A teen pushes in front of an elderly woman to be first in line at a convenience store.
Toddlers poop in the public pool but the parents leave it and walk away.
Student employees make lewd comments to coworkers but parents deny it ever happened and contest the students’ firing.
Many blogs and editorials about civility discuss behavior at sports events, road rage and other driving discourtesies, gang atrocities, email meanness, and other such behaviors.
I’m just thinking about rude and uncivil kids. At our children’s choir a few weeks ago, my husband (the conductor) brought some little boxes of juice for a break time. Several kids pushed hard to be first to get their juices. The next rehearsal, my husband spent some time talking about kindness, manners, honesty–well, civility. The week after that, two blushing girls were brought in by their mother. They confessed that they had stolen several juices after class, to be taken home. Their mother had made the girls work to earn money to pay for the juices.
Good for Mom! And afterward, the civility lesson seemed to have taken hold because all the children have behaved with more kindness and courtesy to each other and to the adults.
I would guess that civility, honesty, kindness and accountability are not actively taught in many of my students’ homes. Where these virtues are taught, the students’ behavior brilliantly shows it. And in the many cases where they’re not taught in the home, who’s supposed to teach it?
Seems that it comes down to teachers in classrooms. I know that I spend a good deal of time with direct teaching and also role play and also modeling to teach civility. I absolutely do not allow unkindness or bullying, or rude/lewd behavior, in my art classes at my junior high. Fortunately our school behavior program backs me up with an escalating series of consequences for offenders.
I have noticed, however, that when there are incidents of rudeness or unkindness or lewdness, they often surprise me with how far they cross the line. There has always been such behavior in our society, but our Generation Me society has pushed it far. “Brat” movies and TV shows–the kind that make bratty behavior funny–certainly promote outrageous uncivility, and so do all those ubiquitous reality shows that reward cheating, lying and nasty behavior of the contestants. How can kids who have never been taught kind behavior learn it?
Looks like it comes down to us: teachers in classrooms.