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From the Kitchen Table


What Ever Happened to Polite?

by Peg Luksik
 

Whatever happened to polite?

Many high schools across our nation are now having seminars for parents on how to behave at the sporting events of their children. Referees are having obscenities screamed at them from the stands, adults are arguing and punching each other during and after games, coaches are being publicly berated and threatened, and the children themselves are being called nasty names by spectators while playing their particular sport.

State departments of transportation are now conducting seminars to help adults control a phenomenon called road rage, where drivers not only scream at anyone who gets in their way or moves too slowly, but use their cars as weapons to run those who have so offended them off the road.

While American society was never perfect, such seminars were nonexistent a generation ago. Adults did not need to attend a seminar to learn to behave in a fashion that used to be called "polite".

It wasn't that people didn't get angry or frustrated. They did. But they had learned that feeling a hostile emotion did not mean that a person was allowed to express that hostility. There were standards of conduct which were considered civilized, and part of the journey to adulthood involved acquiring those standards and abiding by them.

But education changed. And instead of acknowledging that people do occasionally feel negative emotions, and focusing on giving children the skills to control the impulses that such feelings generate, our schools attempted to "put children in touch with their feelings" in the belief that this process would somehow result in the elimination of the negative ones.

Instead of acknowledging that one may intensely dislike the person sitting next to him, and focusing on the fact that this dislike did not entitle one to ignore, belittle, insult, or assault the other, our schools tried to make the feelings of dislike disappear. They didn't. And the lesson that feelings should not always translate into behavior was lost in the shuffle.

Instead of acknowledging that no one is excellent at everything, and then focusing on teaching students on how to deal constructively with the frustration and envy and anger that come when someone else gets the desired recognition, award, or promotion, our schools implemented programs that told every student that he or she was always wonderful. So when the world didn't recognize his "wonderfulness", the student had no skills to deal with the negative feelings that erupted.

That generation of students has now reached adulthood. They were never taught that they will always feel negative emotions, such as anger, frustration, resentment, impatience, and hostility. They were never taught that they are responsible to control the behaviors that those negative emotions can generate. And we are seeing the result of that lack of realistic education.
It used to be that we were told that we were all sinners, but that we could choose not to sin today. So education acknowledged that negative feelings will always exist, and focused its efforts on teaching behavioral self-control.

It's truly ridiculous that we are now spending a fortune in adult seminars to attempt to educate grown-ups to learn what elementary teachers used to call "Being Polite".


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