Letter: Enduring Lesson From Kindergarten

To the Editor:

I have been asked why I am cynical and distrust authority. Here’s the answer.

I was not quite 6 years old in kindergarten. I could not wait to learn to read in first grade. I didn’t know I was already reading. Our teacher was Miss Pitcher. When we were not playing games, we would sit in a circle on small chairs. There was one very tiny chair in which one had to sit as punishment for some misdeed. The rest of us could laugh, point at and humiliate him or her. I confess I was not remiss to do this when the opportunity arose.

One day I was astounded to learn, from the pictures and text in an encyclopedia, about our solar system and stars. The next day, at mid-morning recess, I regaled my playmates with my new knowledge that the stars were not lights that God lit at night, that the sun did not rise but that the Earth turned, the Earth was not flat but was a ball. They scoffed, and in effect told me I was crazy. I told them Miss Pitcher would set things straight.

When we got back to the classroom, I told Miss Pitcher what I had told my classmates.

“Isn’t that right, Miss Pitcher?” I asked.

“No, Herbert.” She said.

I looked at her and told her she was wrong. I insisted that I was right. So she told me I was being a very bad child, and I ended up in the tiny chair to spend the remainder of the day being humiliated. When I got home and asked my father if what I had discovered about the Earth, the sun and the stars was correct, he said of course that is true.

The moral is truly great — namely, the throne of truth is a very small chair.

Herbert A. Knapp