In the late 1980s, I was in my early 20s just finishing my bachelor’s degree in education at Emory University. At that time, I discovered a book called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, a series of tongue-in-cheek lessons on living by Robert Fulghum.
He begins the book with an explanation of his worldview:
All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.
These are the things I learned:
- Share everything.
- Play fair.
- 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 cold 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 in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
- Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
- Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup–they all die. So do we.
- And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned–the biggest word of all–LOOK.
He goes on to imagine how great, how wonderful and peaceful and utopian the world would be if everyone lived by his philosophy. I don’t disagree.
Coming right out of college–especially one as left-leaning as Emory–I was enamored of the book. I hadn’t had sufficient life experience to gain a healthy, realistic cynicism. That was soon to change.
In the Atlanta area in the late ’80s, there was an oversupply of teachers competing for positions in the metro area, especially in the “better” school systems. People with advanced degrees were competing with tenured teachers for the best positions available, which left me to choose from whatever was available.
I finally got an interview with Atlanta Public Schools, which had its headquarters downtown. The interviewer seemed very pleased to have a young, white Emory applicant in her office, so the interview was just a formality. She explained apologetically that there were currently no positions in the “posh” Buckhead schools (the only schools with any measurable white population), but she assured me she would place me in a “good” school.
In the end, I taught a total of two-and-a-half years in two different schools before I walked out in the middle of my third year, giving up on the “tenure” that would have been mine had I finished the year.
I couldn’t make it. Not even another day. In fact, the day after I quit, I went to spend a nice, restful week in one of Atlanta’s premier facilities: the psych ward at Peachford Hospital.
What put me there, you ask?
Spending nearly three years trying in vain to educate (or even control) uncivilized, unintelligent, impulsive, violent, illiterate five- to ten-year-olds, all the while being told that “Every Child CAN Learn,” and that any failure to do so is the fault of incompetent teachers.
During this time, I had suffered through several “evaluations” by my principals, where every little detail of my lessons were critiqued, and every disruptive or off-task act by my students counted as a “lost point” on my overall score.
If I objected, the principal would point to the new teacher next door and say, “Well, Mrs. Hudson is new, and she can control her class.”
Of course, I couldn’t point out that Mrs. Hudson is a 40-year-old, six-foot-tall, three-hundred pound black woman who terrifies me, let alone her students. That would be “racist.” So I persisted in my Sisyphean efforts for months and months, until my psyche just gave out.
The last straw was the day a kindergartner in the class next door brought crack cocaine to school for show-and-tell. He said he found it “under daddy’s mattress.” His teacher poked her head into my class and asked me to keep an eye on her children while she ran the boy up to the office. They called the father and told him to take his child home for the day; no one called child services or the police, for fear the man would get in trouble.
Leaving public school was probably the best thing I ever did, because cognitive dissonance will eventually resolve itself into either all-out psychosis, or an awakening into reality. I emerged a race realist.
I recently came across that old Robert Fulghum book in the garage, and took a look at the opening page. I can’t even recall the naive state of mind in which I formerly enjoyed the book. It was like walking into your old grammar school and thinking, “Wow! It’s so small!”
But I decided it was worth revisiting the book’s most important points, from the perspective of an all-black kindergarten. (Things aren’t quite so “milk and cookies” in an urban grade school, Mr. Fulghum.)
This is what I learned from spending quality time in a downtown Atlanta kindergarten.
#1. Share everything.
In an honest desire to provide my students with a nice classroom, similar to the ones in the suburban (white) schools, I spent my own money on supplies for the different “learning centers” in my room: crayons, paint, paper, children’s books, a nice Oriental rug, an oversized comfortable reading chair, lamps, little toys for rewards, beautiful posters for the walls . . . you get the idea.
Within the first week, most of the art supplies were destroyed. Not stolen, mind you–destroyed. Broken, dumped out, ripped up. The children’s books were either torn up or scribbled over. The rug was half-unraveled, there was permanent marker on the chair, and the lamp wouldn’t turn on. I was baffled: What kind of people deliberately ruin the nice things that were meant for them to share?
I think the “share everything” concept wasn’t completely foreign to them, however: They applied the principle to my purse, which was routinely raided of cash–even loose change–until I bought a lock for my bottom desk drawer.
#2. Play Fair.
This one is easy: They don’t.
In black kindergarten, losing is not an acceptable conclusion to any game. Nor is it an acceptable position for conflict resolution. One must always win or lose face. Always.
It was therefore not unusual to find a five-year-old wailing on the ground, after trying to cut in line for the slide. Those who didn’t think he was entitled to go first would throw him to the ground.
Something similar could happen to the legitimate winner of a game. It doesn’t help that black children in our school were notoriously poor winners. The winning team would yell and chant “We beat! We beat! We beat!” in the hall after a kickball game. (This sentence has no direct object, but black children don’t appreciate the subtleties of transitive verbs.)
