All We Need is Kindergarten


All I really need to know, I learned in kindergarten.”

Robert Fulghum’s famous words were published the year I graduated from high school, 1986. They are as true for me at age 51 as they were at 18.

Math? I still don’t use long division. It’s called a calculator, Mrs. Hammond. So, there.

English? People don’t even use vowels anymore. They don’t even spell out words. OMG, Mrs. Hutchison. No one even notices when I use adverbial clauses.

However, Mrs. Day, I do get in trouble every time I don’t tell the truth or share.

I am absolutely certain it is not okay to take things that don’t belong to me – or bite people.

Yes, as Jill Lepore less famously put it, “In kindergarten, you can learn how to be a citizen of the world.”

So, who needs to go back to kindergarten?

Me! (I am exclaiming, as I hold up my hand and fidget at my desk) ME!

Just as I am certain all the complexities and subtle nuances of the parallelogram are still buried somewhere in that geometry folder filed deep within my psyche, I am certain it would probably take a good hypnotism to resurrect some of the important lessons I learned in Mrs. Day’s class.

She was really big on not being a “me first.” In case you missed that one – a “me first” is someone who always pushes to the front of the line. Why should anyone always get to be first? We are all equally important. We will all ultimately get a turn. No need to be pushy, or selfish.

I daresay, not even the most advanced algebra class prepared me to get along with other human beings, like having to give up my place on the teeter-totter so that someone else could have a turn.

Kindergarten taught me that I am not the most important, much less the only person in the world. It also taught me that I don’t need to be first, best, most, or any other superior thing to be special. All I ever have to do is try my best.

I have often wished that employers would follow kindergarten’s lead and schedule employee naptime every afternoon – followed by milk and cookies, of course. I guess we are supposed to grow out of that whole napping thing. But we should never outgrow the rest of it.

The “rest of it” is found in another Robert Fulghum quote, one that’s a little less snappy and easy to rattle off: “The kindergarten children are confident in spirit, infinite in resources, and eager to learn. Everything is still possible.”

What a beautiful world it would be if we never lost that sense of wonder that makes the concepts of “please” and “thank you” so much fun to practice on everyone we meet.

Reminds me of another quote from someone you might call an eternal kindergartner, Dr. Seuss. “Oh the places you’ll go. Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting. So, get on your way!”

But, of course, don’t push to the front of the line.


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