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UNI professor: Use Harry Potter books to teach Christian values

June 8, 2003

Gina Burkart, adjunct professor of college reading and writing, (319) 273-2377
Gwenne Culpepper, Office of Public Relations, (319) 273-2761

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- Not only does Gina Burkart, University of Northern Iowa adjunct professor college reading and writing, not believe Harry Potter is evil incarnate, but she insists his adventures provide an excellent groundwork for explaining Christian principles to children.

'It's like a fairy tale,' she explained. 'It takes children to an imaginary world and allows them to work out their fears about bullies, what is good and bad, and making good choices. They close the book and they can talk about those issues with their parents.'

She has written a book, 'A Christian Parent's Guide to Harry Potter, ' and is seeking a publisher. The book is based on principles designed by famed psychologist Martin Hoffman and educator Jean Piaget, and allows children to engage in a series of activities that build moral development.

'This helps children move from a point of reality where they are doing what they are told and considering only the cons of not doing what they are told; to an autonomous sense of operating by a Golden Rule,' said Burkart.

Activities in the book range from making a poster of family rules (like the ones shown in the houses of Harry Potter's school), to imagining changing places with the bully Draco.

Burkart said her guide also helps parents use stories from the Harry Potter series to draw correlations to biblical scripture. 'For instance, Snape says he'll teach the children how to brew and bottle fame. A parent can start a discussion about whether this is something Jesus would be concerned about: was Jesus concerned about being famous, or being good? In fact, you can compare Snape to the Pharisees, who gave their attention to outside appearances.'

Burkart notes other similarities to the Bible. When Dumbeldore talks to Harry Potter about how the love of his mother saves him, it is, says Burkart, 'a direct correlation to Christ who died to save us.'

Burkart will present a paper, 'Harry Potter . . . the Fairy Tale . . . and Building Moral Character,' at the Nimbus 2003: Harry Potter Symposium in Orlando, Fla. on July 19.