40 years of faulty wiring

I Didn’t Learn All I Need to Know in Kindergarten – We Didn’t Have iPods and Facebook When I was 5

It’s a nice thought though isn’t it? Robert Fulghum wrote that cool little book All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, some twenty-three years ago (has it really been that long?). It is a collection of 50 short essays by Fulghum about his philosophies on all manner of topics. It’s a unique idea. I haven’t actually read the book although I have read the 16 Kindergarten lessons he espouses that follow us throughout life from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. Of course it is a simplistic, childlike view of the world. In fact, I have to take issue with Fulghum’s list for a number of reasons.

For instance how do you survive a terrible heartache and go about your business as if everything is alright when it isn’t and might never be again?
How do you accept the unfairness of death?
Why is adulthood nowhere near as free as you thought it would be when we discovered you still have to follow someone else’s rules?
Why does everything free always come with a price?
How do you fight prejudice in our community even as you fight it in your own heart?

But before I beat up too much on Fulghum’s essay I have to say that there are a lot of truths to it.  Sharing, flushing the toilet, playing nicely, washing your hands, not hitting people, being full of wonder, knowing that everything dies, saying you’re sorry when you hurt somebody and on and on; these things are and will always be true.

Having been a kindergarten teacher for 3 years I can attest to the fact that many, if not all of Fulghum’s lessons are indeed taught to our 4 and 5-year-olds during their initial year at school. Let me repeat that. They are taught but they are not learned. We repeat the same life lessons over and over to children throughout all of elementary school, middle school and secondary school until most kids get it right. Even then, a lot of students just never quite get it. If Fulghum managed to learn and retain all of these lessons in Kindergarten then he must have been an astute student, indeed. Especially for a 5-year-old.

We know that a lot of students never really learn this stuff and that begs the question of whether Fulghum’s list is relevant anymore in the 21st century. Consider the explosion of bullying in elementary and secondary schools across North America. It is likely you have read or heard about the cyberbullying epidemic and perhaps you are even aware of the term bullycide;  a term that describes driving a student to commit suicide through sheer cruelty, be it physical, verbal, or written. Surely you have heard of the Phoebe Prince bullycide. After being bullied for several weeks at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts the child hung herself. There were no anti-bullying campaigns in place at her school to help prevent her attacks. There was no response from educators when Phoebe’s mother reported the abuse. No one cared. How proud South Hadley High School must be.

However the Phoebe Prince case is unprecedented: it resulted in criminal charges being brought against the 7 or so people involved in her bullying. Adult charges have been brought against those  students who are 17 and older (the age of adulthood in Massachusetts) and juvenile charges for those 16 and under. This is the first known case of bullying and cyberbullying that has resulted in criminal charges. Hopefully this will become a regular, national response to bullying, whether or not bullying results in bullycide.

Click this link for a Larry King Live Interview with a bullying expert (sad that we even need one isn’t it?) brought to you by Xtranormal Movies and Yours Truly : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_6khkEOhMU 

The scary thing about cyberbullying is that the perpetrator is able to hide online behind a false identity in order to torment her/his victim. Facebook has even closed down people’s accounts who have used their site to bully and threaten people, but students (and adults) get around this nuisance by opening another account under another name. Wonderful. Facebook in fact has come under attack by a lot of users and computer professionals alike, and not just for bullying reasons. Click here for link “Five Reasons Why I Hate Facebook (With a Passion)” On the other hand there is a lot of good about Facebook so I cannot entirely agree with the author (Fulghum knows a thing or two about that).

Ah, heck.  Click this link for another negative take on Facebook from Xtranormal movies (not by me) So You Want to Close Your Facebook Account.

Indeed the Phoebe Prince case serves to support Fulghum’s message “don’t hit people” and “say you’re sorry when you hurt someone“. Yet if only it were that simple. What do we do with the kids who don’t learn these lessons and don’t care when they bully a person into  suicide? Should we add “don’t make people kill themselves” to Fulghum’s list? What about children who take a sadistic delight in harming others? New item for the list: “don’t turn into a sadist”. Whose fault is all the bullying, harrassment and hatred our kids are expressing today? Ours? The families? The students? The media?

I want answers somewhere in Fulghum’s wishful list and I am not going to get them. At least none that will satisfy me since long after I graduated from Kindergarten.

Why I’m Starting to Hate Facebook
3 Good Things About Facebook
Facebook Hits 350 Million Users, Closes 3,500 Accounts


March 19, 2011 - Posted by | Education, Human psychology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. When Rush Limbaugh mocks Chinese people with “ching chong ching chong” this gives a model for playground bullies. There’s a big segment that mocks the idea of reasoned discussion, that seems to believe if you shout louder and push harder you win the argument. Until society stands up and condemns this we give license to the playground bullies.

    Comment by Lucky Teacher | March 19, 2011 | Reply

    • I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I didn’t reflect much on how many children become bullies based on their parents’ behaviour, especially at home in private. Certainly bullies are victims too. They often grow up to have criminal records and very few social connections.

      Comment by teacher | March 19, 2011 | Reply

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