In a recent blog post, Headmaster Graeme Whiting expressed concern that fantasy novels, games and movies are ruining the health of our young people. He expressed that these fantastical stories are “deeply insensitive and addictive material” which can cause “difficult behaviour” and damage the subconscious of young brains. Included in this troublesome group of unrealistic mediums are famous series such as Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter. According to Whiting, these “mystical and frightening texts” should be left for when children are old enough to “discern reality”. Whiting’s fears seem to be that young people do not have the capacity to negotiate the difference between reality and fiction.
Now colour me confused, but imagination was a huge part of my childhood. During my younger years you could find curled up in a corner or huddling under the covers to finish my newest book. I loved nothing more than escaping into a good book and letting my imagination take flight. For a time I could disappear from this world, this reality, and enjoy an adventure; explore places I’d never know. To this day I prefer to read the book rather than see the movie. Reading a novel allows me to delve into my imagination and sketch the characters in my mind. Once I’ve seen a movie, the characters become the actors who played them. My imagination is limited, so is my creativity. It seems like cruel and unusual punishment to ban certain movies and books. More to the point I would suggest that banning these materials stunt imagination and limit the capacity to be open-minded. This seems like a more dangerous way to ‘damage’ a young person’s brain than risking they might believe a piece of fiction too much.
Whiting ended his blog with a statement on the importance of imagination: “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”. If you ask me, Whiting’s messaging seems a bit confused. I would have to agree that young people, or all people for that matter, spend too much time busy with technology. We mindlessly watch television and movies; we stare at our screens all day. Guilty as charged!
Whiting’s words have a ring of truth, when we watch movies and TV we do limit our imagination in terms of creating our own worlds and characters. On the other hand, fantasy fiction and movies create a new world and new characters for our young people. These stories allow children to meet with new ideas, new concepts. It opens their minds to things that don’t exist. Things they may never conceive of on their own. More to the point, the fact that Whiting includes literature continues to boggle my mind and will continue to do so until next time.