Teaching Good Manners in Schools

by Laura Kreymborg and Michelle Lee


1 Introduction and Definitions

Manners (and etiquette) are terms used to describe polite social behaviour. Manners are encompassed within society’s beliefs, morals and values. Manners help people to get along with each other and help people to conform to social norms. Norms can be defined as the rules to which good and bad behaviour is determined and tell us what we should or shouldn’t do (Wadham, Pudsey & Boyd, 2007, p11).

Teaching good manners in schools has always been a widely debated topic. Manners serve a practical purpose in life and good manners play a part in co-operation which is important in schools. Experts concur that teaching children good manners will help them become better adults, increase self-esteem and self-confidence in social situations and further their academic and job prospects (Waytiuk, 2001; Williams, 2006, cited in Starr, 2006).

                               Friends and good manners will carry you where money won't go.
                                                             Margaret Walker (1915-1998) US poet, novelist, & journalist.

Manner: A way in which something is done or happens; a person’s outward bearing or way of behaving towards others.
Etiquette: The code of polite behaviour in a society.
Morals: Standards of behaviour, or principles of right and wrong behaviour and the goodness or badness of human character.
Values: Principles or standards of behaviour.
Civility: Politeness and courtesy.
Civilisation: An advanced stage or system of human social development; a civilised nation or region.
Society: The aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community; . A particular community of people living in a country or region, and having shared customs, laws, and organisations.
Sociology: The study of development, structure and functioning of human society.
(Reference: Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2007)

2 History and Significance

Early civility came about to help people get along and to live together harmoniously. The famous German sociologist, Norbert Elias, described the process through which emerging standards of self-control were internalised as the ‘civilising process’ (Elias, 1978, cited in Wadham, Pudsey & Boyd, 2007, p 111). Manners are used to ensure appropriate social relationships amongst people and to develop a form of equality (Hemphill, 1999). Manners are a way of showing 'civility' - a way of communicating respect for other people. Billante and Saunders (2002) advocate teaching manners in schools as they see schools as having a direct impact on the “socialisation of each new generation”. More importantly, they draw attention to the fact that “many countries already use the education system explicitly to transmit the core values, norms and beliefs that are taken to define social membership and the civil obligations that go with it” (Billante and Saunders, 2002).

A 'Good Manners Chart' was introduced into schools in Queensland in 1898 by the Department of Public Instruction as part of the systematic teaching of conduct and manners. 'Conduct and Manners' lessons were taught and the teacher would use the chart as part of the lesson. Children were required to recite the rules and then put them into practice during class time and also in the playground. This chart continued to be used in Queensland schools until the 1960's. Good Manners Chart

New technologies are emerging that are changing the way the world communicates – internet, email, mobile phones, text messaging – and this has reduced face-to-face communication amongst people. Today’s media reports on manners all mention that manners are on the decline. Debate continues as to whether the responsibility of teaching manners lies with parents or with educators. Some teachers argue that the responsibility to teach manners should rest with parents from the time a child is born whilst others believe that schools should pick up the responsibility especially when manners aren’t taught at home (Cowgill and Hollinbeck, 2006). John Horvat II (2005) says that the significance and importance of including manners in schooling is dependant on how we view teaching. If education and teachers are simply to impart knowledge, then manners should not be included within schools, but, if “education involves the formation of the whole character in addition to imparting knowledge, then we must enthusiastically endorse manners as something that has an enormous educational importance” (Horvat II, undated). Every student contains manners to some extent in their virtual school bag meaning manners, whether good or bad, are taught at home by parents when children are babies (Hollinbeck and Cowgill, 2006).

Wadham, Pudsey & Boyd (2007, p. 76) states:
Hidden Curriculum – the social learning that occurs within the education system and which is not an official part of the curriculum. This involves learning a large range of social conventions, learning about one’s particular role in the social hierarchy, and the expectations that follow from this.”

