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Thursday, 6 December 2012

My dance card is full and young people will not believe this

Talk about generation gaps. The construction of my society growing up is gone, gone, gone. From education to social manners, to identity as a Catholic sub-culture, we had a security in knowing who we were and where we were going.

Talking with Generation Millennials, I have realized over the past few years that what I had for coursework in 7th and 8th grade they had in high school and what I had in high school they have in college or university. What I had in college or university, they get in graduate school.

Depressing. When I was in high school, schools were divided into "terminal degree" high schools and "college preparatory schools". In the second grouping, the high schools were run on three tracks, and students were placed in this tracking according to their interests and abilities. Terminal degree high schools actually taught a skill, such as welding, accounting or business skills, and things where a student could walk out the door and get a job immediately.

In those days, we knew that people were not created the same. I do not have my high school curriculum in front of me, but it would be similar to this. This would be the top layer, or third track of the college prep school. All girls, by the way----

First year-freshman year
Civics (general and American)
World History first semester; European History second semester
Algebra I and possibly II
Latin I
English Literature-first semester general; second Shakespeare
English Grammar
Religion-Old Testament first semester; New Testament Second
General Science
Extra-Curricular Studies, such as journalism, choir, art
Sport and Gym Class

Second year-sophomore
Ethics (wow)
Latin II
American History first adn second semester; America Government in more detail second as option
English Literature-Essays-including 18th century ones; second semester Poetry including Shakespeare's sonnets and Mystical Poets
Composition first semester; speech and debate second
Biology all year
Geometry I and II
Religion-Church History, both semesters, but staring with a sacraments section
Extra-Curricular studies, such as choir, drama, art or journalism or all
Sport and Gym Class

Third Year-juniors
Advanced Math I and II; either Trig or another option independent studies; Algebra II; some in Pre-Calculus
French I
Religion- great Catholic thinkers; world religions
Contemporary History (usually from WWI to present)
Extra-curricular choices again including Drama class, choir or above
Sport and Gym Class
English Literature of the Modern Age-novels and poetry
(Optional Typing)
(Optional Driver Training)

One also took college entrance tests in junior year for applying for scholarships. We had up to four hours of homework per night. Ask my dad.

Fourth Year-seniors
Independent studies in History
Advanced Math-Calculus
Religion-marriage prep; modern issues such as Vat. II
Physics, optional
French II
English Literature-drama and world drama; debate as advanced options
Extra-curricullar again like drama or choir or aboves
Free time to take college courses for credit
Research skills
Intro to Philosophy
Sport and Gym

We had some choices for sport.

I may be forgetting something. The mathematics classes varied after Geometry. I took Algebra II and my brothers went way ahead of me in Trig, Pre-Calc and Calc. etc. We had options. I was the feature editor of the newspaper and teen editor for the local city newspaper. I did almost everything-choir, drama, etc.  Yes, we had uniforms very similar to those below except we had to wear black or brown shoes--- and no, I was not a cheerleader.

We were allowed to seek excellence.

Ah, social skills. For our first dances, we had little booklets on which to write who was dancing which dance with us. They had little ribbons so that we could wear them around our wrist and there is a photo of a young girl with one. We called them dance cards. In my Grandmothers' days, these were silver and gold. 

This custom is where the phrases, "pencil me in" comes from....and "my dance card is full."

We had formal and informal dances. We had teas. We had picnics which were planned. We did not have much fast-food. Pizza Hut opened in my home town when I was 16. That was where I went on my first date, with the neighbour boy and his friend who tagged along. I remember exactly what I wore-a white top with large black polka dots and a black skirt;  and the date: January 1, 1965. I turned 16 two days later. My parents had known the parents of that boy since before I was born, and we played together even as toddlers. Still, permission had to be sought and granted. That was how the culture was disciplined and set. It was all very comforting. There was no stress as most people in those stratifications has so much in common to make such socializing relaxed. And, we had no idea about sex. We could just be ourselves, and learn to use our manners, and wait.

Manners helped us, as well as the truly Christian character of the culture at the time. 

The list, taken from the website below, is what we learned naturally in all of these events. We even learned sports etiquette. We went roller skating and ice skating. We played foursomes in tennis. We did not go shopping for fun. That was not done then. One shopped with one's mom. Two of my girls friends had to go shopping with their dad, as he had to approve their clothes. He was an Italian dad. My dad would not be caught dead in a ladies' shop. Good thing, too.

  • First impressions
  • Introductions
  • Greeting and shaking hands
  • Paying and receiving compliments
  • Correspondence
  • Telephone manners
  • Family dining
  • Table manners
  • Polite conversation
  • When to rise
  • Doors and coats
  • Sports etiquette
  • Formal dining
  • Party courtesies
  • Hosting a party
  • Receiving lines
  • Eating unusual foods
  • Instructional dinners

  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Promise keeping
  • Fidelity
  • Caring
  • Respect
  • Citizenship
  • Excellence
  • Accountability
  • Handling peer pressure

All the dances had adults present: the nuns and our parents were chaperones. Sometimes the priests came for a short while. All the parents knew all the other parents in your track, mostly. Dating was strictly controlled by parents. Boys were very polite. My dad reminds me of the Friday night I had one young man at the front day, one at the back door, and one on the phone. I was not that popular. I had a pink Princess phone and a turquoise blue transistor radio with a matching leather case--trendy.  We had plays, concerts, football, basketball, track, wrestling, and all kinds of things. We had cotillions to go to and strict rules on dating regarding times and frequency. We did things in groups. We sang when we went out in groups. We dated in order to find a mate. Mom and Dad were part of the process of dating.

