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Britain hates kids... except Harry Potter

Like half the population it seems, I am currently enraptured by the last instalment of Harry Potter. The tense ingenuity of plot and the rich realisation of each and every character has had me on tender hooks for most of the weekend (please don’t give the game away if you know what happens!). When asked why I like the series, I am fairly certain my response is pretty standard – there’s something of my childhood in these books. J.K Rowling brilliantly depicts what it like to be a young person: The trials and tribulations of trying to find a girlfriend or boyfriend, and the uncertainties and excitements when we do; the caring, too much, of what others think; the attempts to circumvent overbearing authority – be it parental or state; and the understanding that to be child in the UK is a pretty miserable experience.

If we as adults warm so much towards Harry, Ron and Hermione, why in real life do we fear the young? Is it because they’re different than we were when we were that age, or is it – and I suggest that it is – that we have forgotten what it is like to be them?

Harry Potter is mistrusted by the Ministry of Magic for believing that Dumbledore is right about Voldermort. He is loathed by his uncle Vernon and in earlier books is locked under the staircase. The ministers involved in ruining Harry’s reputation are only too happy to spin their side of the story to Daily Prophet.

All of these storylines have one foot in reality. For anyone of them, read the patronising Respect agenda as outlined by the Blair government. Or the Anti-Social Behaviour Orders, AKA ASBOS, which have more to do with showing the public that something is being done to tackle youth crime rather than addressing the fact that so many of children feel safer on the streets than in their own home. And then there are the endless stories of childhood obesity, as if older generations look any better – the difference being that we can perhaps afford a gym to work off the weekend’s excesses whereas the young people of this country have seen their playing fields turn to concrete.

If children are they way they are, it’s because we have made them so.

Go to Italy, Germany or France, and young people will often be met with smiles and welcomes in restaurants. They also like school. But Britain hates its kids, so much so that Unicef has ranked Britain bottom of 21 industrialised countries in ensuring the wellbeing of children. They are desperately unhappy, which manifests itself in underage sex, teenage pregnancy and binge drinking. More needs to be done to help the Harry Potter generation. We can make a start by recognising that there is something of him not only in us, but in them, as well.

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