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Aug 11, 2014 03:26 PM EDT

'Harry Potter' Teaching This Generation and Future Generations the Importance of Acceptance


"Harry Potter" has left the millennial generation more accepting of groups likely to be stigmatized, a recently published study has found.

According to USA Today, the study's authors published their work in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology on July 23. A psychology student at West Chester University (WCU), Courtney Young sees the positive effects of J.K. Rowling's story.

Unaware of the study and its implications on the modern generation, Young said "Harry Potter" taught acceptance.

"What I think has made Harry Potter so important to me is the real-life lessons and situations J.K. Rowling uses in her stories," Young told USA Today. "Many of the storylines and characters can be attributed to real-world problems such as racism, sexism, (and) prejudice."

The study authors surveyed students - who had read Rowling's novels - of all ages in the United Kingdom and Italy on their feelings toward refugees, homosexuals and immigrants. The first part of the study focused on 34 fifth graders and their attitudes toward immigrants. The second surveyed 117 high school students on their feeling towards homosexuals. The third asked 75 undergraduates about refugees.

While "Harry Potter" emphasizes themes such as courage, friendship and love on the surface, tolerance may well be one of the story's most significant lessons.

The students in elementary and high school that identified with Harry, the series' title character, were more likely to be accepting of homosexuals and immigrants. Undergraduates who identified less with Voldemort, Harry's arch nemesis, had "improved attitudes toward refugees."

"It seems to me that the most stigmatized group is Muggles," Rick Arras, a professor who teaches a seminar called Ethics of Harry Potter at Arcadia University, told USA Today. "The main agenda of Voldemort and his Death Eaters is the subjugation of non-magical folk by magic users of 'pure blood.'"

According to Rowling herself, her not-so-subtle lesson on prejudice is not an accident. She told in Oct. 2007, months after the release of the seventh and final novel, that "Harry Potter" is "a prolonged argument for tolerance, a prolonged plea for an end to bigotry."

Thanks to the books' critical acclaim, success in sales and the movies' popularity, "Harry Potter" will likely be around for generations to come, which is a good thing for those future generations.

"I think Harry Potter just really got kids to read much more than they might have otherwise. And so I think it's safe to assume that Harry Potter, whether directly or indirectly, led a lot of people to a lot of other literature, too," John Conway, an English major at the University of Pennsylvania, told USA Today. "Any reader is naturally going to have expanded horizons and be open to the new ideas and people and places they encounter through books. It's the most powerful medium, in my opinion, and a series like Harry Potter just makes more readers overall."

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