Friday, June 25, 2010

Finishing school for three-year-olds

In the news this week was a story that children as young as three are to get lessons in etiquette because their teachers are so fed up with bad manners.

I like the image of a tiny toddler holding a door open for his mother, learning not to speak over others, writing a thank you letter and getting out of a car decorously – all the while trying not to draw attention to a nappy that needs changing.

The lessons are in fact for all pupils up to the age of 18, which perhaps makes a little more sense (even if it is rather saddening that schools are increasingly expected to teach children how to live their lives, not just read and write). "We want to drive home the message that manners maketh man or or woman," says Ian Hunt, head of Llandovery College in Carmathenshire, where the lessons will be held. "From holding doors open for fellow students to understanding the importance of an RSVP, we hope that our programme puts old-fashioned manners into a modern context."

The story has also reported the college's directive of marketing and admissions, Lyn Jones (who apparently went to a finishing school herself) admitting that some forms of etiquette were sexist and out of date.

What does she mean?

Is a man who gives up his seat on the tube for a woman ipso facto a sexist? I heard an upsetting story about a man who offered his seat to a young woman being told to "F*** off, grand-dad." Who's the one with the bad manners there?

There are some houses where, after a dinner, the women retire to the drawing room while the men stay and drink some port. It is rude, I think, for the men to stay there for more than half an hour or so. But I don't think it a sexist tradition. In fact, I think the women who protest rather do themselves down by assuming the intelligent conversation is carrying on in the dining room. Why is it not amongst themselves? I always ask for a glass of port and take it through with me, as I like to drink it. But I also welcome the opportunity for a quick gossip (particularly if it's been a large party and there's some flirty intrigue going on).

Lyn Jones, it must be admitted, has the last word: "Learning how to get out of a car with your legs together is something you learn in finishing school and probably is something that many celebrities would benefit from today."

Take that Paris/Britney/LiLo and stuff your shirt with it.

1 comment:

  1. More than saddening I think, but positively ominous that teaching is increasingly about how the kids should live their lives. The powers that be want to get into our lives, into our heads and into our DNA. Everyone should read (or re-read) 1984. We need to resist their power-hungry meddling. Teachers should focus on enabling children to take in, appreciate and evaluate the world and the human and animal cultures and societies within it. This is best done by equipping them with good basic communication skills like reading and arithmetic, artisan skills as much as they are capable, physical well-being through sports, and a social perspective based on history and language. A good knowledge of the world leads to a love of the world and love elicits good manners in all of us.

    Love the second para!!

    PS - I think Lyn Jones is probably Director rather than Directive of marketing and admissions.