Teacher fired for...well....teaching.

December 4, 2001 1:30 AM   Subscribe

Teacher fired for...well....teaching.
An Australian teacher was dismissed from her job for telling her class of youngsters that Santa Claus does not exist. Is she an excellent educator, or a grumpy Grinch?
posted by Optamystic (41 comments total)
this reminds me of long ago seeing the film 'home alone' for the first time in 4th grade the same the age of macaulay culkin''s character and being blown away that a 4th grader would still believe in santa. 3rd grade you're borderline, but 4th grade? yeesh.

you're not giving enough choices for what the teacher is, optamystic; but depends on how she told it,.

(btw, what is a casual teacher? a substitute?)
posted by elle at 1:57 AM on December 4, 2001

Yes, a substitute. I.e., not a teacher who hangs out in cafés in Nikes and t-shirts, telling passing six-year-olds that Santa doesn't exist.

Next she'll be telling them that Satan doesn't exist...
posted by rory at 2:06 AM on December 4, 2001

Was it that relevant for the kids to know that Santa does not exist?
posted by mmarcos at 2:47 AM on December 4, 2001

children arrived home in tears

Doesn't sound like an excellent educator to me.

posted by anewc2 at 3:32 AM on December 4, 2001

Can that teacher actually PROVE that Santa doesn't exist?
posted by HTuttle at 4:20 AM on December 4, 2001

The teacher should have stuck with something less controversial, like telling them God didn't exist.
posted by sexymofo at 4:22 AM on December 4, 2001

Santa's a weird mix of mythologies, Christian and Disney and otherwise.

He's a trickster. He flies. He races through the night sky behind a big, snorting team of cloven-hoofed antlered beasts. He is the absolute master of a hidden workshop, where he oversees an unpaid elvish crew. He peeks into children's bedrooms and into their minds. If you make him happy, he'll find something in his bag for you. If you disappoint him, you'll get a Cratchit of coal. He's the bearded, flushed stranger with the presents and the welcoming lap your mother warned you about. He's watching you when your parents are at work. It's no use locking the doors because he sees in the dark, he moves like smoke, and he's already in the house.

I'm surprised teachers don't get in trouble for saying he's real.
posted by pracowity at 4:22 AM on December 4, 2001

Touché pracowity!

*...goes home in tears*
posted by lucien at 5:24 AM on December 4, 2001

Bravo. It's about time teachers started telling the truth about that crass symbol of consumerism, exploitive capitalism and homogenizing globalism. Stop the money-classist indoctrination. Do it for the children. ;-P
posted by mischief at 5:27 AM on December 4, 2001

He doesn't exist? Then who was Mommy kissing...?
posted by adampsyche at 5:31 AM on December 4, 2001

i'd like to see a teacher prove that they exist.

"ya see kids, and listen good here, ...all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration. We are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we're the imagination of ourselves."

(respect to Mr.Hicks)
posted by Frasermoo at 5:40 AM on December 4, 2001

Santa Claus through the ages. Oh, and the pagan origins of Christmas customs.
posted by walrus at 6:00 AM on December 4, 2001

I'm sorry, but I am compelled to break a rule - pracowity, that was fine.
posted by Opus Dark at 6:08 AM on December 4, 2001

Flashback to first grade, when I laughingly tried to clue in a classmate that Santa Claus wasn't real. "HE IS TOO!" he said, stalking away nearly in tears. That's when I first learned that people don't like having their cherished myths challenged. (Can't help myself sometimes, though.)
posted by StOne at 7:08 AM on December 4, 2001

Hmmm... brings to mind an old piece of net.humor. Found it here. Scroll down a little bit to "An Engineer's Perspective on Santa Claus".
posted by costas at 7:11 AM on December 4, 2001

If it's a part of the culture and a majority or at least sizeable number of households enjoy enchanting their children with the story then it's pretty shitty for a teacher to take that away. I don't know how it should be handled by their employer but it's shitty either way.

Did I just use the term 'enchanting' sans irony?
posted by glenwood at 7:33 AM on December 4, 2001

Grumpy grinch!