This would, of course, provoke someone on the losing team to throw an insult . . . or a punch . . . or a chair at the winners.
#3. Don’t hit people.
Please refer to item #2.
This includes hitting people with chairs, books, rocks, baseball bats, or yardsticks–unless you are a black teacher, which gives you permission to hit black children with impunity.
Actually, I would get a few notes from parents at the beginning of each year, authorizing me to spank their child if he/she misbehaves. I could never tell if they were sincere, or were trying to win the “ghetto lottery” and walk off with a big settlement. I suspect it was the latter, since many students directed this threat at me: “My momma sue!” (Translation: “You can’t touch me or my mother will sue you.”)
#4. Put things back where you found them.
I realize Mr. Fulghum isn’t accustomed to urban laws of supply and demand, as this item assumes that the child intends to return the item in the first place rather than just keeping it for himself.
#5. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
This is one of those directives that, in the mind of the average black child, only applies to other people taking his things; he, of course, is immune to this rule.
At a black public school, the teacher had to close and lock her door if she and her class weren’t in the classroom. Leaving your door unlocked while you were out of the room was an invitation for a passing student to come in and take whatever he liked.
Taking something that “belongs” to another black child will provoke retribution, though “belonging” was difficult to determine, since black children will claim to own an item if they ever used it, touched it, or looked at it. (Unless it’s broken. Then it’s yours.)
#6. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
This was particularly chilling when dealing with “crack babies”: They were both more violent and less empathetic than the average black.
I had one kindergartner named Andre who would show “remorse” (in the form of crocodile tears) only if he got in trouble for hurting someone. It was like looking into the eyes of a soulless child to watch a five-year-old smile, turn around, and whack a classmate over the head with a chair, a look of profound serenity on his face the whole time.
But he was utterly devastated when there were consequences for his actions, usually in the form of lost privileges. He would go home and cry to his mother, who would then show up at school to accuse me of “racism,” even though all my students were black.
#7 Wash your hands before you eat.
This one is great in theory, but when students eat in a lunchroom that is overrun with cockroaches, I’m not sure hand-washing does much good.
The students, for their part, acted as if this was normal. They’d set their lunch trays on the table, pull out a chair, and before sitting down, they’d lift the chairs a few inches from the ground and drop it. There were likely to be roaches hiding on the underside of the plastic chair, and the sudden jolt would knock them off their perches.
I repeatedly asked the principal to call an exterminator, but she shrugged and replied, “We don’t have the budget for one. Besides, as soon as all the roaches are exterminated, those kids will just bring more bugs from home in their backpacks.”
I had cockroach nightmares for weeks after I quit.
The restrooms were something out of a horror movie. Apparently, students couldn’t be trusted to use the restroom alone, so the entire class had to walk down to use the facilities as a group. The teacher had to go in and inspect the bathrooms before the first child entered, and again after her class was finished, lest she be accused of letting students “run wild” in the bathrooms.
If they were left alone, the boys were known to throw feces and urinate across the room. One particularly clever boy thought it would be funny to urinate in the hand soap dispenser.
The girls were just as bad: The upper elementary girls had to be lectured each year on how to use feminine products properly. Specifically, they had to be told that sanitary pads are one-time-use-only, and to throw them away after each use. Otherwise, their welfare mothers would convince them to re-use the things so they don’t have to waste their precious food stamps on boxes of maxi-pads.
#9. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Never has there been a population more resentful than blacks of being told “what’s good for them.” They already resent the “restrictions” on their EBT cards, and look for any way to cheat the system to get what they want.
Sometimes parents would claim to want something positive–for example, testing for their child so he could qualify for special resource classes–until they realized something was going to be required of them in return. In this case, a home visit by a social worker.
As a brand-new teacher, I was asked to submit names of students who needed special testing, and I obliged. I had no idea what was involved after I turned in those names, but I certainly wasn’t expecting the 300-pound mother waiting for me in the office one morning, yelling about “sending the motherf***ing government” to her house to “spy” on her.
I suspect she was afraid she might get caught cheating the system, or was afraid that by turning over doctor’s records, the school would find out her child was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. That might have explained why no one could understand what he said.
#10. Live a balanced life–learn some and think some and . . . (all those other things white children know how to do without being told).
I believe blacks have a different idea of “a balanced life.” “Learning,” “thinking,” “drawing,” “painting,” “singing,” and “working” are considered “white” activities and to be avoided. “Rapping” is not considered “singing.”
“Playing,” however, was a multiracial activity and therefore an acceptable pastime. So was “inappropriate sexual contact.” I discovered three five-year-olds–a boy and two girls–French kissing in the reading corner. When I caught them, the boy smiled and said, “Them my hoes.”
They seemed to live by the idea that “anything worth doing, is worth doing to excess,” so “playing” became their main preoccupation while at school.
However, they had a few other interests in their “balanced” life: fighting, cheating, lying, and stealing.