Teaching manners in schools can occur through the hidden curriculum when teachers lead by example and set the standard for good behaviour in their classrooms (Mann, 1998). Mann writes that “teachers are supposed to be the models of the best our society has to offer”. The explicit teaching of manners in classrooms has declined due to increased demands on the curriculum and teaching time. The significance of manners in schooling is not so much them being taught through an academic subject, but teaching manners on a daily basis through student behaviour expectations (Hollinbeck and Cowgill, 2006). As Jeanne Sather (undated) says: “It’s clear that manners are best taught by modeling in daily life, rather than by separating them out as something special.” Therefore the significance of teaching manners is not to single manners out but rather incorporating them into all aspects of schooling and life. The Australian Government has implemented a National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools (‘Values Education for Australian Schooling’, 2005),which places an importance on the teaching of values (including manners) and ensures that all Australian schools will implement this into their everyday teaching.

3 Academic Review

Cowgill, C., & Hollinbeck K. (2006), 'Is Teaching Manners a Good Use of Classroom Time?', NEA Today, Vol. 25, Iss. 3, pg. 43. Available: ProQuest Education Journals [http://proquest.umi.com.ezproxy.flinders.edu.au/pqdweb?index=0&did=1151862401&SrchMode=1&sid=1&Fmt=3&VInst=PROD&VType=PQD&RQT=309&VName=PQD&TS=1176946642&clientId=20831]

In a commentary style, Kirk Hollinbeck and Carolyn Cowgill debate the topic of teaching manners in schools. Both authors give differing opinions on whether teaching manners is a good use of classroom time.

Hollinbeck, a year four teacher at Procter Elementary in Independence, Missouri says it is the responsibility of the school and teacher to provide the teaching of manners when it does not occur at home. He does this by incorporating this teaching into his student behaviour expectations. His view is summed up in a question: “Do you prefer adults who are polite or rude?”

In contrast, Cowgill, a retired teacher from Central Bucks School District in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, disagrees with Hollinbeck saying that “school is a social experience”. Cowgill believes it is not the teacher's responsibility to teach manners, but rather it is their job to reinforce good manners, which should be taught by parents. Her reasoning for this is that each child is born into a different culture with varying views on manners and therefore it is best for the parents to teach good manners before the child starts school, then when arriving at school students “have a basis for observing their classmates and teachers and adapting to appropriate classroom manners”.

Both authors have a differing yet similar opinion. The two opinions are from a sociological point of view as they are referring to interaction with others, learning from parents, relatives and culture. Although they both agree that manners are used in schools, they disagree that manners should be taught formally. Hollinbeck focuses only on teaching manners in school itself without considering other factors outside the classroom whereas Cowgill takes on a more social approach including family and different cultures. Both arguments are valid and their opinions and solutions seem to work in conjunction with one another as Cowgill says teaching “basic manners [should not be] formal curriculum,” however through incorporating good manners within student behaviour expectations, good manners are taught and reinforced to students.

4 Media Analysis

Maiden, S. (2006), ‘Bishop’s Guide to Manners’, The Australian, 7 November, pp. 1-2, accessed 12 April 2007, available from http://www.amatterofstyle.com.au/Company/NewsArchive/Bishops%20Guide.html

Samantha Maiden, Political Correspondent writes on a speech delivered by Federal Education Minister, Julie Bishop regarding a decline in civility and good manners. In her speech, Ms Bishop draws attention to a perceived decline in civility in Australia. Citing many examples that point towards a “less-than-desirable level of civility”, Ms Bishop indicates a need for greater emphasis on teaching manners in schools. Ms Bishop emphasises that teaching manners does begin at home but that our schools “should have a duty, to champion a sense of civility, good manners, tolerance and respect in their students”. Reference is made in the article to NSW magistrate Pat O'Shane who dismissed a case of swearing at police, citing a doubt “there is such a thing as community standards any more”. Ms Bishop argues strongly against O'Shane's comments whilst indicating the importance of civility as a “refection of respect for other people in general”.

