Logic goes out of the chimney

11th December 1998 at 00:00
CHILDREN are born sensible and possessed of a keen sense of logic.

They learn language by the application of reason, which is why my seven-year-old son still believes that to create a past tense you put ed on the end of words, and a letter s to get plurals; it's also why he gets ratty when his teachers tell him it's wrong to write "the sheeps runned away".

English is absurd and paradoxical. But, like that other national absurdity, the House of Lords, there's no point in ever thinking we're going to reform it now. Schoolkids learn to forgive their teachers because, eventually, they access a common language via the collective absurdity. It's daft but it has a point. Rather like the House of Lords.

If only we could say the same about Father Christmas, not that I think Labour should be seeking to abolish the whiskery old buffer but I do wish they'd do something to stop him being taught in primary schools.

I had always brought young Tom up to be pragmatic about cause and effect. You see a model engine in Toys Us. Your parents say sure, you can have it. There's this day in the middle of winter when it's cold and miserable and we all cheer ourselves up by giving each other presents. That can be yours with the cheque Uncle Jack sent. And, because this makes sense, everyone is happy.

Then, alas, Tom started school and within months he was staggering out of the classroom with various badly-coloured reindeer, a novelty egg-box jewellery case in the shape of Santa's sleigh and some very silly ideas about cause and effect.

The model engine, it seems, isn't bought by your parents at all. What happens is that, having seen it, you write to this fat stranger up in the North Pole who in due course zooms down to Toys Us, buys it on Uncle Jack's behalf, whisks it back across the Arctic Circle, sticks on a label (in what looks like Mummy's handwriting) and then waits to deliver the whole caboodle back to Britain, down a block-upped chimney, on the busiest night of the year.

My boy did not get a word of this from me. Mrs Mimsy, his class teacher, is responsible but I know who'll be getting it in the neck when Tom finally realises he's been duped. "Dad, you growed-ups telled me lies!"

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