George Lucas Educational Foundation

Readers' Survey 2007: Subject That Typically Isn't Taught in School That Should Be

Edutopia readers weigh in on their favorites.
Edutopia Team
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Pushing itself politely to the head of the line of responses was the subject of manners. Loud and clear, you said it: "We need to teach these kids some manners." Oh, and some civility and ethics, to boot. Sure, behavior and discipline are important issues in any classroom, but should common courtesy become required reading? "Yes!" you cried, in exasperated chorus. Runners-up included money management and creative thinking (or even, as one reader urged with eloquent simplicity, "How to think").

Our Take

Please Say "Please"

Manners maven Charles Purdy, also known as Mr. Social Grace, wrote an etiquette column for six years in the SF Weekly. (Check out his Web site, Etiquette Advice, and his book, Urban Etiquette.) Here, he answers your burning question:

Dear Mr. Social Grace,

I'm a public school teacher, and I'd enjoy my job far more if it weren't for those holy terrors who don't know a thing about manners! How do I get my students to behave with an ounce of respect and courtesy?

Yours truly,

Disrespected and Distressed

Dear Dissed and Dissed,

When it comes to teaching manners to kids, I offer two suggestions. The first: Lead by example. Your challenge is to create an environment in which your own behavior is also above reproach. In my experience, if you treat young people with respect, they will rise to meet your expectations (although the real challenge here, of course, is that this level of respect is not always reinforced in the home).

Second, emphasize the importance of -- and the reasons behind -- good manners. Etiquette isn't just an arbitrary list of rules; it's the language of social behavior. It's there so that you can tell others, "I respect you and mean you no harm." If I were to teach etiquette to a group of students, I might compare the benefits of good manners to the benefits of a good education: Both open doors for you!

NEXT PAGE OF READERS' SURVEY: Best way schools can keep new teachers from burning out

2007 Readers' Survey Index

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Jerry Pitzl's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Sound absurd? It would be if parents/guardians/those in charge of the rascals did the training. Where are they? Just as unmannered as the offspring tearing up the cassromm?

The "How to Think" suggestion is right on! Remember, John Dewey published a classic in education, "How We Think." I think it should be read again by the populace. Some discipline required, of course.

Kate's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

For high school students, I believe it should be mandatory that they be taught laws that pertain to them. Every year laws change or are passed that have some relevance to students, yet students find out by committing a violation and entering the criminal justice system. Prior to this past April or May, in the state of Georgia a 15 and 17 year old student could sit in the same classroom, yet if they engaged in an intimate act, they could be imprisoned for a mandatory 10 years. To teach a lesson in law in high school would be a true learning experience.

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