We were also in clubs, such as journalism club, debate club, speech club, YCS, sacristy club, volunteer clubs, tennis clubs, dance clubs, (NOT clubbing), and so on.

We learned how to organize groups and share information. We learned how to become adults. We wanted to grow up.

We had fun. But, things were to change quickly. This was an age of transition. However, the manners lasted well into the eighties in the Mid-West and in England.

I have found an organization on line for teaching children social manners and some character building. Why don't Catholic parents do something similar?


Anita Moore said...

Boy is this the truth. Things were already beginning to deteriorate when I was growing up in the '70s, but they were still vastly better than they are now. Working in the courts, I see that very few people are able to distinguish between formal and informal occasions, or between business and social relationships. People do not dress appropriately for court; they clearly do not have a sense of the place or the occasion. So help me, I see adults at the courthouse dressed in pajamas. People address me as they would one of their pals at the local bar. People are very rude on the telephone; for that matter, they are very rude to my face. It is rare that I have a client who dresses appropriately and addresses me with courtesy. The other day, I had a client who actually rose to his feet whenever I walked into the little conference room we were discussing his case in, and I about fell over.

Once again, we come back to the problem of fatherless families and concubinage, which I think is the primary proximate cause of this decadence. I think most people who lack manners these days have simply never had anybody to teach them. Many of my clients grew up in homes where the adults in their lives were totally irresponsible, and so they have had nobody to teach them to be grownups. Like children, they are imbued with selfishness and a sense of entitlement, and they are stuck that way for lack of teachers and good examples.

So what can I do with my wayward clients? Not much, but I do what I can. I address them formally, using a title and a last name; I keep them focused on business; I do not tolerate rude behavior; I pull goof-offs and people who are full of it up short; I remind the men to take their hats off in the courtroom; I make them sit up straight in front of the judge and say "Yes, Your Honor," or "No, Your Honor" instead of "Yeah" and "Nah"; I remind them to show up to court dressed like a citizen, clean and neat, especially if they are going to appear in front of a jury. God forgive me for the times I have not lived up to my own standards and thus been a bad example to those whose lives are already full of bad examples.

El Gato said...

Thanks for posting this...most of my classmates have no manners in grad school. I generally get along better with some of the older professors. I am very thankful that my parents and my church taught me manners.

Winston Churchill said...

With all due respect and to quote the great Winston Churchill, "If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future." The past sounds like a great time but we can't talk about the good ole days cause those kids became adults and responsible for our problems today. It sounds like their still kids because most blame everyone but themselves. Responsibility is an adult courtesy and we need to be responsible for all our actions..

Supertradmum said...

Winston, this is why I put the link at the end of this post. I do think parents can change their children NOW. We have the means with children at home to change at least their groups. This is one reason why I home schooled.

I think the discussion is worth it for the one reason that parents and grandparents can help their children become holy. If we are not mannerly, we are not holy, and that is part of this post. Read what Anita is doing to help.

If you have children, click on the link and do not tolerate stupidity or rudeness. It we are not part of a solution, we are part of the problem. Children need to learn from teachers, family and any other adults. I know a gentleman who learned how to act from his uncle.

Supertradmum said...

Anita, I respect highly your efforts. It must be hard. When I was teaching college, I could ask for a certain behaviour in classes and got it.

I taught, for a brief time, in two expensive Catholic private high schools. The problems were not the kids, but the parents...Catholic barbarians.

Bill Meyer said...

Supertradmum, as we have discussed before, John Dewey's fingerprints are all over the declining standards of education in America. I was raised in a very small town (1,200), and my high school curriculum was similar to your list. I did not have the opportunity to take Latin, however, as Dr. Smith had died a year or two before I got to that age. (His hobby was translating the Odyssey from Greek to Gaelic!)

I was raised by parents who did not talk down to me. We were expected to eat at the table together, and to display good manners. If we wished to speak at dinner, we were expected to have something thoughtful to offer, not mere noise to fill the air.

But the country in which I was raised is long gone, and we are left with the chaos of today.

Nonetheless, I dress properly for Mass, and insist upon basic courtesy in my own home. I am appalled when I hear someone address, or refer to, a priest by his given name alone. I was taught to extend basic respect to all, and honor to those in professions, whether men and women of the cloth, or secular professionals.

In that small town of my youth, there was neither Catholic Church nor school; I attended a public school, and unlike those of today, there was discipline in the classroom. My parents taught us that if we were punished at school, we were free to raise the issue at home, but night only achieve a second round of punishment. When we visited the homes of friends, their parents were to be respected as we would our own--and obeyed, as well.

As I realized years ago, courtesy is a thin veneer, but is singularly responsible for much of what we would consider civilization. Where courtesy is lost, so is the latter.

Supertradmum said...

Bill, and you have passed it on the new generation, which is your legacy. God bless you. We all can do something small, if only by example.

Supertradmum said...

One young person says she cannot understand this age....she is in her early twenties