Here’s the deal. In 1988, Robert Fulghum published a book that would remain on the New York Times Bestseller List for nearly two years – All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Why did so many people buy this book? Apparently they went to a worse kindergarten than Robert.
I think that about 92% of the darling tidbits that can be found in these type of gifty, pseudo self-help books are useless, repetitive drivel. And I have multiple issues with the suggestion that after kindergarten we’re all set in the knowledge department.
Firstly, let’s look at some standard kindergarten rules. Raise your hand to speak. Put things back where you found them. Keep your hands to yourself. Always do your best. Clearly, there are some things we learn in kindergarten that are simply no longer applicable in adult life.
Come on, how annoying and inconvenient would it be if we all had to raise our hand to speak in daily life? How would we know whether or not we were in the middle of a press conference?
And if adults always put things back where they found them, there would be no new inventions – what if, for example, H.B. Reese (and, yes, he was a real guy) always put the peanut butter and the chocolate back where he found it? Nobody wants to live in that world.
What about keeping your hands to yourself? I agree that this is a good rule for kids. But if adults followed this rule…we wouldn’t be able to make any new kids.
I may be the only one who has a problem with people suggesting that we always do our best, but I’m adamant. It’s this over-achieving attitude that gets us into problems like the 110% nonsense (full thoughts on this can be found here). But there’s a real basic issue with always doing your best. If you always do your best, you can never in your life impress anyone by doing better. The very concept of better won’t even exist for you. That’s why I always give no more than 81%…that leaves me plenty of room to do even better, should the need ever arise.
Of course, the more glaring error in the book is all of the things we desperately need to know that our clearly not taught in kindergarten. Before Mr. Fulghum was a published author, he was a salesman for IBM…I wonder if he learned how to sell computers in kindergarten? We don’t learn to drive a car in kindergarten. We don’t learn how to balance our checkbook in kindergarten. And we don’t learn how to format a resume in kindergarten. Honestly, we barely learn anything in kindergarten. We don’t even learn how to spell kindergarten in kindergarten.
Which brings me to my final problem with this concept – what do we really learn in kindergarten? Some of the things Fulghum lists as having learned there include not hitting, cleaning up after yourself and being kind. I, for one, didn’t learn any of these things in kindergarten…I learned them from my parents. I fear Fulgum must have had very lazy parents…“Do you think we should we teach little Robbie to share?” “Nah, he’ll learn that where he’ll learn everything else he needs to know in life – in kindergarten.” The truth is, if haven’t already learned these basic concepts by the time we get to kindergarten, we’re in for a tough life. Perhaps a better title would have been Some of the Things I Really Need to Know Were Reinforced in Kindergarten.
So, how am I going to do it? How will I convince people that all they really need to know they definitely did not learn in kindergarten? What’s the point? If there really is anybody out there functioning with only the knowledge they acquired in kindergarten…they couldn’t read this anyway.