My recent post about norms got me thinking about where I got mine. I have a set of memories (probably false) from kindergarten of learning what is right and proper. I probably learned more of this sort of thing from my parents but I don’t remember them actually sitting down with me to provide such. I remember Miss Watkins though. She gave ‘life lessons’ in between whatever else we did in kindergarten.* I was a good boy; I did what I was told and I listened. I believed teachers were legitimate sources of truth like my parents so I took these lessons as gospel truth.

Needless to say I learned a lot of rubbish. Lots of these so-called truisms didn’t pan out. However some of these became so incorporated into my ‘muscle memory’ as I were I still go with them even though they turn out over and over to be falsehoods. Let’s look at a few of these……

To this day when I get into a group of men I go with the presumption we are going to cooperate and help each other towards an agreed-upon set of goals. Although we may be different we will respect each other and draw on each other’s assets to accomplish what needs to be done. As early as 1st grade I learned boys were mostly about advancing themselves and not the group and they didn’t care tuppence about others particularly if the other boys were deemed inferior or different (hey that’s me!). To this day bad manners and lack of group cooperation evokes inner-child outrage about needing to play fair and include everyone. Back then we were always segregated by sex so I never developed similar standards or expectations around girls or in a mixed-group. What girls did/ought to do in their group(s) was a mystery – sometimes it feels it still is.

One always took turns and was polite about things. If someone inadvertently was out of line or acting foolish others would/should point this out to the offender would see the error of his ways and correct himself. I am quite surprised I’ve managed to get through life without being regularly pummeled. I still try to point out others’ errors, using a hybrid voice of Mr. Spock (for logic) and Humphrey Bogart (for authority). Guess how well this works.

People in charge like leaders, bosses, and police officers were kind benevolent beings you could trust to be truthful and rely upon. Any lasting illusion of this was shattered in my internship.

A funny fallacy from kindergarten is the notion intelligence and education as wanted things and strived for by all. This may be true in Asian countries but not here. I thought becoming the best at taking tests or having the most books read in a month (as recorded by gold stars on a chart) would make me someone  of high-esteem in the eyes of others. This did not elicit admiration but disdain by the other boys many who despise me to this day. The ethos of learning = good didn’t translate from KG into grade school. Sports did.

I am an old jaded man now and I know better about men, groups, society, leaders, and the value of intelligence. All the same there is still within me (my inner child?) that gets dismayed and outraged to encounter failed kindergarten-learned proprieties. I take some comfort knowing I remember the lessons learned in my youth.

I miss my mat and the nap time though. Sometimes I think this is the most regrettable of the lost or discarded KG axioms.


 “Walk straight” was a rule I learned in KG but it did not last. 🙂


*The only things I remember about kindergarten was recess (didn’t like it), nap time (I still remember my mat), and Ted-talks time.