It was a month before Christmas, and throughout the class, no freshman saw it coming – not such a vast lie.
A child had written an essay carefully, calling the real Santa. Soon he would be there.
But their substitute teacher could not stay away, so she chooses to unveil some hard truths: St. Nick's not real, she tells them, nor the elf on the set, nor the leprechauns, the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny, or …
"She started to demystify all of this," said René Rovtar, director of schools in Montville, New Jersey. told NJ.com the incident that had outraged parents last week and put his district in the spotlight of the national scene.
In a letter to parents, who flooded the online forums to share the stress of their children, Michael J. Raj, principal of Cedar Hill School, wrote that he had spoken to an unidentified teacher "about his poor judgment in this proclamation. "
"As a father of four, I'm really aware of the delicate nature of this announcement," Raj said in a letter shared with the Washington Post. The school principal had written to the parents that they were "aware of the situation" and able to "take the appropriate steps to preserve the innocence of their childhood during the holiday season" to the House.
In a statement, Rovtar added, "The wonder of childhood associated with all feasts and traditions is something that I personally hold dear in my heart."
Rovtar told The Post that after the "Santa Matter", the replacement was no longer working for the district. Citing him as a "personnel matter", Rovtar declined to say whether the teacher had resigned or had been fired.
Move, war on Christmas; it's time to make war on Santa Claus. This delicate situation is not limited to New Jersey. During the Cape Coral Lights Festival in Florida, a man with a large sign shouted, "There is no Santa!" Actors Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell told Us Weekly that they had decided to inform their 3 and 5 year old daughters that Santa Claus is "pretending". And on Fox News this week, Sean Hannity has made tension a topic of debate in two distinct segments.
Across the country, in schools and at home, the spirit of the holidays is approaching its annual growth. Depending on their age, children write letters to Santa about his list or perform handwriting analyzes of gift tags under the tree. Some are believers. others are skeptical. And with Christmas so close, the adults in their lives are confronted with a legitimate enigma: who is responsible for revealing the news about the big bearded guy? And how to keep the magic alive for some kids when the magic has never been there for others?
"Indeed, just like parents, the credibility of the teacher is at stake in these situations," wrote David Kyle Johnson, associate professor of psychology at King's College, in Psychology Today. "If the teacher knowingly lies to a student about Santa Claus, but another student knows that Santa is not real, the other student can (rightly ) fear that the teacher is an idiot or is not lying on other topics. "
Johnson, who is best known for his deep belief that adults should be truthful with children about Santa's existence, explained in his article and in the second segment of Hannity that he supported parents' rights. to choose the way to raise their children. "A teacher intentionally co-opting such a decision, without help, does not seem right," he writes.
But – and this is where his psychological angle comes in – he does not believe that a teacher is forced to promote lies on behalf of the parents of a child. "Teachers have an obligation to provide their students with real, factual information," Johnson wrote. "If a parent decides to lie to their children about something, it is not the teacher's fault that this child is talking to them and asking them the truth – even if it is the father Christmas."
"For example, my wife (a teacher) spoke to me yesterday about a student whose mother lied to her and told her that the local nuclear power plant, whose piles project large amounts of steam into the Air, was only a "cloud builder." "If even a freshman wrote it in a newspaper, I'd have to fix it. And if the child's trust in their parent is broken, it is the parent's fault for lying – not for the teacher's telling the truth. And this fact does not change just because Santa Claus is a popular or common lie. "
But other experts have argued that children, like adults, are just as capable of discerning the facts of fiction as adults. That's why adults need to provide ample evidence of Santa's farce to keep children believing, writes Jacqueline D. Woolley, professor and director of the psychology department at the University of Texas in Austin.
"There is no evidence that Santa's belief and disbelief significantly affects parental confidence," Woolley wrote in Conversation in 2016. "In addition, children are not only to have the tools to discover the truth; but engaging in Santa's story can give them a chance to exercise those abilities. "
In New Jersey, the Santa Truthers did not deter Rovtar, the superintendent of schools.
Last Friday, she posted a photo on Twitter of herself with a big Santa Claus with a white beard.
Beside that, she wrote, "I believe."