With the release of the long awaited Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince this Saturday, students at The Holt Primary School in Skellingthorpe, Lincolnshire (in England) were planning to come to school on Friday dressed up as witches and wizards. But the BBC is reporting that head-teacher Paul Martin has had to cancel the dress up day after parents and a local pastor claimed he was seeking “to lead our children into areas of evil”. Explained Mr. Marting, “may I reassure parents that my staff and I only wished to raise the profile of reading”. Huh, encouraging kids to read! How could he? The audacity!

18 thoughts

  1. How does playing dress up raise the profile of reading exactly? Dressing up as a witch or a wizard is somehow going to make the kids read more?

  2. Eric, you are missing the point. It is not the dressing up per se, it is dressing up as characters from a book which creates excitements about the book, and that most definitely does encourage kids to read the book for themselves.

  3. Gotcha. If they can do that for a Harry Potter book then, I assume that it would be okay for other books too? I think you may see where that could lead… or better yet, where it would be squashed.

  4. I personally don’t get why this book is so bad. I’m re-reading Book 5 with my oldest son but will stop and start book 6 when it comes out and come back to 5. I think his interest in reading is great and I get to explain words he doesn’t experience in conversation or British words he’d never know. Building vocabulary – it must be a bad thing.
    I don’t understand why this same group of people usually say that Harry Potter is Evil because it somehow promotes magic, yet The Lord of the Rings is not. There are a lot of similarities in the two books:
    Dementors and ring wraiths
    Both have orphaned main characters
    Both have an all-powerful dark force:Voldemort or Saron
    Both have wizards being controlled by "The Dark Side" – Quirell and Saruman
    Both have an ‘Igor’ type character: Gollum, Wormtail
    Go figure.

  5. The LOTR books are not children’s book.
    Second: Ben, there are a MILLION books one could dress up as. Why does it have to be a popular book promoting witchcraft etc. No wonder the headmaster was forced to cancel it. Young people are easily swayed by witchcraft and such, and seems that adults are too.

  6. This doesn’t really surprise me, although it’s idiotic.
    It reminds me of a flyer I received in my mailbox once listing things parents should "protect" their children from since they were "satanic" (i.e. non-christian) influences.
    D&D was on it, of course (they claimed it encouraged players to worship false gods and practice witchcraft), and pretty much anything with any mention of magic, witchcraft, or the supernatural.
    Some surprise highlights included Disney’s "The Sorcerer’s Apprentice" and, my favorite, PAC MAN, because it features "ghosts"!

  7. I find this interesting. If he was having people dress up as Bible characters. It would be squashed most people would agree that it should spouting "separation". But for many people this is a religious issue many are into witchcraft as a faith system. Why then is it not right to spout "separation" here also? It’s not different. It’s all in what we want to allow.

  8. The closest church to where I live has held special days celebrating both Star Wars and Harry Potter and looking at the "good vs evil" moral storylines behind them as ways to celebrate Christianity.
    I find it amusing that while some churches find inspiration in these moral tales, others focus only on the dark side…

  9. Wow, Ben (unknowingly I’m sure) started quite the debate.
    Perhaps the School HeadMaster should have a ‘Literature Character Day’ that allows students to dress up as any literary character be it Biblical, magical, Disney (many of which are based on books) or whatever. That would promote reading without focusing on one controversial series.

  10. Jay has an interesting comment. Would there be an outcry if the school encouraged folks to dress up like Abraham or Noah or Paul or Mary on certain days?
    Just something to think about…
    Unfortunately the intolerance stick happens to swing both ways and quite often at that.

  11. Harry Potter is a work of FICTION.
    Simply calling it "Witchcraft" doesn’t make it a religion. What Wiccans practice has nothing to do with the work of fiction that J.K. Rowling wrote and if my kid dresses up as Harry, Ron, or Hermione and goes to school for a costume party it doesn’t mean he’s a witch. They only reason they’re celebrating the book is because it has drawn kids to read all over the world. Many kids usually just see movies or T.V. so that’s pretty amazing.
    I do think the difference between LOTR and C.S. Lewis’ work is that they’re Christians. Otherwise you’d hear the same uproar I believe we hear about the J.K. Rowling books.
    I’ve read all the Rowling books and I don’t see where they glamorize evil or would be a bad influence. They’re just interesting stories about interesting characters. The thing that’s great about the stories is the relationships and friendships in the book. I think the "magical" things that happen are just a part of the story.
    I’m Jewish and I find many conservative Christians have no problem with Christmas or Easter symbols in the school and they want Christian Prayer in school in the United States and I’m told that if I’m offended to "Get over it" because we live in a "Christian Society".
    Something similar happened at a Zoo in Tulsa, Oklahoma where they had elephant symbology at the zoo that included something related to Hindi culture. Even though the symbol had nothing to do with "creation", and there were other symbols at the Zoo’s exhibit for elephants including the GOP symbol, the Christians lobbied for a display of God’s creating the World so they could have "equal time" even though the exhibit had nothing to do with the Earth’s creation.

