The End of Civility: Why Manners Matter


Yes, I’m a teacher. I’m probably hopelessly tainted by all that order and responsibility stuff. I can’t help but notice, though, that our society is becoming increasingly hostile, and I thought maybe a few of our middle school rules might help.

  • Don’t run in the hall. You might hurt yourself or another student. Hey, drivers. That means you don’t have to speed and cut somebody off just to get there ten seconds earlier. The first one to the red light still has to stop. If you want bumper cars, go to an amusement park.
  • If you bump into somebody, say, “Excuse me,” and move on. There are too many victims around here. It won’t kill you to admit that maybe you may have a little responsibility in the matter and maybe taking it to the level of an argument or all-out fight is a little extreme.
  • It’s okay to let somebody use your pencil or take your place in line if you’re not ready. When I first moved to Pascagoula, I was absolutely astounded at how polite some of the people were. It’s changed a lot since Hurricane Katrina. The polite people are still there, but they’re sometimes hard to find. I asked a woman who was fumbling through her purse if I could just swipe my library card and get on a computer. It would’ve taken ten seconds. She gave me a dirty look and wouldn’t let me ahead. So we all stood in line while she dug through her purse. Why?
  • Since I teach at a public school, we can’t quote Jesus (“Love One Another”) so we say, “Be kind.” What is a little kindness going to hurt? Do you know that adolescents have been stopped from committing suicide because of another teen’s kindness? It’s like people are afraid they may be taken advantage of if they’re too nice. So some go out of their way to be rude. What does this accomplish? It certainly doesn’t make anybody feel any better.
  • My classroom rule is one word: Respect. Showing respect is an indication of your character, so be respectful. Some parents teach their children that they don’t have to respect anybody. My job as a parent is to prepare my children for life in the big, bad world. I want them to be able to get a job and keep it. Teaching them to disrespect others as a general rule is like feeding them poison. Hope you plan on having an extra room for them until they inherit your home, folks!
  • Your mama doesn’t work here, so pick up after yourself. You would be surprised at how many people dump garbage into the road, dump their animals when they tire of them, and just generally wait for somebody else to clean up their mess. In most cases, it’s going to be a very long wait. Why not brighten up the world and do it yourself? Fulfill your commitments. Our students are encouraged to aim high and do their best. Why can’t our society encourage all Americans to do the same?

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