Today, in a scathing broadside, Graeme Whiting, headmaster and creator of the British boarding school, the Acorn, blamed mental illness and bad behavior in kids in part on sensational books, such as Harry Potter.
Here are the highlights:
After pointing out that we have a conscious and subconscious mind, and that stuff is stored in the deep recesses of our brain, and ragging on therapists (which he has never seen despite being a child of the War, being bullied by fellow students, and beaten by teachers), he gets to his point that classical literature is good and modern young adult literature and modern technology is the spawn of the devil.
"Imagination is so rich and important that I cannot understand why any parent would not actively prevent exposure to modern-world electronic gadgets, screens, films and literature that will encumber the minds and especially the imagination of their children. Let beauty reign within the subconscious minds of our children, not fear and disturbing images cultivated by their amazing brains."
"Children are innocent and pure at the same time, and don’t need to be mistreated by cramming their imagination that lies deep within them, with inappropriate things."
"Parents walking around a modern shopping centre with their children are magnetised by the colourful and graphic attraction of the new book cover, and often, very little of the text is reflected in the beautiful and attractive cover. Such colourful covers attract children to the point of mesmerising them, and they make demands of their parents stating that they want one because every other child at school has one!"
"Sensationalism is the key for marketing literature in today’s world. Publishers and authors don’t really care who reads what, as long as they achieve high sales figures, and they go to great lengths to create those pictorial covers that hide the sometimes demonic, influential and unacceptable words that may lie within the text. Gone are the classics..." which are hard to find in bookstores yet, can be brought cheaply on Amazon "for less than the cost of postage! Indeed, sets of classical literature, the stories that I read as a young buy, [sic] could be purchased and delivered to my door for less than the cost of driving to a bookshop."
"This is the age of the mentally ill child, the obsessive age, the age where celebrities affect the lives of those who have been encouraged to adore them and who wish to be like them, but never can."
And if a mother at the shopping mall can check out the temperature of her baby's milk, why will she not check out the books that her child reads in thirteen years. Because she is lazy, and just follows the masses. Sheeple! Sheeple!
"This is the age of the mentally ill child, the obsessive age, the age where celebrities affect the lives of those who have been encouraged to adore them and who wish to be like them, but never can. This is a trap of falsehood for children."
Again with the celeb-hate! and the Sheeple!
"I stand for the old-fashioned values of traditional literature, classical poetry, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Dickens, Shakespearean plays, and the great writers who will still be read in future years by those children whose parents adopt a protective attitude towards ensuring that dark, demonic literature, carefully sprinkled with ideas of magic, of control and of ghostly and frightening stories" are never read by their children.
And these bad books being read by children with bad parents "will cause the children who read them to seek for ever more sensational things to add to those they have already been exposed to. What then of their subconscious minds? What then of the minds of children whose parents couldn’t give the time to look closely at childhood; the sensitive period of the development of every human being? Where will this addiction to unacceptable literature lead?"
"I want children to read literature that is conducive to their age and leave those mystical and frightening texts for when they can discern reality, and when they have first learned to love beauty. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, The Hunger Games, and Terry Pratchett, to mention only a few of the modern world’s ‘must-haves’, contain deeply insensitive and addictive material which I am certain encourages difficult behaviour in children; yet they can be bought without a special licence, and can damage the sensitive subconscious brains of young children, many of whom may be added to the current statistics of mentally ill young children. For young adults, this literature, when it can be understood for what it is, is the choice of many!"
"Buying sensational books is like feeding your child with spoons of added sugar, heaps of it, and when the child becomes addicted it will seek more and more, which if related to books, fills the bank vaults of those who write un-sensitive books for young children!"
"It is the duty of parents to spend time to study such matters and form their own conclusions, not to think that because the world is filled with such sensational literature they have to have it for their children, because everyone else does! Beware the devil in the text! Choose beauty for your young children!"
You can read his whole tirade an the Acorn School blog. Or not, after all, I just copied and pasted the majority of it.
My f***ing response as a writer that wants to get some of that sweet, sweet sensational literature money:
Dear Graeme Whiting,
My need for therapy and meds has nothing to do with what I read as a child. My entire family needs therapy and fistful of pills, and I am one of the few who willing cracked open a book this week. Bad children literature does not drive someone to becoming an ax murderer---that is the job of your bad employer, your loud neighbors, and a little thing called a hormonal imbalance. In fact, I am not even sure that any ax murderer has ever cracked up a book, good or bad.
So you are saying that all the good stuff was written before the War. And contains no trace of magic. Fine, great. I see that you are good at justifying your curriculum which your students hate. I assume that you have removed, and never mention, the Little Scottish Play.
And by the way, Shakespeare was a hack who wrote for money, so you should just remove all of his writings from your syllabus. He wrote for the masses, was sensualist for his time, and once had someone chased off stage by a bear. And his witches had beards. So quit pretending that Shakespeare was somehow more noble than J.K. Rowling and Terry Pratchett. And hint, many of your other favorite writers were hacks who liked money and/or attention.
Just be grateful that today's kids want to read any book. And good luck at getting them to give up movies, TV, and the internet.
But no, you are a snob, who thinks that the 1950s was the best time in human history, or at least, one of its high notes. It is people like you that make literature students hate, nah, loathe literature.
And yes, I realize that I am prime example of the horrible person that reading such literature leads to. Yes, I read the Hardy Boys and Doc Savage, and Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as a kid. And yes, my parent were horrible people who did not beat me enough and allowed me to do so. Well, my mom beat me, and forbade me from reading any science fiction or fantasy literature---and I did it anyways because it was a way to take my mind off of the fact that I was dirt poor and the oldest of eight kids in an abusive household.
And horror of horrors, I turned out to be a non-Christian writer who writes for money and the pleasure of writing satirical sensational stories. Oh, I imagine that I, and my parents, should be burned at the stake for this fate.
I am so sorry that your students do not enjoy the type of ennobling and enriching literature that you think that they should enjoy. Maybe you missed the whole point of teaching literature in school which is to ensure that people have actually read the classics---because quite honestly if a bunch of professors would not have gotten together and declared literature to be a noble discipline, most people would never crack open any of the books that you prefer people to read.
Your problem is not with people being sheep; it is with them not being sheeple who think that your course material is the greatest thing such sliced white bread. Let me guess--you have tried your hand at writing "literature" and have gotten nothing but rejection slips saying, "You are boring people to death; please, please, never write another word ever again."
Mad Uncle Morgan