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Students: Is Your School Etiquette Up to Snuff?

girl in schoolFor most students, the school year is well underway. Here’s hoping your experience measures up to the standards set by Eleanor Boykin in This Way Please (1940):

“In schools all over the country, students have formed etiquette or good-form clubs.” [Ed. note: How’s your school’s etiquette club going? Thought so.] “It looks as if a new era of courtesy has started with better school manners. Dan Rough-and-Ready, who thinks it funny to poke fellow students on their way to class, to guffaw loudly when someone slips on the assembly platform, and to shuffle noisily into the classroom, will soon be out of the picture.

“Be proud of the ‘front’ your school puts up to the community. This means keeping the grounds free of rubbish. The janitor cannot always be behind you to pick up fruit peelings, lunch wrappers, and the like. You can easily acquire the habit of taking them to a container. Your conduct on entering and leaving the grounds also reflects on the school. Leave for hoodlums the shouting from one block to the next and pushing one another into people’s yards.

“If you rush pell-mell out of a classroom and go bumping down the corridors, you will have to stop several times to apologize for jolts you administer, so what good has violent hurry done you? You have merely advertised the fact that you are lacking in poise.

“It is nearly always the same people who make a last-minute dash for assembly and come in breathlessly to find a seat. This habit of being late grows upon one and is likely to become a social handicap when school days are over. . . . Squirming, whispering, and foot-scraping are labels of the underbred. Try to be interested in the program for your own sake. People who are easily bored and close their minds to ideas and happenings are painfully likely to become boring themselves. Even if you are not entertained, you can at least appear attentive and not disturb those who may be enjoying the proceedings. An outside speaker deserves all the courtesy you can show him, because he is your guest.

“Some of your teachers you will like more than others; but respect yourself enough to respect the position of all of them. An insolent attitude or one of trying to ‘get ahead of teacher’ shows a churlish nature. A teacher may sometimes seem unfair. Be grown-up about it, and ask for a chance to talk it over. Being surly or ‘talking back’ is childish. Calling out ‘Teacher!’ is uncouth. Address any instructor by name, ‘Mr. Sanborn’ or ‘Miss Swain.’ Wild handwaving to attract attention would be sensible if you were stranded on a desert island and saw a boat in the distance, but in the classroom it makes you look rather foolish.

“Ways to make yourself unpopular: Walk about with a superior air as if only a few people were worth your notice. Borrow books, pencils and other articles and never return them. Boast of your grades. Start tales on other students. Be quick to pick a quarrel. Try to run everything you are connected with. Bully your schoolmates, particularly the smaller ones. Break into another’s story with ‘I know what it is’ or ‘You’re wrong.’ Try to get others to do your work for you. Humiliate others by laughing at their mistakes.

“Playing practical jokes is dynamite to popularity. Who can feel at ease with one who is likely to get him to sit on a thumbtack or slip a dead snake in his pocket?

And finally, “Don’t make yourself the butt of jokes around school by a too apparent devotion to a Certain Person. Romance loses some of its charm–like the banana in the refrigerator-under the cool gaze of unromantic observers.”

How does your school (or your child’s school) compare to this 1940s ideal? Better? Worse? Or just different?

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