No. 455



Over the past several weeks I have had an interesting exchange of ideas with Ms. Shaun Moffitt, a college instructor at the Coffeyville Community College in Kansas. After reading my column titled "Let's get back to teaching manners and civility as a way of life," she wrote me a letter strongly disagreeing with my basic premise. She also included several letters from students who agreed with her. Now this is not the first time someone has disagreed with me, but let me give you a little more information and you be the judge. First, the title I gave the column was "A Unique Center For Manners & Civility." When this particular newspaper ran the column they changed the title so the emphasis was not on the "center" but on teaching manners and civility.

She also lifted one line where I stated, "What is even more disturbing for me is the obnoxious and rude behavior and the complete lack of good manners and civility that far too many of our citizens are exhibiting on a regular basis." I noted that she did not include the next line that says, "Just recently there was an article in our local newspaper where a school district in our state had adopted a policy to curb bullying."Ê When I was growing up we did not have school shootings, road rage or anger management classes that parents had to take before they could attend their child's athletic events. We could also include "binge drinking" that has become epidemic.

One of the reasons manners and civility have suffered over the past 50 years is the violent culture that has been created in our society. Turn on the television any night and you can witness what I am talking about. Check out the violence in far too many television programs, the violent video games, the wrestling matches, the roller derby and especially the professional hockey games. One hockey dad killed another and you probably saw the incident in the news when a hockey player slugged another and slammed him to the ice breaking his neck. In short, we have created a violent society and this definitely has taken a toll on manners and civility.ÊÊ

Shaun and her students are idealistic and I really and truly applaud what they are saying. She has brought this down to a personal level and gives a number of examples. She states, "Every day I witness acts of manners and civilityÉ. I was thanked and even blessed heartily by the worker at the drive through window at Taco Tico, had a door held open by a 10 year old boy at a gas station, was given advice on where to mail a letter from a friendly woman at the Cracker Barrel, and was asked by a teenager if I wanted to go before her at a roadside park rest room."

She states further, "Manners and civility are taught by parents, by teachers, by policemen, by responsible people in positions of authority every day and in every way. We don't need to "get back to teaching" them because the instruction never went away. The challenge is to notice the daily acts of courtesy, acknowledgment, and open mindedness that surround us and not let them go unrecognized in the face of whatever acts of incivility we might perceive or encounter."

I invited Shaun and her students to write an open letter to the American people where they would share their views about the state of manners and civility in our nation today. She did so, but the article was much too lengthy, so I have to condense and summarize the points they felt were important. It is my heart's desire to get across the essence of what she and her students have observed in real life. In her article she quoted a number of authors that reinforced what she and her students were saying to me. . She quotes a portion of Stephen Carter's Civility, in which Carter states: "Americans today are like Americans of every era. We think our nation's manners are falling apart and the fact that the common claim that there was a time in which America was more civil than today is rather shaky."

This is one of these cases where I would like to be wrong. In my heart if I can determine that I am, I will be the first to apologize. I have spent the last 35 years of my life working with students in our schools, doing my share of volunteer work, and doing my best to motivate and inspire people to use their God given talent to become more successful. My heart's desire is for all of our citizens to respect others, to treat them with kindness and courtesy and to be productive and responsible members of society. I suspect the same thing is true for Shaun Moffitt and her students. Teachers have a great responsibility as well as a great opportunity to make a difference. When it comes to whether we have more or less civility and manners today, I suspect the answers will be determined by the age of the people you ask. Feel free to contact Ms. Moffitt at Ê(Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)