Sunday, April 30, 2006

Etiquette Class in Public Schools

Lots of changes going on down here on the Coast. Now, our Superintendent, love him or hate him, is looking to bring etiquette classes into our public schools. They would be elective and for stuggling sixth graders. (On the other side of the river, they are mandatory at Island City private school Frederica Academy and last all year.)

I bring this up as a seperate post because it touches on something we deal with often on this blog, education, education, education, education, education, and the lack of education.

Let me go on record as saying I am a huge fan and think etiquette classes should be mandatory for all public schools for many age groups. I also think that these classes, or those of similar vein, should include driving lessons, checkbook balancing, how to do your taxes and basic computer skills. We'll call these the "More Important than Calculus to your Success In Life Criteria" classes.

17 comments:

petallic said...

Okay, here we go.

#1. Driving lessons are a huge liability, and the guys who typically teach these classes do sketchy things with teenage girls in the car. Lump these guys in with Auto Mechanics teachers. Seriously, I've been through 3 Driver's Ed teachers: all three got fired for inappropriate conduct.

#2. Checkbook Balancing is included in any Basic Accounting class, already offered as an elective in every high school I've ever seen.

#3. Taxes: See #2.

#4. Basic Computer Skills: See #2 but insert "Computer" where you see "Accounting."

#5. The biggest glitch in this idea: whose etiquette will we be teaching? White etiquette, black etiquette, Mexican etiquette, Hmong etiquette, Northern etiquette, Southern etiquette, male etiquette, female etiquette, good ole boy etiquette, university etiquette, or some homogenized version that boils down to "Pay attention to your surroundings, and then try not to be a jerk"?

Patrick Armstrong said...

1. And yet, all the drivers at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and at all the police academies across the state, are well qualified. In the case of state police academies and schools, the state already pays for both. An idea that has merit does not become a bad idea because local school boards and State Departments of Education implement and oversee those ideas poorly. Place the blame on that and demand better. It is far higher a liability to continue to send young adults into the world with drivers liscences who know how to make four right turns and parallell park.

2. If that is the case, then those are positive measures, but they do not go far enough. Checkbook balancing should be a requirement of high school graduation. If our public schools are to serve the public good and are paid for by public dollars, the public can make demands of the school's curriculum. I think that should be one of those demands, and I do not think it needs to be attached to an Accounting class.

3. See # 2.

4. Again, there should be nothing 'elective' about it. Computer literacy, like English and Spanish language classes, should be taught as requirements from very early ages.

5. American etiqutte. That means WE decide on what etiquette is appropriate. One of the social and philosophical foundations of education is the transmission of culture from one generation to the next. We have failed in that duty by teaching English, Literature, Art, Drama, Science and Math inside a vaccum. We focus on telling children how not to act as opposed to how to act. Where do you think the culture war and the backlash against multiculturalism come from?

Please see the explanations of #'s 1 & 2. Why do you think so many Americans are willing to scrap our public schools altogther in favor of vouchers? Because educators throw up their hands and say 'it can't be done,' rather than understand that it will be done, one way or another, and participate in the generation and implementation of those goals that the public, the taxpayers and other educators want to see.

nikka said...

A class in "Pay attention to your surroundings, then try not to be a jerk" would have been useful for a lot of the people I've met, including me.

I'd also like to add 2 more to the list:

6. basic car maintenance - or it could go with the driving lessons

7. stress management - if I'd had some of this training, it would have saved me a lot of grief in college.

petallic said...

#1. It's not that the Local Board oversees it poorly. It's that grown men can't be trusted with teenage girls. Perhaps we could have single sex driver's ed classes, but then as we saw standing out in front of Ru San's, maybe that's not such a good idea either.

#2. Is Checkbook Balancing really that difficult? You add, you subtract. It should just be part of the Math curriculum, if it isn't already, which I'm pretty sure it is.

#3. Why would taxes not be attached to an Accounting class?

