[Please direct all hate mail to any teacher but me.]
A substitute teacher in New Jersey’s Montville School district has been let go because she taught the first graders that there was no such thing as Santa Claus. She also put down the existence of the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Elf on a Shelf. The teacher has been permanently dismissed.
USA Today reported the following:
“Principal Michael Raj of Cedar Hill School in Montville, New Jersey, sent a letter to parents apologizing for a teacher who told a first grade class Santa was not real.
“’As a father of four myself, I am truly aware of the sensitive nature of this announcement,’” Raj wrote, reports NJ.com.
“Raj said he also talked to the teacher about her “’poor judgment.’”
Letters have poured into newspapers and Internet sites that carried this story and the overwhelming majority of the ones I read support the school district’s getting rid of this substitute. One fiery letter writer wrote that this teacher was “ruining the joys of childhood” for the first graders.
Do you think we are “ruining the joys of childhood” if we were to tell our children the truth about the existence of such a fantastical character as Santa Claus? I told my kids that there was a Santa Claus (my kids are now 42 and 39—I don’t think they believe in him any more) and we’d leave out cookies and milk for him, which I ate. Was that a mistake on my part, pushing the belief in Santa Claus and eating those cookies? (I justifiably blame fat Santa for my being fat now.)
Knowing kids tend to be magical thinkers, that is, they believe in the fantastic, I went even further. I told my children I could bring the snow. I’d listen to the weather reports and when snow was imminent I’d tell them, “Boys,” I would say, “Daddy is bringing the snow tonight!” They would cheer my great powers. In their minds I was Magic Dad.
My wife would dryly say, “Tell Magic Dad not to bring the snow on the driveway.”
That is one of the reasons she is now my ex-wife.
So my first impulse about this teacher and this situation was Oh, please, Santa is a fun…. But a fun what? Lie? A lie that adults in all areas of society are deliberately telling impressionable little kids? Is Santa merely a harmless myth that will be easily forgotten and put away with other childhood beliefs? Or, is it something actually harmful?
Why should kids be told that this creature can follow your every movement and maybe even your thoughts during the year to see if you were good or bad and that your Christmas presents depended on him? Or possibly no presents at all! As the song says, “You’d better watch out!”
Why are we telling kids that such a large man can go down chimneys and otherwise enter apartments and houses that don’t have chimneys? How can he fly magical reindeer throughout the world on a single night visiting everyone on earth? Why do television news shows and radio newscasters announce where he is flying at any given moment?
“Daddy, if I don’t want Santa to come into my house can he just come in by going through the walls?” one of my sons asked me. Yes, he can; kind of like a blubbery ghost.
So now I am faced with a dilemma. The teacher is objectively correct. There is no Santa Claus flying the skies and reading your thoughts and seeing your actions through the course of your life, nor do any of those other magical beings exist. The kids may believe they do but they don’t exist. I know they don’t; you know they don’t.
However, magic is fun even when you know it is all phony. I like horror movies and superhero movies and giant monster movies, but I know these are all nonsense. Superman isn’t real; nor is Spiderman or Hulk or Wonder Woman or Thor or Doctor Strange or any of the other great supremely-powered defenders of humanity.
I do ask this: Is belief in Santa Claus a prelude to these kids growing up into adults who believe other fantastical beings such as ghosts, angels, demons and the powers of witchcraft? Is the fantastical Santa an entrapment into belief in magical things? An entrapment we helped foster?
I don’t know what to think about this whole topic. I contributed to the big lie and I enjoyed doing so. Heck, during Christmas season I have giant pictures of Santa Claus throughout my house.
I am in a quandary.
I guess it could get worse; what would this substitute teacher say about God?
Visit Frank’s web site at www.frankscoblete.com. His latest books are I am a Dice Controller!, Confessions of a Wayward Catholic! and I am a Card Counter! His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, e-books and at bookstores.