provided for by the government and are open to all students from all religions. The banning is based on a Christian-centered belief, which allows the church to intervene when it shouldn’t be able to. (The United States Constitution, Article VI, #3 shows that there is a separation in of these powers in the United States.) Because it is a Christian-centered belief that witchcraft is immoral, why should schools supported by the government prevent non-Christians from reading the books, as well as Christians who do not believe that witchcraft is immoral? The banning prohibits those who do believe the books are morally sound from reading what in their opinion might be some of the best books they’ve ever read. The Constitution protects our rights and favors individual desires rather than those of q dominant group. It signifies what our country was founded upon and what should still be relevant today, like freedom of speech and freedom of religion. If we allow a limited group, even the collection of public schools, to decide what we can and cannot read based on religious beliefs, what is there to prevent other decisions from being made which likewise restrain us from our personal liberties? As David Leslie Brown once said, “The way we are going to think tomorrow depends largely on what we are thinking today.” If we let special groups do this today, we might not be able to prevent special groups from doing this in the future. America was founded on freedom, being able to do what we want to as long as it doesn’t infringe on other people’s rights. Reading a book does not infringe on anyone else’s rights. Consequently, reading a Harry Potter book would not infringe on anyone’s rights and should be available to those who believe the books are not promoting the idea of witchcraft.

The banning of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books in public schools is unconstitutional and unjust. They have significant life lessons, provide children with an enlightening alternative to brainless activities, and are non-religious-based books that almost everyone should have a chance to read. Granted, the later books are unsuitable for young children and should be placed on public bookshelves with caution; but in the case of middle school students, junior high students and high school students, the books are a delightful read and have no place being banned from classrooms and school libraries. Hopefully, students everywhere will soon raise glasses and shout “To Harry Potter — the boy who lived!” (SS, 17)