National Kindergarten Recognition Day is April 21, and was first adopted by the US Senate in 2005 to identify the vital role kindergarten plays in the lives of children. Nowadays, as kids learn to share and play nice, they are also learning to not point a finger like a gun or kiss a classmate, unless they want to get suspended from class.
Former Senator Ken Salazar, who now serves as Secretary of the Interior for President Obama, first introduced the day as a way to promote early learning programs for children.
“[A]s policy makers, we must ensure that the kindergarten programs are using developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate curricula and have teachers who have specialized knowledge and skills to address their unique needs,” Mr. Salazar told Congress in 2005, according to The Congressional Record.
A favorite book of many parents, published in 1986, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten“ by Robert Fulghum, reels off a list of lessons applicable to life, and learned in early in school, including:
1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don't hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
6. Don't take things that aren't yours.
7. Say you're SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life - learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. 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.
15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.”
Now, 28 years later, reports in the news seem to be updating the list of what kids are learning in kindergarten, and it’s not nearly as comforting as Mr. Fulghum's list. Here are five new lessons to add to the list:
1. Fingers are not guns. Nose picking is fine, just don’t use that index finger to imitate a weapon.
On April 2, a 6-year-old kindergarten student was given a day of in-school suspension after he made a hand gesture that looked like a gun while playing with friends at a school in Lawrence County, Miss., according to Mississippi News Now.
"He made his hand into the shape of a gun," says his mom, Ashley Sandifer, in the report. "They play like good guy bad guy. And I know a couple of weeks ago he was playing deer hunting. So they are not intending to hurt anybody.”
Whether pretend-hunting for deer, or pretend-stopping a bad guy, just remember, keep that finger in the holster.
2. Never imitate what you see on TV.
In 2013, in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, elementary schools across the country cracked-down on anything that could be imagined to be the sign of a potential gun threat. This included fingers, bubbly guns, and cheese sandwiches bitten into the shape of a hand gun.
Case in point, a kindergartner in Bethesda, Md. was suspended in January 2013 after she allegedly said she would shoot her classmate, and then herself, with her pink "Hello Kitty" bubble gun, according to multiple media sources.
The attorney for the girl’s parents said school district officials labeled the girl a "terrorist threat" after the incident, according to the Associated Press.
Share your bubbles and your cheese sandwich with your friends with an open hand and nobody gets hurt.
3. Do not touch.
A 6-year-old boy near Colorado Springs, Colo., was suspended from school for kissing a girl on the hand, according to multiple reports.
Yes, on the hand.
"It was during class," says first-grader Hunter Yelton in an interview with local television station KRDO. "We were doing reading group, and I leaned over and kissed her on the hand. That's what happened."
According to school administrators, Hunter’s peck was categorized as fitting the district standards for sexual harassment.
Puppy love will land you in the pound, so keep your friendliness toward classmates professional.
4. Life is full of hairy situations.
A Mohawk haircut resulted in the suspension of a kindergarten student in Springfield, Ohio. The 5-year-old boy was sent home because school district officials deemed his new Mohawk inappropriate for kindergarten, according to CBS news.
Ethan Clos was banned from school until he got rid of the Mohawk.
Chances are, if your look sends out a vibe that reads “too cool for school,” it just might be better to leave it at home.
5. Sometimes there is no strength in numbers.
On May 17, 2013, the Mirror of Connecticut news organization detailed a report to the state's Office of the Child Advocate, outlining thousands of cases of school expulsions for young children.
The Mirror reports that there were 1,967 incidents of students age 6 and under being suspended in 2013 – almost all of them black or Hispanic.
According to a report from the Connecticut Department of Education, the number of students suspended is actually higher, but privacy issues restrict the state agency from releasing information that could identify unique student information, according to the Mirror.
Jamey Bell, the child advocate for the district tells the Mirror, “Excluding such young children from the classroom is a non-educational, non-therapeutic response for those who are way too young to be culpable.”
Kindergarten is the start of education and socialization for many children whose parents cannot afford pre-school or daycare. As such, it is a learning place where mistakes can be made early and corrected quickly, as parents, along with teachers and administrators guide young children through the maze of reading, writing, arithmetic, and political correctness.
Some school administrators might benefit from some homework in the form of reviewing Fulghum’s book, and perhaps an assignment to write 100 times, “Kids learn all the wrong lessons when someone kicks them out of kindergarten.”