in progress edited by Daniel
Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)
When Robert Fulghum’s book
arrived in bookstores in 1986 it was the beginning of a publishing phenomenon
not unlike the Harry Potter craze today. His humorous, gentle stories convey a
clear message that it is important to form a moral code and stick to it. The
short, simple collection of random but careful thoughts caught the public’s
imagination and surged to the top of the bestseller lists. The book and its
sequels have sold 15 million copies in over 90 countries. Robert Fulghum’s
uncommon ability to communicate his wisdom, which is primarily basic common
sense, has made him a very wealthy man.
The strength of Fulghum’s
writing is its simple truth. He hasn’t written anything that we don’t all
know and understand on some level. However, his writing serves to remind readers
that many of the complications or difficulties we experience in life could
easily be avoided if we stopped to think about them. His list of rules—the
things he learned in kindergarten—are rules everyone should live by:
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.
Warm cookies and 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 into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
aware of wonder….
Fulghum knows that following
the rules is often difficult and writes of his own ambiguities and
contradictions with full awareness of human nature. But through his close
examination of what is important and what is just distraction, he educates his
readers about how to step back and see the truth. Fulghum’s book expresses
sentiments that many people identify with but few are confident enough to
Prior to becoming a
best-selling writer, Fulghum worked as a high school art teacher for twenty
years. According to a former student, Fulghum was an unconventional but highly
effective teacher. In a 1997 article for Salon.com Rebecca Ransom wrote of
Fulghum’s impact on his students. “I learned more from Fulghum’s class
than art technique. I learned about choices, and about vision. I learned that
though I was ruled by the meat of my brain, I was more than meat…. In the
notes to my parents that teachers included with grades Fulghum called me the
‘reigning Queen of the 1986 Graphics Classes.’ I was overweight. I was shy.
I drew well. I had never been the Queen of anything.” Ransom expresses
happiness over Fulghum’s literary and financial success but also points out
that while the world gained a celebrity writer, his high school students lost a
great teacher. She believes the impact Fulghum had on his students was far more
profound and life-altering than his books can ever hope to be.
Robert Fulghum is celebrated
for his books, speaking engagements, television appearances—his celebrity. But
Ransom makes a statement Fulghum would probably agree with: “as the world
grows increasingly fast, slick and image-oriented, I can’t help but think we
have a greater need for real role models than we do for celebrities, however
good-natured or positive they may be. We need good teachers more than we need
posters of Robert Fulghum’s ‘Kindergarten’ lessons.
Prepared by Margaret Licata (OISE/UT, 2003)
How to cite a moment
DS Home Page Back to Index Suggest or Submit a Moment
© 1996-2003 Daniel Schugurensky. All Rights Reserved.
Design and maintenance by LMS.
Last updated on April 21, 2003.