Book-burners in the public schools

Yesterday, like every day, my daughter on the way home from afterschool told me about her day at school. She was upset because one of her teachers had told her to throw away one of her favorite books, “The Marvelous Land of Oz” because it contains “witchcraft and superstition.” Julia said she felt humiliated and singled out by her teacher, whom she had until then very much respected.

Laura and I were furious about this and Laura went and had a long talk with the principal of the school, who will hopefully read this teacher the riot act. Teachers have no business telling students what not to read. They can assign books and reading, but censoring a perfectly fine chilren’s book is outrageous. The teacher had invited the kids to bring books from at home to read in class, and the children were just reading for themselves, so this was completely out of line.

The issue here is not just one bigot teacher, rather it is that this happened in a public, taxpayer-funded school, and that there is a rather vigorous movement in the US of bigot book-burners, who sow fear and hatred by denouncing many works of popular fiction “evil” because the books discuss the supernatural in non-evangelical tems. Most notably, the book-burners have honed in on the wildly popular Harry Potter series. They denounce the themes of witchcraft and superstition in the books about a young apprentice wizard in a sort-of prep school for wand-wielding wierdos.

So I had to sit my little girl down and explain that no teacher has any business telling her she what she can or can’t read at home. And I also had to explain that sometimes teachers make bad choices and say things they should not say, or do things they should not do. And when that happens she needs to tell her parents or another teacher. And she can always count on us to back her up.

And then I made the point to her that it is quite hypocritical of the Christians to slam any books that contain descriptions of witchcraft and superstition, considering the contents of the “Holy Bible” – talking burning bushes, parting seas, angels, miracles and prophets rising from the grave. Talk about witchcraft and superstition.

[update: I found this website about First Amendment rights for kids.]

2 Responses to “Book-burners in the public schools”

  1. Jesse from Tulsa Says:

    I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I have seen people protesting Harry Potter books. I have read newspaper stories about parents and PTA’s trying to get schools to ban Harry Potter (not only disallowing its assignment, but even so much as a book report on it). Of all the things in the world “good Christian people” need to concern themselves with, I would think such a thing far from it.

    Your point on the Bible being full of equally dubious material is well founded. Perhaps Harry Potter is simply a matter of faith, if anyone were to pretend it was real in the first place.

    – Jesse

    ps. It should be pointed out that my son attends public schools and I have yet to hear any such issues in Tulsa Publics Schools. Mostly outlying communities.

  2. yovo Says:

    Jesse – I agree that this is a relatively rare phenomenon, and for the most part, it seems, sanity has prevailed. The anti-Harry-Potter vigilantes are extremists among Christians, even here in the Bible Belt. One of the Potter vigilantes, Laura Mallory, of Loganville, Georgia, was even named “Idiot of the Year” by the Washington Post – and the WaPo is hardly a spearhead of Atheism or Wiccanism in the world!