#4. This I agree with, so just make Computer Class a requirement.

#5. But Pat, if you think there is ONE American Etiquette, you are fooling yourself. What passes for polite here in Athens doesn't fly even forty miles away in Monroe, where I teach.

#6. Pat, I don't think you see the inherent contradiction in your argument:

An idea that has merit does not become a bad idea because local school boards and State Departments of Education implement and oversee those ideas poorly. Place the blame on that and demand better.

...

If our public schools are to serve the public good and are paid for by public dollars, the public can make demands of the school's curriculum.

You say that the public has the right to make demands, but when the public (the School Board) makes these demands and implements them, that's when we wind up with these poorly run programs. When the public makes these inane demands, idiocy abounds.

The School Board is the bane of every teacher's existence because generally they're not teachers, and non-teachers should never have a say in what goes on in a school.

Honestly, would you want someone without a medical background running the practices of the O.R.?

And as to us throwing up our hands, it's out of exasperation, Pat, not apathy. What if you got kicked in the nuts everyday of your life, and suddenly someone comes in and says, "Today we're going to try kicking you in the nuts"? You'd throw up your hands too, resign yourself to the inevitable, and suffer through it. You'd want to change it, and you'd want to tell them that kicking you in the nuts won't make them feel any better, but you'd know they're going to do it anyway because somewhere in their heart of hearts, they have good intentions. So you give it a go, and you really try to enjoy it, but you just can't.

[From Sprout: Wow, Frederica Academy has a year-long Etiquette Course. How's that working out for them? Nick, the only graduate from there we still hang out with, had how long of an affair with a married woman? Wow, which fork works!]

nikka said...

That's a rather grim view you have of grown men, Petallic. The ones who would mess with teenage girls are far fewer than the ones who wouldn't.

If the job does attract creeps, it may be because there's not the same oversight that there would be if they were regular lessons taught by real teachers instead of back lot, evening lessons unaffiliated with any school.

With basic oversight, or even so far as cameras in the training vehicles, I don't think there would be a problem with driving lessons in schools.

Dante said...

Regarding etiquette, the school should teach the etiquette that is most beneficial to its students. I'm surprised the person who wrote this:

"But I still say figure out what the victors are doing and imitate them, even if you have to look in a different year group or social clique...or outside of your entire box."

doesn't seem to agree. I learned southern white etiquette because that's the sort of etiquette that people consider proper around here.

Patrick Armstrong said...

1. Strange, I know -literally - hundreds of grown men who can behave themselves quite appropriately around teenage girls. Besides, I'm not talking about driving lessons down by the creek on a Saturday night, I'm talking serious classes run by professionals in professional settings. But, just to throw you a bone, there are plenty of female driving instructors who work for federal and state police agencies who I'm sure could be contracted to do that sort of thing.

2. Checkbook balancing is that difficult. As is dealing with banks etc. etc. I wish my math classes had focused more on practical applications of the topic rather than inane word problems about how fast trains crash. You know, this kind of class might also do a little to help young folks stay out of poverty. But I'm sure Shakespeare is much more important.

3. Taxes should be attached to an Accounting class, but that shouldn't be the only class taxes are attached to. I need to know a lot about filing taxes practically. I'm thinking of the kids who never take Accounting, but still need that knowledge.

4. Consensus. Done.

5. I'm not fooling myself. There isn't an 'American etiquette' because we've never really had to deal with it. For a long time those manners would be instilled by family. Now that is no longer taking place in many instances, we need to think about doing it in schools. We may need to come up with an etiquette, which also isn't a bad idea in my mind.

6. The School Boards are the representatives of the public, who the public must make the demands of. It is the most involved of the public who set those demands. Accrediting organizations must also become involved in this process, and help represent the greater, regional public in these matters.

I asked five retired teachers to run for School Board this last election cycle. All of them said no.