Ms Bishop's comments are straightforward and precise. Her comments are from a more conservative approach against the modern era and she does not allow any room for excuses to be made by the offending people. Although not directly attacking parents, Ms Bishop does find room in her speech to get across a point of view that “Governments can never replace parents” and that it is the “responsibility of Governments to assist parents” and that “manners should begin at home”. Ms Bishop does however highlight a strong desire and expectation that schools provide the necessary opportunity for building a civilised society by “reinforcing community standards and common values”.

Kleinig, X. (2007), 'Teacher’s Plea – Don’t Dump it all on Us', The Advertiser, 27 March, p. 1.

The Advertiser newspaper’s Education reporter, Xanthe Kleinig, reported on concerns by a key principals group that primary schools are being overloaded with hidden curriculum issues such as teaching moral values and serving nutritious meals. The Australian Primary Principals Association represents about 7000 school principals within Australia from government, independent and Catholic schools. The Association’s president, Ms Leonie Trimper expressed concern that many of the issues that schools are being required to deal with should be the responsibility of parents. The Association feels that these issues are placing additional pressures on the curriculum and that schools are struggling to cope with the extra resources and funding required to implement them. The Association recommended a charter be developed for primary education to outline subjects to be taught and the resources required to teach those subjects. Many of the issues raised by Ms Trimper appear to relate to the ‘hidden curriculum’ (Wadham, Pudsey & Boyd, 2007) that is taught in schools.

The article clearly expresses the concerns of the Association and the effects of such pressure on teachers and the schools. Support is further gathered by adding Federal Education Minister, Julie Bishop’s comments into the debate. Ms Bishop adds “….there is an urgent need to de-clutter the curriculum and allow teachers to do their job.” The article is somewhat biased as it merely represents the concerns of the Association and Ms Bishop without providing an opportunity for parents or persons outside of the education or government systems to provide comment.

Cornes, N. (2007), 'Who’s Raising Our Children?, The Sunday Mail, 1 April, p. 1.

Sunday Mail columnist, Nicole Cornes, responded to the Advertiser’s article and Ms Trimper’s comments implying parents were shirking their responsibilities as parents. In her column, Cornes suggests there is some merit in what the Association suggests given the seemingly increasing amount of time today’s children spend in the care of schools and childcare centres. Cornes goes on to discuss that the “onus of care is always on the mother” and she is quick to defend working mothers and single parents. Cornes does however attribute that increased working hours of parents has led to much of the responsibility for children’s social learning being left to teachers which echoes the sentiments of Waytiuk (2001). Cornes attempts to show no biases by encompassing points of view from all key stakeholders – parents, educators and children – and holding society accountable by requiring it to “re-evaluate what it wants”. Her point of view is best summed up by her final comments: “No parent is perfect, nor are teachers. So who would you prefer to instil moral and social values into your child?”

5 Websites

http://www.education-world.com/a_curr/curr232.shtml - Article by Joan Luddy about respect coming from good manners. The article addresses why it is important to spend time on manners and gives examples of how manners can be taught through schools. In addition, the website provides links to resources for teaching manners. It also includes songs that students can learn about manners!

http://www.rudebusters.com/etikid.htm - A website containing links to articles written by parenting experts on children's etiquette. Their articles consist of tips, answers and guidelines on many different aspects of manners.

http://www.thefamilycorner.com/parenting/growingpains/4.shtml - Article by author Elizabeth Pantley. The article provides advice and pointers on how to teach a child good manners. All the pointers focus on teaching children manners in a positive way that will encourage children to use good manners in their lives.

http://www.mannersmatterusa.com/ - A website that provides manners and etiquette training kits for children aged 3 to 12. There are two kits available for purchase. Each kit contains an instruction manual with detailed lesson plans and a master file for reproducing worksheets and other relevant materials.

http://www.valueseducation.edu.au/values/default.asp?id=8655 - This is the Values Education for Australian Schooling website. The Australian Government has implemented a National Framework for Values Education in Australian Schools and this website enables Australian school communities to find out more about the Government's Values Education Initiatives. It provides professional learning resources, key publications including the 'Nine Values for Australian Schooling Poster' and 'What's new' publication updates.

http://www.friendlyschools.com.au/about.php - Friendly Schools and Families - A Bullying Reduction Program for Schools website. The Program is an evidence based program that aims to reduce bullying in schools and provide schools with the necessary resources to assist with the issue of bullying. The program requires a whole-community approach involving teaching and non-teaching staff, students, parents and members of the community. Whole school or classroom packs are available and they contain handbooks which outline skills and strategies to combat bullying. The modules explore issues such as bullying, friendship and values including manners.