I found out from my 6th grade teacher that there was no santa, but by that time, I was already pretty much in the know, having been enlightened in the 4th grade by a friend who caught his mother stocking the tree the night before Christmas.
posted by tomorama at 7:39 AM on December 4, 2001

I agree that it's a shame that the kids had to find out that way, but the teacher wasn't necessarily being mean or 'shitty':

a reserve teacher, on her first day on the job, told them their parents brought their presents

That's the kind of thing that can slip out by accident when you're talking about something else, and you don't even know it until you see all the wide-eyed kiddies bursting into tears. It's a slip-up, yes, but hardly the end of the world. And it wasn't treated as such. She didn't lose her job:

"(She) was not disciplined but did receive counseling about the age appropriateness of responses to children's questions."

The primary school in question has 'banned' the substitute teacher from their school, but since she 'usually takes high school students' anyway, it's hardly the end of her career.
posted by rory at 7:45 AM on December 4, 2001

What a jagoff. When you work with 6-year-olds, you should be aware of this sort of thing.
posted by UncleFes at 8:28 AM on December 4, 2001

The NSW Daily Telegraph is making much of this: see "Schoolroom Scrooge strikes." Be sure to scroll down for the "Santa Clause."
posted by Carol Anne at 8:35 AM on December 4, 2001

And although the Telegraph says that the teacher was 'sacked', note that by this they mean only that 'it is understood Mrs Mann will not teach at Corowa public school again'. That's not the same as being 'sacked'. Casual teachers move from school to school, and since Cowora is just west of the major regional centre of Albury there will be other schools she can teach at.

What's the NSW ed. dept. doing sending high school teachers into grade one classrooms, anyway? (Answer: making the most of scarce resources. And who's responsible for those, then? Mrs Mann?)
posted by rory at 8:47 AM on December 4, 2001

If she was working with high school children most of the time, it's natural that she would have been ill-prepared to handle many questions from younger people. It's an easy mistake. I wouldn't be surprised if it happens more often worldwide than the media's able to report.

Personally, I am a grinch. If I had a kid I wouldn't lie to him. He wouldn't have a childhood in which Santa existed. In fact he'd probably be the annoying kid that asked teachers questions like that. Not to get the answer but to get the teacher to admit the truth to the other students. I'd be the first to admit I'd make a terrible father. My kid would know the history of Christmas. It makes a much more interesting bedtime story than the myth, in my opinion.

I hesitate to say that parents shouldn't lie to their kids about anything, even this. The Santa tradition is an important part of raising children for many people throughout the world and I'm no authority on telling people how to raise children, but eventually the kid's gonna find out the truth, and learn that their own parents lied to them. I don't see how that's a healthy thing for anyone to do to their own children. Pure logic dictates that perpetuating this lie is wrong, but humanity has repeatedly proven it's anything but logical.

And yes. I can prove beyond a doubt that Santa does not exist. The spirit of Christmas which can bring out the best in everybody this time of year is what I can't disprove, thankfully.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:01 AM on December 4, 2001

I can't prove Santa does not exist. I, at the age of 34, firmly believe Santa exists.

And, for that belief, each year I get a full stocking and presents under the tree.

I don't mess with a good thing.
posted by dwivian at 9:13 AM on December 4, 2001

Personally, I am a grinch. If I had a kid I wouldn't lie to him. He wouldn't have a childhood in which Santa existed.

Oh lord *eyes rolling*. Telling your kids about Santa isn't lying to them. It's giving them more of a fantasy world to play with. Besides that, SANTA DOES exist. He's me. And I cannot wait to relive my excitement of xmas morning this year as my 3 year old comes tearing through the house to check out the stuff I've laid out for him.

. In fact he'd probably be the annoying kid that asked teachers questions like that.

Fatal flaw of overly-pragmatic idealists #1 : Thinking (hoping?) their kids will be as tiresome and devoid of humor and life as their parents.

posted by glenwood at 9:37 AM on December 4, 2001

Teachers can't be expected to be mind-readers, after all--how is any teacher supposed to know what lies parents tell their children that they shouldn't challenge? ("Santa exists" "Daddy won't be coming home tonight because he's working late." "The earth is only 6000 years old." "Storks bring babies.")

I have a simple solution: parents should submit a List of Lies to the school at the start of the school year, the lists should be collated and given to the teachers, and the teachers strictly instructed not to teach anything which is contrary to any parents' lies.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:04 AM on December 4, 2001

posted by glenwood at 10:05 AM on December 4, 2001

Reminds me of the father & his 5 year old son who saw a couple of dogs locked up: "What are they doing, daddy?" Feeling this wasn't the time for the truth, the dad replied: "the dog in back broke his leg, and his friend is helping him get home". Says the son:"that's just like a friend, help them out and they'll f*ck you every time."
posted by Mack Twain at 10:07 AM on December 4, 2001

Precisely, Mack. The kid's gonna find out anyway. Seems better they find out directly from their parents, whom they're supposed to be able to trust, but fortunately substitute teachers and "the streets" are out there to catch the fallen when parents fail to do what's right. Eventually the truth will win out.