If someone came up and kicked me in the nutz, they better be ready for a fight. If they did it twice, they'd better be ready for a baseball bat. Once they were on the ground, broken and bleeding, I would ask them why they wanted to kick me in the nutz in the first place. In the case of schools to teachers, the answer would be "that's just the way it's always been done before."

I'd look at them and say, well, we're doing it a different way from now on.

(RE Nick: Etiquette is not morality. Nick is one of the most polite individuals I've ever met. He is not part of the problem.)

Dante said...

"I wish my math classes had focused more on practical applications of the topic rather than inane word problems about how fast trains crash."

Pat, I keep trying to honor your stated belief that education should not equal life prepararion but you keep throwing out statements that make me question if you really take this stance.

Math classes should focus on math. If you want a class that focuses on finance, there are finance courses available. If you want finance classes to be mandatory, I can understand that but please make sure there's a way to test out of such a course. I would've been incredibly bored stuck in a class where all we did was balance checkbooks and fill out 1040s.

And for what it's worth, the only class where I've ever had a word problem about how fast trains were travelling was high school physics, not high school math or even college math.

petallic said...

#1. There is still the logistical problem of such a class, Pat. You can only fit 3 to 4 students in a car at once. What do you do with the other 15-30 kids in your class?

I learned southern white etiquette because that's the sort of etiquette that people consider proper around here.

But, Dante, did you learn it in a class? Or by simple observation? And should I teach southern white etiquette to my African-American, Hispanic, and Hmong students?

Pat, "coming up with an etiquette" sounds nice, but who's doing the planning on that endeavor? You and I saw quite plainly while dining together that we have different ideas of etiquette (you didn't want to put the waitress to any trouble while I had no problem asking her to do her job). You and I come from the same general political and social bent, and yet our own ideas of etiquette are quite different. You think school pranks are totally natural, while I do not. One man's idea of etiquette is wildly different from someone else's. What great entity can we entrust to come up with "American Etiquette"?

It is the most involved of the public who set those demands.
And some of those people are lovely individuals who really want to do some good in their community. Good intentions, however, do not always lead to efficient governing.

Did you ask those 5 retired teachers why they said no?

Pat, saying no to the school board is risky business, and it's easier to simply take the kick to the nuts than to stand up for your right to a pain-free groin. Say all you want about the path of least resistance and how if we were really dedicated we'd stand up for ourselves, but we're busy enough trying to do our daily jobs. To be honest, we mostly ignore the School Board 'til they're in our faces. When something bothers them enough, they'll come out of the ivory tower, down the hill, and say something about it. Until that day, I don't particularly care what they think. Let them have their little meetings, drink their coffee, and think up their grand new plans. What they do has little to do with me.

And Nikka, it's not just the men. I've known my fair share of grown women who've committed similar atrocities. I also would not want a grown woman alone in cars with boys, even in broad daylight with a camera in the car. As a single woman, I can tell you that teenage boys will say and do things you would never imagine. Just Friday I had a boy tell me that any time I wanted to wake up to his face, that he could arrange it. And trust me when I tell you, I'm no raging beauty queen. (And before any of you cries foul, yes, I reported his statement.)

The temptations are there, on a daily basis, and risky situations should simply be avoided at all costs.

Dante said...

I've learned etiquette from both real life and the classroom. We did have etiquette classes in my school system. It was bundled in with our yearly Home Ec classes.

"And should I teach southern white etiquette to my African-American, Hispanic, and Hmong students? "

I've always filed etiquette away under job skills so yes in this area that is the etiquette I would teach to all students since that is the etiquette of most employers here. Sorry I wasn't being clearer when identifying the "victors" I was referring to.

Patrick Armstrong said...

"Pat, I keep trying to honor your stated belief that education should not equal life prepararion but you keep throwing out statements that make me question if you really take this stance."

There are places where it could be both. The two aren't mutually exclusive. There are some places where education can be exclusively transmittal of knowledge solely for the sake of education. There are other places where practical applications can be folded in.

