Monday, 31 December 2012

Father Christmas and why we lie

File:Old Father Christmas Image.jpg
 Book illustration, pen drawing
Pictorial Miscellany for the Family Circle
1855 Mark Forrester
In the last week Freya, our four year old, has asked, 'what holds the earth in space?', and 'who makes the things we don't?'  They're exciting and tough questions and not ones we can give an answer that Freya will be satisfied with, but at least she hasn't yet asked straight out, does 'Father Christmas exist?'

In our house we have believers, non-believers and everything in between for both Father Christmas and God.  We try to respect each other without denigrating, humiliating or generally annoying each other, but chatting about the existence of an omnipotent being does not require lying.  In the past we've parried the Santa question, avoiding any kind of direct question, but it gets more uncomfortable for me and gets more complicated with a range of different levels of  'belief''.  I guess it goes back to the old addage 'what tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive', and this has to be one of the oldest lies.  It gets worse as I watch our older siblings, learning from us adults, lying to their siblings, taunting them a little, exerting their superiority, having 'fun' with them.

Dorothy Roe's  is very clear about lying in her latest book, 'Why we lie':

'When we lie to others sooner or later our lies become apparent, and trust is destroyed'

I can't help agreeing, and remember the feeling as a seven year old when my parents finally told me they were separating.  I was more angry with my sisters than my parents for not telling me something I already suspected.

Isn't Father Christmas a harmless white lie?  I have met a couple of adults who recall bitterly the moment Santa was exposed.  I've also talked to disappointed children when finding out the truth, but is the 'magic of Christmas' in jeopardy if we give in to the Santa spoilers?

A primary school got into a fix when it exposed Santa:

The London Standard went on quoting disgruntled parents for whom the magic of christmas had been ruined:

'What gives the school the right to decide when children should know the truth?'

What I think this story exposes is that this school, and we as a whole, are teaching our children to lie, and that lying in certain circumstances is not just acceptable, but expected - that lying is a social skill.

I can see that we use lies, as adults and children, all the time.  I also have to agree with Dorothy Roe that most lies, white or otherwise, land us in more trouble rather than less.

But it is with relief that I haven't yet had to explain what really happens to the magic reindeer food our school gave to Freya, at least for a bit longer...

Useful links:

Why we lie; The source of our disasters,  Dorothy Roe (2011: Fourth Estate)

Friday, 7 December 2012

Mythical Forest theme for Paganel Archives


It was time to present the ideas for our archive room, and we were not disappointed by the scope of ideas, vision and hard work of our archive team, developing how the archives and the archive room will be used.  Margaret Rees from the Rep has been working with our Archive team for 5 weeks to develop thoughts and ideas, using a range of team design techniques to develop a series of themed model rooms, from Myths and Legends to Underwater (very Lemony Snickett - I'll  have to ask if any have read A Series of Unfortunate events).  We are combining the themes and ideas in a 'Mythical Forest theme', with castles, monsters, soft floor seating, and multimedia tree, among the many great ideas the group came up with.

The term has been very busy and exciting in the Archives room itself, with archives training for the first five weeks with Birmingham Archives team, and the start of a weekly 'Archives Club' - an after-school club additional to all our archives plans, born out of enthusiasm of our Archive team and again supported by Birmingham Archives team, interviewing more and more fabulous people connected with the school and local area.

Next we will visit the Crescent Theatre to see exactly how lighting and props can be used to effect mood and create a truly fantastic atmosphere in our Archive room.  Over christmas some of the work will be carried out in our room, ready for the Easter term, where again our team will help decorate and finish our room.

In January we have plans to explore 'Make do and Mend' as part of a sustainability and recycling theme.  We will be visiting Sellywood House, a local old people's home to interview residents, reviewing archive material alongside interviews and doing our own'making and mending', based on the interviews and material we will find.

It really is very exciting to see real plans for our archive room take shape, and the enthusiasm and dedication of so many people to make a proper repository archive, and most importantly to develop archives representative of Paganel school