  12. This just proves that the British are indeed getting back to normal after the heinous attacks last week.
    I knew the point when we Americans ‘got over’ 9/11 collectively. It was when stupid BS stuff like this started happening again.

  13. >> How does playing dress up raise the profile of reading exactly?
    you haven’t got kids, it seems.
    it makes reading more fun – it raises the idea of a story to read, not words on a page. It aids in visualisation of characters, etc.
    My 11 yo is an example. Reading stories (for him) is something I do at night to him. Not now. He’s powering through the last HP book, and when I’m not able to read to him as a bedtime story, he carries on by himself.
    He’s actually rushing to finish it (even reading the school library copy while at school) because he can’t wait for the new book.
    Call it marketing or commercialism or whatever, but anything that gets a reluctant child reader to read a huge book by himself is wonderful for a parent.
    IMHO, the school is doing the right thing by the children and it’s the the pastor that’s way out of line.
    What’s the pastor want to do – go back to religious persecition and revive the Salem witch burnings?
    just goes to show how out of touch religious leaders are. He should be worring about the lack of humanity in (not) supporting starving/HIV infected Africans or whatever. Lets keep it real, people – it’s a flamin’ book not the Crusades!

  14. I’m concerned about the fact that Greg is re-reading HP5 with his son. Why don’t you read /another/ book? Isn’t HP supposed to get kids excited about reading in general? As a casual observer I get the impression that kids are excited about HP but not books in general. Why is there /so much/ anticipation surrounding the release of each new book? Isn’t HP6 just one of the thousands of excellent books kids could be reading for the first time?

  15. Patrick – I think you have a valid point.
    In my case, I had already read the books and my oldest son had asked about them when he was at an age that I felt he would enjoy the books but couldn’t yet read them. The reason I don’t have a problem with me reading to him instead of him reading the books to himself is that my wife and I have a bedtime ritual where we both read to our 4 year old son and then I’ve been reading Potter to my 8 year old. My wife has him read one of the series of books to her during her reading time. In addition to us reading Harry Potter he’s been reading "The Magic Tree House" series of books to my wife as well as "The Zack Files", "Cam Jansen" and he recently started another new series with her.
    Although we stopped doing it and I would like to start it back up, we were doing "D-E-A-R" time. Drop-Everything-And-Read in the evening. My wife and I would read one of our books and my kids would each read one of their books for 15 minutes. The challenge was it wouldn’t hold my youngest’s attention span. Now that he just started Kindergarten this week (we’re in a Year-Round school) maybe we’ll try again.
    I think it’s great Potter incents children to read and in our case we’ve been doing it every night since they were toddlers so I think they understand it’s important to read.
    BTW: We went to a book signing for a family friend and my oldest and his cousin started to write their own book because they were so impressed by the experience.

  16. Ben,
    You missed the point on two levels. When are you going to reach perfection. (And when you do please share the path with the rest of us.)
    1. Old Jewish values "not suffer a witch to live". Now that may not be the way we deal with witches now… but it seems that there are many who hold to witches as something evil. Back during the cold war someone in America likely could have went to a communist country and killed leading communists as a vigilanty. Since it woud be against communism, it would have been accepted by many. Now we see things different, but I for one am not more open to communism than they were. My point is witchcraft is not (to many parents) a good or acceptable thing. The schools system also needs to respect the parents. When you divide the home you destroy the values of many children rather than building them. Reading is Harry Potter isn’t needed to educate the children and get them to read.
    2. I think if the pastor believed that he was morally bound to present his argument. It was the schools decision though. Just like you present your opinion here. If you would chide his right to express his view then you should not have posted your counter point on your blog. Rather you should present why you think it is not evil. (Debate his point rather than pick on the presenter.) I would be interested in what studies you have done on the social effects of witchcraft on individuals and cultures. Granted… Salem over reacted and it was an abuse of power. It was an extream abuse. Shall we counter by saying they were 100% wrong without consideration? If we do then we are guilty of an extream reaction to an extream action.

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