​Almanac: Kindergarten

An illustration of a kindergarten class in Boston in 1881.

Library of Congress

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac, June 7th, 1843, 172 years ago today ... the day Susan Elizabeth Blow was born to a wealthy St. Louis family.

On a trip to Europe in 1871, Susan Blow got a look at the German kindergarten movement, which helped to plant the seeds of learning in very young children through play.

Hence the name "kinder" (the German word for "children") and "garten" (the word for "garden").

Back in St. Louis, Susan Blow opened the city's first public school kindergarten in 1873, widely regarded as a model for the nation.

Over time kindergarten became a rite of passage for most American five-year-olds.

Robert Fulghum's 1989 book, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," was a huge best-seller ... and he shared some of its lessons in a CBS interview:

"We are taught to share everything, don't hit people, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess, don't take things that aren't yours," he said.

A somewhat less benign view was on offer in the 1990 film, "Kindergarten Cop" ... starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Penelope Ann Miller: "You know, kindergarten is like the ocean. You don't want to turn your back on it."

All kidding aside, these days, there is a growing emphasis on PRE-kindergarten, which currently serves more than one million four-year-olds.

Even so, a recent report from the Department of Education says that with roughly 6 in 10 four-year-olds still not enrolled in public pre-K, early nurturing is very much a work in progress.


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