On this day in 1989, Robert Fulghum published his book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. The book, which stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for almost two years, is a collection of short essays, subtitled “Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things.”
Fulghum grew up in Waco, Texas, and before he began writing full time, he was a Unitarian minister and an art and philosophy teacher.
The first essay in Fulghum’s book, called “Credo,” explains the origin of his book’s title. Fulghum explains that each spring throughout his life he would sit down and write a personal credo, a list of statements of personal belief. This list evolved over the years with statements that were sometimes comical, sometimes bland, sometimes cynical, and sometimes over-complicated. The final version of his credo came to him, however, when he realized that true meaning in life did not need to be complicated. In fact, he already knew what he needed to know; he had learned it a long time ago in kindergarten. The basic rules he learned like “Share everything,” “Play fair,” and “Clear up your own mess” served him throughout life (1).
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten has spawned numerous imitations, spinoffs, and parodies based on television shows, movies, books, etc. These imitations adopt Fulghum’s title and list as their template, beginning with “All I Really Need to Know I Learned From ______,” followed by a list of principles based on the source of inspiration.
All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek
All I Really Need to Know I Learned from My Dog
All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Fairy Tales
A further adaptation narrows the learning a bit to a single specific area, as in:
All I Really Need to Know about ___________ I Learned from ___________
One example of this kind of spinoff is a book, published in 2014 by Paul Oyer, Everything I Ever Needed to Know about Economics I Learned from Online Dating.
Today’s Challenge: Create Your Credo
How would you finish the following titles, and what principles would you include in your personal credo? “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in/from ______.” And “All I Really Need to Know about ___________ I Learned in/from ___________.”
Create your own spin-off of Fulghum’s credo. Brainstorm some ideas based on books, movies, television shows, the internet, or some other aspect of life that you know well. Once you have selected a single focus, generate a list of principles that spring from your selected area. Your list may contain serious insights or humorous insights. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)
1-Fulghum, Robert. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. New York: Ballantine Books, 1989.