The rest of Mr. Fulghum’s list is too sentimental to be adapted to the black school system, but I have a few others I’d like to add to the list:
#11. Damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.
As a white teacher on an otherwise all-black faculty, everything I did was wrong or “racist” in some way. I never fit in at faculty meetings. At a black school, teachers are loud, boisterous, and everyone makes jokes. If I spoke up, it was because I “didn’t want to be there” or “didn’t know how to talk to black people.” But if I did say something funny, I was “acting strangely” and possibly on drugs.
They thought I could never get discipline right. If I sent a student to the principal for misbehavior, it was because I “couldn’t deal with it myself,” but if I kept a disruptive child in class and tried to control him, I would be asked “Why didn’t you send Kortez to the principal?”
By choosing to teach at a black school right out of college, I was “just doing my practice teaching here to get tenure, before going over to the white school.” Of course, it never occurred to them that if I wanted to “breeze through” my first few years to get tenure, I certainly wouldn’t have chosen ghetto schools.
If I gave a passing grade to a student who didn’t deserve it, it was because “I didn’t care,” but if I recommended that a student repeat a grade, I was “racist.” Again, since I had no white students, I wasn’t sure how I could be selectively racist to just one or two children.
#12. New teachers always get the worst-behaved students.
I changed schools at the beginning of my third year, and the enrollment projections were incorrect. Apparently, every year, a handful of parents alter their child’s birth certificate in an attempt to get the child into kindergarten a year early. This would seem impressive on the surface (Wow, they really want their children to get a jump on learning!) until I realized that for the parents school is free daycare that also offers two meals a day.
There were too many kindergartners for too few classes, so an extra class was formed, and I got stuck with it.
The principal was a large black man who never bothered to hide his resentment against a new white teacher sent to his school without his say-so. Instead of choosing the students for the new class by lottery, he went to the three other overcrowded classes and asked the teachers to “give him a list of four or five students you don’t want.”
Reflecting now on more than 20 years of teaching, I can think of plenty of students I would have loved to “get rid of.” So I know I got the worst of the worst: crack babies, Fetal Alcohol kids, violent behavior disorders, and other low-IQ, feral blacks.
That’s why I didn’t make it through my third year.
#13. What goes around, comes around.
Luckily for me, I was able to walk away from that hell hole of a school and shuffle back to my parents, defeated. I tried in vain for almost a year to get a different teaching job in a decent county, but my last principal, a sadistic narcissist who loved seeing the white teacher fail, blackballed me whenever I applied to another school system. I thought my career was over.
Then, almost a year to the day after I quit, the headline in the paper read, “Principal at Atlanta Grammar School Arrested and Charged with Attempted Rape.”
As it turns out, my former principal was a well-known womanizer who got moved from school to school, each time after an accusation of sexual harassment. The school board kept trying to brush his behavior under the rug, so he was already at his sixth or seventh school. Apparently, he tried to make a pass at a new black teacher and she went to the police.
As for me, I never went back to public school teaching. I took a private-school job that did not pay as well but that did wonders for my mental health.
#14. Time is on your side.
Many of my former liberal friends were less than supportive. They thought I’d become “racist” and had given up too soon. How dare I call my students “the future inmates of America”? What makes me so sure that most of the girls will be pregnant before they are out of their teens? These are just racist stereotypes!
I’m now a married mother of three in my late 40s. I’ve long since said goodbye to my liberal views, and the loony lefties I once called friends. Even so, I thought it would be fun to look up some of my former students on Facebook or Google.
The worst-behaved kid from my classes is now serving “25-to-life” in an Atlanta prison for shooting his drug dealer. Just as he did when he was a six-year-old, he stubbornly told the police, the judge, and the media, “I din’ do nuthin’.”
Another girl from my classes has four children by four different fathers. I remember her because of what she wrote for a journal assignment in first grade. When I asked her to finish the sentence, “When I grow up, I’m going to . . . ,” she wrote, “. . . fine me a man!”
Apparently, she found more than one.
Today, I still live with my family in the Atlanta area, but we’re house-hunting in northern Utah so we can relocate by the end of the year. I’ve learned that being a race realist will save me and my family. I carry a concealed Glock wherever I go, and intend to move to an area as devoid of blacks as possible (and the skiing is fabulous!).
In hindsight, there was nothing I could have done that would have made one iota of difference for those black children. It was a fool’s errand from the start. Faculty resented my presence in “their” schools, and were overjoyed to see the new white teacher fail.
At this point, only politically incorrect solutions can save our country. Either way, I’ll be putting as much distance as I can between myself and the nearest black population, will start weaning myself from the grid, and have my ammo handy. When the EBT cards finally run out (and we know they will), they’ll come for my goofy liberal Emory friends first.
Mr. Fulghum forgot the Number One Rule:
Sometimes it’s best to cut your losses.