Joe Wilson’s and Kanye West’s recent outbursts make me think of the things I learned in Kindergarten. I know it was a long time ago, but I don’t think the curriculum has changed that much. My own children attended much more recently. Even though Ron and I read and sang and talked to our children from the time they were little fetusus (No — I’m not kidding. We did!), when they each reached school age we tearfully (okay – that was just me) enrolled them in one of the local schools. They seemed so small during those first days, but we felt it was a good experience. They were going to have the opportunity to learn some more important stuff — like how symbols come together to form meaning, and how some things are alike and some different. And they began to learn how to get along with other children who might be different than them.
Kindergarten reinforced some of the lessons we taught at home. They learned that just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t make them your enemy. That it’s not polite to interrupt others when they are speaking. That even if you don’t like what someone else does it is not okay to hit them or call them names or throw blocks at them. If little Johnny is playing with all the puzzles and you don’t think it’s fair, you should still try to work it out or find someone who can help. These were good lessons. And while Sara and Simeon eventually learned to read and count and even speak Spanish and a little Japanese, I think it was those earliest lessons that may best serve them as they move into adulthood.
Maybe some of the adults I see on television never went to Kindergarten. Too bad. I know a few well educated five year olds who could teach them a thing or two.
(The chair is entitled “Scream My Head Off.” I finished this piece in 2004.)