By Anthony Kovatch, M.D., Pediatric Alliance — Arcadia Division


Mind On The Run:  Learning Kindergarten


Last week, The Pediablog juxtaposed two articles symbolized by the “fire and ice” motif. One article, “Enough is Enough. Say It.” by the editor, bemoans the obstacles we, as pediatricians and Americans, confront in stopping the needless, inscrutable shootings of innocent citizens. The second article, “Brave is a Decision” by Rachel Lore, presents a letter by a mother to her children describing a shy lonely little boy named Adam who is the proverbial “loser” of the elementary school. The parent implores her children to treat such peers with compassion. One can summarize the solution of both problems in one simple word: Kindness. But how, when, and where is the origin?

Psychologists tell us that teaching an individual how to love begins at birth, if not at the moment of conception. The education of love evolves throughout childhood. But when does the individual learn about hate? I suspect this education begins when the individual confronts the real world — the world outside of the nuclear family. Hence commences the lifelong struggle between kindness and hate, the wolf versus the lamb — fire versus ice.

As the old proverb goes, the one that wins out is the one that we feed.

Preparation for Kindergarten is a huge industry. Readiness testing. Having the right clothes, and the right lunchbox, to fit in. How to wave good-bye to your child when the yellow bus leaves for the first time. Will he have to repeat? We all are preoccupied with these mundane considerations, the success of which is ultimately of little consequence.


Twenty-five years ago, author/preacher Robert Fulghum published his landmark dissertation, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” I think of the work as a beacon in the darkness of an often impassioned world, as an essential lesson written for the child in all of us. Too simple to win a Pulitzer prize; too profound to be read by any simpleton without making a dramatic emotional impact.


Here are the most memorable lines of Fulghum’s gospel:


All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.

These are the things I learned:

  • Share everything.
  • Play fair.
  • Don’t hit people.
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess.
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
  • Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
  • Wash your hands before you eat.
  • Flush.
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
  • Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
  • Take a nap every afternoon.
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
  • Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
  • Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
  • And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.


I think everyone’s favorite is the afternoon nap. Although quite unrealistic, how about a five minute reverie remembering the exchanges of kindness of the morning? Or all the good we overlook every day in our weary world. Or a little prayer for Kindergartners in the world entire — may kindness and compassion be their guiding light.

A perfect sequel to this text is a video created by Cynthia Mendoza which includes the remainder of the work I did not have the space to print, and which beautifully and tenderly highlights every item. Nobody who ever attended Kindergarten or remembers Kindergarten or even thought about Kindergarten should miss this video: