Monday, October 17, 2005

AP Reports: Americans Are Rude... And Vain!

Busy, Busy, busy with the Chagim so not much time to blog... but I did read two very noteworthy articles about America in the past week. The first one is for all those of you out there that call Israelis rude. Well it seems America is not doing all that great itself lately in the manners department. And guess what – it’s only going to get worse!

The second article I just had to post because of the wording of letter quoted in it about “the flaunting of affluence, assuming exaggerated expenses, a pursuit of vanity for vanity's sake - in a word, financial decadence.” And no he wasn’t talking about Jewish Brooklyn – though he might as well have been...


Modern Americans: A rude, boorish lot?
WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans' fast-paced, high-tech existence has taken a toll on the civil in society.

From road rage in the morning commute to high decibel cell-phone conversations that ruin dinner out, men and women behaving badly has become the hallmark of a hurry-up world. An increasing informality — flip-flops at the White House, even — combined with self-absorbed communication gadgets and a demand for instant gratification have strained common courtesies to the breaking point. (Related: Poll results)

"All of these things lead to a world with more stress, more chances for people to be rude to each other," said Peter Post, a descendent of etiquette expert Emily Post and an instructor on business manners through the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt.

In some cases, the harried single parent has replaced the traditional nuclear family and there's little time to teach the basics of polite living, let alone how to hold a knife and fork, according to Post.
A slippage in manners is obvious to many Americans. Nearly 70% questioned in an Associated Press-Ipsos poll said people are ruder than they were 20 or 30 years ago. The trend is noticed in large and small places alike, although more urban people report bad manners, 74%, then do people in rural areas, 67%.

Peggy Newfield, founder and president of Personal Best, said the generation that came of age in the times-a-changin' 1960s and 1970s are now parents who don't stress the importance of manners, such as opening a door for a female.
So it was no surprise to Newfield that those children wouldn't understand how impolite it was to wear flip-flops to a White House meeting with the president — as some members of the Northwestern women's lacrosse team did in the summer.
A whopping 93% in the AP-Ipsos poll faulted parents for failing to teach their children well.

"Parents are very much to blame," said Newfield, whose Atlanta-based company started teaching etiquette to young people and now focuses on corporate employees. "And the media."

Sulking athletes and boorish celebrities grab the headlines while television and Hollywood often glorify crude behavior.

"It's not like the old shows Father Knows Best," said Norm Demers, 47, of Sutton, Mass. "People just copy it. How do you change it?" Demers would like to see more family friendly television but isn't holding his breath.

Nearly everyone has a story of the rude or the crude, but fewer are willing to fess up to boorish behavior themselves.

Only 13% in the poll would admit to making an obscene gesture while driving; only 8% said they had used their cellphones in a loud or annoying manner around others. But 37% in the survey of 1,001 adults questioned Aug. 22-23 said they had used a swear word in public.

Yvette Sienkiewicz, 41, a claims adjustor from Wilmington, Del., recalled in frustration how a bigger boy cut in front of her 8-year-old son as he waited in line to play a game at the local Chuck E. Cheese.

"It wasn't my thing to say something to the little boy," said Sienkiewicz, who remembered that the adult accompanying the child never acknowledged what he had done. In the AP-Ipsos poll, 38% said they have asked someone to stop behaving rudely.
More and more, manners are taught less and less.

Carole Krohn, 71, a retired school bus driver in Deer Park, Wash., said she has seen children's behavior deteriorate over the years, including one time when a boy tossed a snowball at the back of another driver's head. In this litigious society, she argued, a grown-up risks trouble correcting someone else's kid.

One solution for bad behavior "is to put a kid off in the middle of the road. Nowadays all people want to do is sue, to say you're to blame, get you fired," Krohn said.

Krohn, who often greeted students by name and with a hearty "good morning," once was asked by a child if she got tired of offering pleasantries.

Sienkiewicz, whose job requires hours in a car, said she tries to avoid rush-hour traffic because of drivers with a me-first attitude. The most common complaint about rudeness in the poll was aggressive or reckless driving, with 91% citing it as the most frequent discourtesy.

Margaret Hahn-Dupont, a 39-year-old law professor from Oradell, N.J., noticed that some of her students showed little respect for authority and felt free to express their discontent and demand better grades.

Close on the heels of the baby boomers are the affluent teens and young adults who have known nothing but the conveniences of computers and cellphones, devices that take them away from face-to-face encounters and can be downright annoying in a crowd.
"They got a lot of things and feel entitled to get a lot of things," said Hahn-Dupont.

Bernard F. Scanlon, 79, of Sayville, N.Y., would like to see one railroad car set aside for cellphone users to ensure peace and quiet for the rest. Amtrak has taken a stab at that by banning cellphones and other loud devices in one car of some trains, especially on chatty Northeast and West Coast routes.

But if those trains are sold out, the Quiet Car service is suspended and anything goes.

How rude.

---

L.I. Principal Nixes School's Senior Prom

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) -- Brother Kenneth M. Hoagland had heard all the stories about prom-night debauchery at his Long Island high school: Students putting down $10,000 to rent a party house in the Hamptons. Pre-prom cocktail parties followed by a trip to the dance in a liquor-loaded limo. Fathers chartering a boat for their children's late-night "booze cruise."

Enough was enough, Hoagland said. So the principal of Kellenberg Memorial High School canceled the spring prom in a 2,000-word letter to parents this fall.

"It is not primarily the sex/booze/drugs that surround this event, as problematic as they might be; it is rather the flaunting of affluence, assuming exaggerated expenses, a pursuit of vanity for vanity's sake _ in a word, financial decadence," Hoagland said, fed up with what he called the "bacchanalian aspects."

"Each year it gets worse _ becomes more exaggerated, more expensive, more emotionally traumatic," he added. "We are withdrawing from the battle and allowing the parents full responsibility. (Kellenberg) is willing to sponsor a prom, but not an orgy."

The move brought a mixed, albeit passionate, reaction from students and parents at the Roman Catholic school, which is owned by the Society of Mary (Marianists), a religious order of priests and brothers.

"I don't think it's fair, obviously, that they canceled prom," said senior Alyssa Johnson of Westbury. "There are problems with the prom, but I don't think their reasons or the actions they took solved anything."

Hoagland began talking about the future of the prom last spring after 46 Kellenberg seniors made a $10,000 down payment on a $20,000 rental in the Hamptons for a post-prom party. When school officials found out, they forced the students to cancel the deal; the kids got their money back and the prom went on as planned.

But some parents went ahead and rented a Hamptons house anyway, Hoagland said.

Amy Best, an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at George Mason University in Virginia and the author of "Prom Night: Youth, Schools and Popular Culture," said this is the first time she has heard of a school canceling the prom for such reasons.

"A lot of people have lamented the growing consumption that surrounds the prom," she said, noting it is not uncommon for students to pay $1,000 on the dance and surrounding folderol: expensive dresses, tuxedo rentals, flowers, limousines, pre- and post-prom parties.

Best pinned some of the blame for the burgeoning costs on parents, who are often willing to open their wallets for whatever their child demands. "It is a huge misperception that the kids themselves are totally driving this."

Edward Lawson, the father of a Kellenberg senior, said he and other parents are discussing whether to organize a prom without the sponsorship of the 2,500-student school.

"This is my fourth child to go through Kellenberg and I don't think they have a right to judge what goes on after the prom," he said. "They put everybody in the category of drinkers and drug addicts. I don't believe that's the right thing to do."

Some parents waiting to pick up their children on a recent afternoon said they support Hoagland.

"The school has excellent values," said Margaret Cameron of Plainview. "We send our children here because we support the values and the administration of the school and I totally back everything they do."

Hoagland said in an interview that parents, who pay $6,025 in annual tuition, have expressed appreciation for his stern stand. "For some, it (the letter) was an eye-opener," he said. "Others feel relieved that the pressure is off of them."

Chris Laine, a senior from Rockville Centre, said the cancellation was "unfortunate, but you can't really argue with the facts they present. ... It's just what it's evolved into. It's not what it was 20, 30 or 40 years ago. It's turned into something it wasn't originally intended to be."

Besides, Laine noted, the senior class still has a four-day trip to Disney World scheduled for April.

"We go to all the parks with our friends," he said just before hopping into his jet-black Infiniti and driving off to meet friends for an after-school snack. "We fly down together and stay in the same hotel and so it's not like we're totally losing everything."

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