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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ho Ho Hooooold on a second here...

I didn't fit in with other teachers very well when I was a teacher. For one thing, I wasn't one of these young twenty-somethings who had gone straight from high school to college and then back into the classroom to teach. I was what you call a "non-traditional" student; I went to college at the age of thirty and graduated (with honors) at the age of thirty-three. My contracting background and military background made me a little more rough around the edges, grizzled, less "polished" than most of my colleagues. And, having actually LIVED a life outside the classroom, I was definitely more "colorful."

I had a different point of view than most of the people I worked with, as well. I wasn't on a mission to "save" the children who came into my classroom, I was there to actually TEACH. Having chosen to teach secondary education, History and Government classes, I hoped that one of the things that I got across to my students was that each and every one of them had a mind of their own and that they should USE that mind to THINK. Needless to say, I wasn't one of these teachers who fell into lockstep with the cookie cutter liberal mindset that most teachers have. My only affiliation with the NEA (shudder) was because of their insurance policies. Their lobbying I frowned upon (and still do).

Now, having said that, laying the background for what I'm about to say, we'll delve into this little incident over in the United Kingdom:

A primary school has been accused of spoiling Christmas for pupils after a lesson telling them that Santa Claus does not exist.

Children as young as nine were told that only 'small children believe in Father Christmas'.

And yesterday their parents criticised teachers for taking the 'magic' out of the festive period.

My question is, as it was when I was in the classroom, what business is it of the school system or a teacher as an individual to decide when it is time for a child to believe anything? Looking at this as a former teacher, I would consider doing such as this to be HIGHLY unethical as a professional. The teacher isn't there to mandate a child's development in their beliefs or to take the place of the child's family. It takes a great deal of arrogance to take on the role of instilling beliefs and values in a child who is not yours.

As a PARENT, if my child was in a classroom where a teacher did something like this, I would be absolutely LIVID. It is NOT the place of a teacher or the school administration to decide when my children are old enough to stop believing in Santa Claus, it is NOT the place of the teacher or the administration to decide if my children should or should not believe in the religious choices my ex-wife and I have agreed upon for our children, it is NOT the place of the school to try to instill ANY values upon my children.

THAT is the big problem here in my opinion. It isn't the place of the school to take decisions of the family AWAY from the family. Yet and still these liberal GRINCHES try to do just that, not just about Santa Claus, but about matters of religion and sex education as well. Families may not always do the best job in instilling values upon their children, but it IS the job of the family to do so. Not the school system.

Those beliefs labeled me as a rebel and a maverick when I was a teacher (of course, tossing the textbook into the trashcan and saying it was inept might have had something to do with it to...). So be it.

Was my approach effective? I have former students come to me today, several years after my having left the classroom to return to the world of contracting and the world of political analysis, students who tell me how that I was the first teacher they had ever had who showed them how history could be interesting, how politics could be interesting, and how that my belief that the greatest sin to be committed by modern man is the failure to THINK has affected their lives, either in their jobs or in college or both.

Does Santa Claus exist?

This question was once fielded by a young lady several years ago, and the response is both timeless and applicable:

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Teachers, no matter where you may be, teach your subjects, and leave the values to the family.

'Nuff said.

Once and always, an American Fighting Man

Also discussing this:
Joanne Jacobs So much for Santa
The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler Hey, Teacher!
The Volokh Conspiracy Do Nine Year Olds Believe in Santa?