All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten Summary
by Robert Fulghum

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All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The notion that he had learned all he needed to know in kindergarten originated when the author filled his old car with high-octane gasoline and the car, unable to handle the rich fuel, sputtered at intersections. Robert Fulghum identified with the car, for he gained much the same result from too much high-level information going into his head. Putting aside graduate school-level thinking and returning to the kindergarten level, he came up with a list of sixteen basic rules to live by, which, if followed by people and governments around the world, would result in a sane, orderly, pleasant existence.

In addition to these rules, the book contains some touching short essays, such as the tale about the Vietnamese boat child, new to the neighborhood, who came trick-or-treating at Christmas in a Santa Claus mask. Upon being rewarded, he offered to sing some Christmas carols. His performance, from the rollicking to the reverential, would bring the spirit of the season to even the most cynical Scrooge.

Some of the essays are amusing tales of good-spirited intentions that backfired, such as the time the author stopped to help a stranded motorist, who asked if he had jumper cables. Fulghum replied that he had them; he never said he knew how to use them. The story recounts a nonmechanical motorist’s nightmare--an electrical arc was created between the cars, ruining one car’s ignition system and welding the jumper cables to the other car’s battery. In the author’s usual style, however, he ends with a happy note--the stranded motorist’s wife later sent him a gift of fool-proof jumper cables, complete with a control box that indicates if everything has been properly connected before any electricity flows.

These are essays that make one feel good, make one think about everyday happenings, slow down, and savor the world. They are thoughts that demand thought.