1. More cars, more instructors. Take advantage of nearby police acadamies for this training.

As far as 'American etiquette' is concerned, I think there is plenty of common ground to be found. The classes already exist (they're being taught as electives in public schools here) so someone must have come up with a curriculum that isn't entirely fantasy.

As far as the School Board, it is the difference between proactive and reactive. If they came down from their hill and kicked me in the nutz, you can bet I'd be up on their hill and in their faces rather quickly. And the reasons no one wanted to run had to do with folks having other priorities.

I can understand having other priorities, I can understand the attitude behind 'don't care about the School Board until they affect me.' I got asked to run for school board, but I had to say no because I'm not planning on living here come November. But when I find my eventual home, and I dig in my heels, you can bet I'll be running for School Board there, or managing someone's campaign for school board.

Does that take time and effort? Hells yeah. But I care about good government, so I will be involved.

nikka said...

Petallic, I understand your desire to keep kids safe, I'm just saying that reasonable precautions in hiring and oversight would make driving lessons as safe as any other class. When I took driving lessons there were 3 teenagers and 1 adult in the car, and nothing funny happened. I knew people who took private lessons with strangers, and nothing funny happened. I find it hard to believe that our uneventful experiences are the exception.

And never having met you in person, I can't speak to your beauty, but if teenagers are hitting on you, you must be pretty attractive. Having said that, a lot of teenagers will say things that they know they won't follow through on if they figure it will impress or shock someone.

Anyone who would try something innappropriate during a driving lesson while a camera was on them is insane as well as a creep. Hopefully the hiring process would filter out insane creeps.

petallic said...

Nikka, thanks, but beauty has nothing to do with it. For teenagers it's as much an authority obsession as anything else. And as to whether or not they are serious, two years ago I was at the home of a boy whose mother was a friend of mine. I was waiting for her to come meet me for dinner, and I had been a guest in their home a myriad of times, not to mention the fact that I had taught him 9th grade English (which is how she and I became friends) so being there alone with her son seemed harmless enough...until he came out of the bathroom in a towel, dropped it, and asked me to do things to him that I didn't know he knew how to pronounce. Some of them do say it for shock value, and others of them mean every salacious word and glance.

Pat, I respect and applaud your desire to be a proactive member of society. But to be honest, I approach this the same way I approach giving money to charity. My entire life is a charity; my entire life is proactive. At some point I have to weed out the stuff that just sucks up my time/money without getting a whole lot accomplished. After all, as Ayn Rand said, "A committee never accomplished anything" (apologies if my paraphrase from memory is inaccurate). Being on the school board would be great if I weren't already spending 60-70 hours of my week on this job.

petallic said...

Anyone who would try something innappropriate during a driving lesson while a camera was on them is insane...

Oh, I wish that were true. Week before last, I forgot my classroom key at home for the first time all year. I told the kids before we left for lunch, don't leave anything in here 'cause the door will be unlocked. What happened during lunch? Some kid from across the hall saw me NOT lock the door, came over after I left, went through a girl's bookbag, found her wallet, threw the contents across the room, stole $23.00, and her family photos. Did he know he was on camera? Yep! We're in a brand new facility with pretty high tech surveillance. He went straight off to juvi. Our drama teacher last year got caught hacking into other people's email accounts (our email passwords are based on an easy formula, so it wasn't hard), and she knew the entire time the techies at the board office could trace it back to her. Why did she do it? 'Cause she and the head of history had recently broken up, and she wanted to know what he was saying about her behind her back.

Bottom line: people are stupid. Surveillance doesn't stop people when they're hellbent on getting what they want.

nikka said...

Surveillance does get them arrested and/or fired when they do it, though, keeping them from doing it again and standing as a lesson to enyone else who would try it.

petallic said...

Nikka, I wish deterrence and recidivism worked that way, but they just don't.

Patrick Armstrong said...

Such is the price of living in a society where folk are considered 'innocent until proven guilty.'