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Expecto equality: Harry Potter and the spell of reduced prejudice

POSTED: August 12, 2014 8:00 a.m.
Sarah Howling, ©istockphoto.com/WILLSIE/

A new study has found that kids who read Harry Potter books were more likely to not harbor prejudice against the LGBT and immigrant communities.

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A new study published this week in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology claims that kids who read J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" series were more likely to have "improved attitudes" about minority groups.

British and Italian elementary students were asked to read the books as part of a focus on prejudice and researchers found that afterward, students who discussed the theme of oppression in the books developed a positive perspective for victims of prejudice.
But is the boy who lived the real reason behind the change? The Pacific Standard praised the study, but also cited its own study from March, which found that reading any kind of literary fiction can help reduce racism "by helping readers identify with characters from diverse backgrounds."

The debate is nothing new — Harry Potter's influence has been under a microscope for years now, culminating with a book out this year by University of Vermont professor Anthony Gierzynski. Titled "Harry Potter and the Millenials," the book makes several arguments, including that reading "Harry Potter" has influenced a generation's political beliefs, perhaps even stoking President Barack Obama's 2008 victory.

"Gierzynski suggests that in the post-Bush era, these kind of tolerance-espousing ideals (promoted in 'Harry Potter') were better represented by the Democratic Party as opposed to the Republicans," Movie Pilot reported.
Of course, the examination of Potter's plight hasn't always been favorable. A plethora of bloggers claim that the series promotes homosexuality and the occult.

Religious leaders from a variety of denominations have denounced the books as dangerous or threatening to Christian values. Even former Pope Benedict said people needed to be enlightened about the "subtle seductions" toward evil he found in the series.
Maybe that's why tolerance and equality play themselves out in the halls of Hogwarts more easily than in real life, Pacific-Standard writer Tom Jacobs postured.

"Perhaps arguments for open-mindedness are most effectively delivered underneath an invisibility cloak," Jacobs wrote.

Email: chjohnson@deseretnews.com
Twitter: ChandraMJohnson

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