6 References

Billante, N., & Saunders, P. (2002), 'Why Civility Matters', Policy, Spring 2002, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 32-36, accessed 12 April 2007, available http://www.cis.org.au/Policy/Spring02/polspring02-6.htm

Cornes, N. (2007), ‘Who’s Raising Our Children?, The Sunday Mail, 1 April, p. 1.

Cowgill, C., & Hollinbeck K. (2006), 'Is Teaching Manners a Good Use of Classroom Time?', NEA Today, Washington: November 2006, Vol. 25, Iss. 3, pg. 43, accessed 10 April 2007, available from ProQuest Education Journals (through Flinders Online Services).

Good Manners Chart (2006), Queensland Government, Department of Education, Training and the Arts, accessed 12 April 2007, available from http://education.qld.gov.au/information/service/libraries/edhistory/topics/manners.html

Hemphill, C.D. (1999), 'Bowing to Necessities: A History of Manners in America, 1620-1860', New York: Oxford University Press, accessed 17 April 2007, available from ProQuest Education Journals (through Flinders Online Services)

Hill, S., & Hill, T. (1990), The Collaborative Classroom, Eleanor Curtain Publishing, South Yarra.

Horvat II, J. (Undated), ‘Tradition, Family and Property, The Educational Importance of Manners’, accessed 4 April 2007, available http://www.tfp.org/TFPForum/Tendential_Revolution/educational_importance_of_manners.htm

Kleinig, X. (2007), ‘Teacher’s Plea – Don’t Dump it all on Us’, The Advertiser, 27 March, p. 1.

Maiden, S. (2006), ‘Bishop’s Guide to Manners’, The Australian, 7 November 2006, viewed 12 April 2007, available from http://www.amatterofstyle.com.au/Company/NewsArchive/Bishops%20Guide.html

Mann, T. (1998), ‘Mind Your Manners’, Teaching Pre K – 8, Norwalk: Mar 1998, Vol. 28, Iss. 6, p. 16, accessed 9 April 2007, available from ProQuest Education Journals (through Flinders Online Services).

Robson, G. (2007), ‘Manners Should be a Subject’, Joondalup Times, News Ltd, 25 January, viewed 14 April 2007.

Sather, J. (Undated), 'Do Manners Matter? Teaching Manners at Home and at School', MSN Encarta, accessed 10 April 2007, available from http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/departments/elementary/default.aspx?article=manners

Starr, L. (2006), ‘Do Good Manners Contribute to Academic Success?’, Education World, accessed on 9 April 2007, available from http://www.educationworld.com/a_issues/chat/chat134.shtml

'Values Education for Australian Schooling’ (2005), Department of Education, Science and Training, accessed 16 April 2007, available from http://www.valueseducation.edu.au/values/

Wadham, B., Pudsey, J., & Boyd, R. (2007), Culture and Education (1st ed.), French Forest, NSW: Pearson Education Australia

Walker, M. (1966), 'Jubilee, 1966', MSN Encarta, accessed 10 April 2007, available from http://encarta.msn.com/quote_1861518080/Friends_Friends_and_good_manners_will.html

Waytiuk, J. (2001), ‘A Well-mannered class: kids learn to mind their p’s and q’s at etiquette school’, Today’s Parent, Toronto: Aug 2001, Vol. 18, Iss. 7, p. 47, accessed 28 March 2007, available from ProQuest Education Journals (through Flinders Online Services).

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