All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

With one of those supremely cutesy titles and a heavy heaping of sentimentality, Unitarian minister Robert Fulghum’s Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten is an overstated list of things that we all pretty much already know already—many of them simplistic enough to not need stating, let alone further illustration. Sure, it’s kind of cute, in one of those Hallmark, in the mood to watch Little House on the Prairie ways, but it’s far from revolutionary. I’m sure I learned more from The World According to Mr. Rogers (which is actually a lovely book) than Fulghum’s largely hailed work.

It’s fine if some people love it; it’s not a dangerous book to love like, say, The Anarchist’s Cookbook or anything. In fact, many people might enjoy receiving it as a gift, and the essays included with the title work are entertaining. I enjoyed The Storyteller’s Creed and several other of the writings. But if you really need someone to tell you that taking naps, washing your hands, flushing the toilet, and not hitting people are the keys to life, you probably need to go back to kindergarten for a refresher course; of course, if it didn’t stick then, why would it stick now? And they certainly aren’t uncommon thoughts on the whole; sure, raking half a yard is kind of quirky and fun, but if people didn’t already know that cookies and milk are good, there wouldn’t be so many kinds of cookies on the market, right?

I know I’m oversimplifying here, but there are simply so many works like this out there that do a bit better of a job—Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, for example, or Life’s Little Instructions, which I’ve always found to be largely enjoyable (if not, at times, as banal as this book). Approach it with the intent of enjoying the stories and you should be fine; just don’t expect an eye-opening guide to life.

Then, of course, there’s the obvious list of things you couldn’t really learn in kindergarten (well, most people couldn’t anyway) that you do really need to know; most of us need to know how to change a diaper (and if not, to use a condom), cook a meal, scrub a toilet, change a tire, balance a checkbook… There are plenty of things my kindergarten teacher didn’t teach me that I need to know today because, well, I was five. And if you’re the same person you are at 20 or 30 as you are at five, you likely didn’t learn everything that you needed to along the way. (No offense to five-year-olds; we could all take a lesson from them in the drawing, daydreaming and happiness departments for sure.)

Everything that you need to know for the first, say, ten years of life, yeah, you probably learned in kindergarten—or maybe first or second grade for those of us who were too busy eating paste. But as far as everything you need to know to say, live or take care of a child (or even a pet), you probably learned it a little later on in life.