Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Lost Art Of Civility

Twice already this semester, that I am aware of, a student has either written, or emailed, a derogatory and vulgar note to an instructor, and this is just in one class! I often wonder what goes through the minds of fatuitous people like this. Do they think ticking off the instructor is going to help make things better? This behavior is more appropriate for a correctional facility full of social deviants rather than at an institution of higher learning. Civility, in all aspects of daily life, is becoming harder to find than an open-minded clergyman.

One could argue that it is merely a matter of immaturity, but I tend to think that there is more to it than that. If someone is not raised to have certain values, nor taught to practice the proper etiquette of specific social situations, then they will act uncivilly regardless of their age. Try working retail if you do not believe that. Any retail job involves dealing with the common public. What you will find is that the majority of people you run into whether they be young or old, male or female, are rude, impatient, uncouth, loud, vain, and just plain mean. Sadly, the problem seems to be a function of time; it just continues to get worse.

If you are still unconvinced and feel as though I am exaggerating, then try to think of how often you have experienced civility lately. Students are constantly drowning out the instructor with incessant talking, annoying giggling, and irremissibly loud bodily noises such as sneezing, or coughing, on a daily basis. Try to remember how frequently you hear these phrases: ‘pardon me’, ‘thank you’, ‘how do you do, ‘how may I help you, ‘please, after you’, ‘I’m sorry to interrupt you, but may I ask you a question’, ‘it was a pleasure to meet you’, ‘may I sit here’. Do students seem polite to instructors? Are your customers polite to you? Do cashiers smile at you when you go through their line? Do drivers seem patient and courteous on the road?

I am, once again, generalizing, of course. There are some very classy people out there who periodically restore hope in humanity. These are the people who altruistically help others, even strangers. They are polite and courteous. Above all, they remember one very simple yet critical principle. This existence of ours is not solipsistic. As members of a ‘society’ it is our obligation to practice symbiosis. If we do not, then the deleterious effects could be disastrous.

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