Glenwood: "Telling your kids about Santa isn't lying to them. It's giving them more of a fantasy world to play with."

LOL! That's lying to them. Fantasies are lies we tell ourselves. One of the operable definitions of the word fantasy is, "something many people believe that is false." However, another operable definition is "something, such as an invention or work of art, that is a creation birthed from imagination and fancy." So every year we bring the fantasy of Santa Claus to life for our children and ourselves, but he's not real in the same sense that you and I are real. He's real like the Mona Lisa is real.

In fact, the woman who posed for the Mona Lisa painting was allegedly real and alive at one time. She's not alive today, but her painting keeps her image alive in the minds and hearts of millions, whether she was ever real or not. Likewise, there was allegedly a man who existed at one time, which inspired mankind to invent the Santa legend. St. Nicholas, bishop of Myra. However, historical evidence verifying his life is tenuous at best.

"Besides that, SANTA DOES exist. He's me."

Uh. No you're not Santa. Even if you dress up in the costume and spirit glue the beard on your face. You're uh, one of Santa's Little Helpers. You're you. You put out gifts and sign them as Santa and tell you're kid that someone else put them there. It's an elaborate and adorable magic trick, but you're not Santa any more than Penn & Teller are powerful wizards. What's wrong with your kid knowing that you're the one who laid out the gifts as opposed to this fictitious character?

The spirit of Christmas exists, and there's a bit of it in each and every one of us. Many of us use that spirit of Christmas and with it magically animate this fantastic legendary character, and it's a beautiful thing. I adore the Santa Claus myth and always have. It's fascinating. But it's a myth. You can raise your kid as you see fit. I said before that I'm not an authority on raising children nor do I ever pretend to be. I simply explained that in perpetuating the myth, you're lying to your kid. That's okay. Happens all the time. If the majority of parents do it, it must be okay. it's certaintly acceptable behavior.

"Fatal flaw of overly-pragmatic idealists.."

Well I'm never gonna have a child of my own so the argument is moot anyway. Merry Christmas, by the way. And a happy new year. =)

DevilsAdvocate: "I have a simple solution:"

I have a simple solution too. Either let the schools teach the truth to the children, or embrace homeschooling and lie to them all you want.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:34 AM on December 4, 2001

Well, shit, man, if we're going to start talking about lying, then Christmas in general is going to disappear. Midwinter festival commemorating the virgin birth (heh) of the son of our preferred invisible magical supreme leader, lifted lock, stock and evergreen from a previously held pagan solstice feast, and best represented by a fat man in crimson who delivers toys in a sled pulled by flying deer? I mean, wtf? Are we nuts?

I think we should try to treat six-year-olds with some measure of indulgence. And give jagoffs what they deserve.
posted by UncleFes at 10:55 AM on December 4, 2001

" Besides that, SANTA DOES exist. He's me. And I cannot wait to relive my excitement of xmas morning this year as my 3 year old comes tearing through the house to check out the stuff I've laid out for him."

That sentence just completely restores my faith in Christmas as a Good Thing.
posted by kristin at 11:12 AM on December 4, 2001

Awww, Zach - you had me feeling all warm and cozy inside with your comment in yesterday's Christmas thread:

....Celebrating a holiday that other people find other things in doesn't detract the greatness you can find in it for yourself. Be you Pagan, Aetheist, Christian, Muslim, or Agnostic, there's something in the celebration of the winter solstice for everybody. So be good to one another, and party on dude!

Santa is a big part of this holiday for most families. Am I lying to my kid when I tell him Santa's coming? I guess. Would telling him that Santa isn't coming make his life better? Not very likely. At age 4, the line between fantasy and reality is not such a big deal. (He was Buzz Lightyear for 3 weeks!) He'll be old enough to figure it out for himself all too soon.

That teacher was either totally clueless, or was pissed off about something and wanted to stir up some trouble. I'm trying to imagine walking into a room full of young children and telling them...No way!

I'm never gonna have a child of my own

Never say never! I remember feeling the same way...

