During the early 20th century, readers consulted author Emily Post to understand proper social conduct.
Young adults turned the thin leaves of her massive book Etiquette, yearning to unfold cultured truths. Post distinguished the dessert from the dinner fork, and she made manners a household word.
Post addressed current social issues, such as how to dress up or down for specific outings. Although most of her advice remained practical, she also taught the general principals of kindness.
Aside from writing about what some may consider trifles, she wrote that proper etiquette applies to all members of society.
“The best society is not a fellowship of the wealthy, nor does it seek to exclude those who are not of exalted birth; but it is an association of gentle-folk, of which good form in speech, charm of manner, knowledge of the social amenities, and instinctive consideration of the feelings of others are the credentials…,” writes Post.
Post wasn’t the first to realize the importance of a bow tie or tails in formal evening wear, nor did she invent etiquette. For that, society owes the French.
Etiquette began in Versailles, France during the reign of King Louis XIV. When the master gardener noticed intruders trampling newly seeded lawns, he displayed warning signs, or tickets, signaling trespassers to “Keep off the grass!”
These tickets were termed “etiquettes” in French. The Versailles gardener complained to the king about those disregarding etiquettes repeatedly, so the King issued an edict commanding everyone to “keep within the etiquettes.”
Eventually, the term took on a broader meaning applying to anything considered appropriate or civilized.
Attending community college classes is an excellent opportunity to observe behavior similar to trespassers and kings. Someone may witness the best and worst of times.
For example, the dangers of speeding drivers may be observed in the parking lot. While crossing the street, many have the societal expectation that others maintain an interest in preserving their lives. Life preservation is less likely when a person drives 10 to 20 mph above the speed limit. This behavior forces people to question if those speeding take preserving the lives of others into consideration. In a civilized society, people should never be forced to question fellow college attendees in such a manner. Speeding through a parking lot may be a faux pas and can also earn the offender a “ticket.”
Although making it to class on time is important, perhaps society needs the reminder that life is of greater importance.
In contrast, someone may observe the benefits of mannered behaviors.
Although challenges exist in every human interaction, society members have a duty to uphold ethical treatment of others. These ethical behaviors may also be observed on the college campus.
For example, some professors treat students with equality and respect. This is a significant benefit to the college community. It’s an example to all and may be a saving grace for others.
As an illustration of the benefits of this behavior, consider the following story. (Names have been changed to protect individual identities.)
Daphne grew up in a family that lacked the best amenities in life. She moved from town to town without forming any connections. Perpetually, she traveled to and fro, never arriving in a place like home, and her early adult life was much the same.
She came to Pierce College after leaving an unhealthy relationship, in which she was told that she would never amount to anything.
Daphne met professor Knightly, who treated her as an equal. The professor believed in her, encouraged her and taught her the value of respect for people of all colors, meaning diversity.
The important point is that Daphne always felt colored, but professor Knightly reminded her of her own intrinsic value. Professor Knightly taught Daphne this through her kind treatment of others.
Because of this, Daphne’s confidence grew, and she began to succeed. The more she succeeded, the more she realized that she could experience accomplishments that seemed previously unavailable to her. Professor Knightly’s etiquette changed Daphne’s life in a very real way.
Sometimes, a person’s manners can push someone forward into achieving a lifelong dream.
It’s important for all campus members to consider how their own manners may have dramatic impact on individual lives. Success depends on it.
Post’s legacy continues in those who revisit the days of refined civility through reflection. Pause and channel her spirit through the quill of a dainty feathered pen, and estimate the value of good manners. Remember to place benevolence as a priority in the collegiate experience.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost
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