As a dedicated enthusiast for music of all sorts, I have strong preferences for how it ‘should’ be presented. To my mind it’s fine for those on stage to talk a little when they are playing short, popular pieces, but patter’n’perform holds little attraction for me when attending a formal classical concert. Words have their place, but only as an accessible (inexpensive) written programme note.
The Economist Debate which has just finished raises some difficult questions.
The topic under vigorous discussion was This house believes that religion is a force for good. It has consistently been the case however that readers of The Economist hold no such view; throughout the exchange around three quarters of them rejected the proposition in hand.
UK Education Secretary Michael Gove’s proposal for free schools has not thus far been met entirely with enthusiasm; but 16 groups which presented propositions are nonetheless intending to open academies in September 2011.
The rationales offered by those behind the ‘free schools’ are varied, but, The Guardian reports, include
…. the King’s Science Academy, a free school due to open in Bradford, [which] is driven by a vision of liberating inner city children from “ghettoisation”. Sajid Hussain, a science teacher and assistant head who hopes to lead the new secondary school, said: “We hope to teach good manners. We’re looking at a sense of responsibility, social conduct, sitting down and dining. Independent schools are quite good at this kind of stuff.”
What are good manners?
But what are ‘good manners’? What messages do good manners of the sort described here send?
It’s laudable – and virtually universal – that, as Sajid Hussain says, teachers (and parents) should want to provide young people with a sense of responsibility and the social skills to conduct their future lives effectively and decently; but where does positive social competence end and behaviour which excludes others begin?
‘Good manners’ comprise both verbal and non-verbal behaviour. The fundamentals in either instance are however the same. The idea is surely to achieve mutual respect and make communication easier and more comfortable.
Guidelines and principles, or rules?
If ‘good manners’ migrate from general principles of consideration, towards the ‘rules’ of etiquette – a mode which can arise quite easily when applied to activities such as dining (does it actually matter which way peas are attached to your fork?) and which we might infer from the quote above is emphasised by independent schools – things can become rather complex.
At that point ‘social responsibility’ can be lost and the rules of ‘good manners’ can also become ways to exclude those who are not adequately primed.
Are good manners / etiquette sometimes modes of communication intended to create an elite, rather than a way to ensure that everyone can participate equally?
How can the latter be distinguished in learning from the former?
The UK Government and Google have announced an intention to get everyone in the UK on-line by 2012.
To quote The Guardian:
‘The Simple Guide to the Internet is part of the search engine group’s commitment to Race Online 2012, an initiative started by the UK government’s digital inclusion champion, Martha Lane Fox’.
* How will almost universal on-line access best help general communications? What needs to be done next? Will some people still be excluded in significant ways?
Some people see age as a big influence on how we view the world, how we behave, vote and much else.
Others say it’s not our age, but rather our personal contexts and experiences, which shape these things.
Does a person’s (apparent?) age as such generally affect how you interact with them?