Merry Xmas/Kwanzaa/Boxing Day/Hannukah/Solstice etc!
posted by groundhog at 11:27 AM on December 4, 2001

This story reminds me of the ad for Playstation shown before the movie "Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone" in which a bunch of half-dressed "Santas", many minus beards and white wigs, are sitting around a breakroom playing the video game.
posted by mischief at 11:45 AM on December 4, 2001

My niece in Texas was also mercifully told the truth by her teacher at school... she's five, and in kindergarten. When she came home in tears, her parents slapped her across the face and told her to toughen up! "This world has no place for crybabies," they said. That's also the truth.

She lost a tooth, and was all excited that she could leave it under her pillow for the tooth fairy to come in the night and leave her a shiny new quarter! I said, "That's bullshit. There's no fucking tooth fairy. The truth is it's not worth one red cent, so you might as well just throw the fucker away." She did, content with knowing the truth about lost teeth.

One day she asked me, "Uncle David, how are babies made?" Instead of making up some preposterous lie about storks and all that other bullshit, I started to tell her about penises and vaginas and ejaculating, but then thought wouldn't it be easier to just let her watch me get it on with her aunt? So I did. And then I said, "that's how babies are made." Now she knows the truth, thank God!!

It's never too early to let the kids know that this world isn't about dreams or fairy tales or any other sissy fantasy crap the liars like to perpetrate... in fact, the sooner you can rob your kids of their innocence, the better off they'll be.

Happy parenting, you morons.
posted by David Dark at 1:33 PM on December 4, 2001

Gosh, wasn't there another incident a while back about some teacher getting in serious trouble for disillusioning children by telling them the truth?

Oh yeah, this one.
posted by Hildago at 3:51 PM on December 4, 2001

The teacher was a moron. She was dealing with six year olds, for God's sake, not a group of middle school kids who needed a bit of cold water splashed on them.

I mean, at six, the kids are going to have time enough to learn the awful truth about the reality of things. At that age, let them dream and fantasize a bit.
posted by MAYORBOB at 4:00 PM on December 4, 2001

i "believed" in Santa because my parents had so much fun believing in the "lie"; i couldnt break their hearts and tell them i knew the truth until a reasonable age [year 4].

I didn't believe in !@#%ing up a good thing either *n_n*

Santa exists when more than two people says he does- he is a shared reality. He may or may not be flesh and bone, but he is a powerful archetype that appeals to the goodness in everyone :)

Living in a world of The Truth is not much fun in the slightest [unless you are Mulder & Scully].

All i can say is that teacher was one bitter twisted woman. I can hear her cackling now like one of Roal Dahl's "Witches".
posted by elphTeq at 5:35 PM on December 4, 2001

Thanks, Hildago. I was hoping someone would make that connection.
posted by Optamystic at 7:28 PM on December 4, 2001

It's never too early to let the kids know that this world isn't about dreams or fairy tales or any other sissy fantasy crap the liars like to perpetrate... in fact, the sooner you can rob your kids of their innocence, the better off they'll be. Happy parenting, you morons.

You were making such good sense until that last sentence... it seems a bit of a non sequitur.
posted by kindall at 8:00 PM on December 4, 2001

Sort of reminds me when, at the age of 5, my mom st me down and explained that the mother of one of the local boys had just called, furious, because I had told him that Santa wasn't real. Friend's mother couldn't believe that my mom would allow me to do that.

Of course, very few Jewish kids believe in Santa, and at the age of 5, I thought Santa was a borderline religious thing (and since I knew my parents bought me Hannukah presents, I figured the same thing was happening in other houses, only the parents went by the handle "Santa.")

How do you handle that sort of thing between kids in school? You can't say "you're not allowed to talk about Santa at school."
posted by chiheisen at 11:18 PM on December 4, 2001

When Jesus parks the apostles on the roof and slides down my chimney this month, I'll try to ask him about this shit. Maybe give him a couple of cookies, too.
posted by pracowity at 12:48 AM on December 5, 2001

How do you handle that sort of thing between kids in school? You can't say "you're not allowed to talk about Santa at school."

Sure you can. I have the restraining orders right here.

But really, kids say and hear a lot of wild stuff, and their listening skills are very selective. My son regularly says stuff like "you've got worms in your nose", hopefully most of the other kids don't believe him. He'll believe in Santa as long as HE wants to.
posted by groundhog at 8:21 AM on December 5, 2001

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