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What do Santa Claus and Permanent Records Have in Common?

Updated: Oct 7, 2023

Last weekend, I was having a conversation with my children about practicing agency at school.

while it may be difficult, it is part of them becoming empowered young people. My son expressed his concern about getting in "trouble" and having things put on his permanent record.

I told him that his permanent record was like Santa Claus. Like during that magical time of the year when children are surveilled by Santa Claus and are not supposed to pout nor cry if they are to be rewarded. Holding a student's permanent record over their head is just another tactic that adults use to get children to comply with myopic behavioral standards of goodness; niceness.

But I question, whose standards? It is an undisputed fact that schools are places that are inequitable to black and brown children. To rely on someone's narrow definitions of naughty or nice is a recipe for inequitable treatment.

As I intentionally decolonize my thoughts and beliefs, I wonder who taught us these things. Who or what does it serve? Certainly not the children. When I think about humanizing our youth, I don't think it's possible to ask them to act non-human; hide their emotions and natural reactions such as crying or pouting to receive validation or gifts.

Don't get me wrong. I love the spirit of the season, the love, and the joy. However, as a parent, I am unpacking those parts that would have me lying to my children in exchange for their compliance. That would have us in a transactional relationship. That would have me in power over them.

Decolonizing starts in the home; in your closest relationships. So, this year we are dreaming of new ways to be in the right relationship with one another and celebrate one another. We are (co)designing new traditions that allow us to be in alignment with our values. We are divesting from the commercialization of Christmas. We will still gift one another as that is one expression of love in our family. However, it won't be through coercion or compliance.

Getting back to our metaphor as it relates to the permanent record. In our family, we are not moving out of fear. We are aware that the institutions will likely react as institutions react, which is by wielding power. However, we strongly believe in people power. So, we are prepared to fill their permanent records with "good trouble".

I'd love to hear your thoughts! Comment below.

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