Students, professors debate Harry Potter and children’s reading

By Eleanor O’Hagan
Staff Writer

Students voted 68-53 at the Veritas Society’s Dumb Ox Debate to affirm the house’s motion that “You shouldn’t let your kids read ‘Harry Potter’” on March 26 in the Gentile Gallery.

Arguments that J.K. Rowling’s books promote disobedience to authority, witchcraft and lack of morals led the majority of those in attendance to vote in affirmation of the motion.

Faith Sirilla and Clement Harrold represented the affirming side. Opening the debate, Harrold argued that parents should be providing their children with literature that is “good, true and beautiful.”

Sirilla said reading the series is dangerous for children because they lack the ability to understand and judge what is good and evil in the “Harry Potter” books.

“Adults are capable of reading it, of discerning the material” Sirilla said.

Dr. Theodore Harwood, assistant professor of classics, spoke also for the affirming side. Harwood said he does not see a definitive idea of good in the “Harry Potter” series.

Students Jared Johnson and Maria Sammons, along with faculty member Dr. Alex Plato, assistant professor of philosophy, represented the opposing side.

“Not all good books are Christian,” Sammons said, adding that truth and goodness can be found in non-Catholic texts.

Sammons also said that there are no real instructions within the “Harry Potter” books that explain how to perform witchcraft.

Johnson, in response to Sirilla’s argument, said that one should not let their child read something on their own at all. Johnson added that reading with children is a teaching opportunity for parents to “draw out the good and have a discussion about it.”

Plato said that he was in favor of using books to open doors to conversations about good, evil and other topics that are difficult for children to understand. Plato added that if the parents and child are well formed in morals, then reading “Harry Potter” is not be a danger.

The debate floor was opened to event attendees twice and students expressed support for the points brought up as well as their own conclusions on the issue. A student dressed as the series’ villain, Lord Voldemort, said that “Harry Potter” should not be read by children.

“The energy in the room was fantastic!” said sophomore Therese Muller of the debate. “The support for how much you should consider what your kids read, and for parents to have a very involved role in their children’s education, the fact that both sides were so concerned with this important issue is very encouraging.”

“I think that while both sides raised reasonable differences they both were lacking in authoritative evidence” Kasia Kulinski, a sophomore, said. “the debate opened up my eyes to reasonable objections from those affirming. However, I still think it’s fine to let you kids read ‘Harry Potter.’”