These thoughts are printed on the back cover of a wonderful and useful little treatise titled "The Courtesy Book" that was sent to me by Clayton and Sherry Yost who live in Montezuma, Kan. These folks read my column in the Dodge City Daily Globe and were responding to one of my columns titled, "It's Time to Pull the Plug."
It has long been my contention that acquiring a good, well-rounded education is one of the greatest assets that anyone can attain. Along with that statement I will also add that when it comes to educating students in our nation's schools, it is WHAT we teach them that will determine, in large measure, the success they achieve later in life.
It seems to me that if we do not endeavor to teach respect, manners and courtesy as a foundation, then all the rest of what we do teach them will be compromise. A brilliant snob will not achieve the same measure of success as an average student who has a fine, cooperative attitude and has a deep love and respect for the rights and property of other people.
While I don't know them personally, it's obvious the Yosts are unusual people. “The Courtesy Book” was originally published by the Beckley-Cardy Company of Chicago in 1927. Since the book is out of print, they were able to secure the copyright and have reprinted it. Some time after the reprint, a companion workbook was added and it has been used primarily by private schools across the state of Kansas. The reason these folks wrote to me was to ask for suggestions as to how they might be able to also get it used in the public schools.
Now, I ask you. Do you think we need to teach respect, manners and courtesy in our public schools? This is not to say that we are not already doing this, especially in some schools, but from my 20 years experience working as a consultant with educators, I know they would welcome all the help they can get. “The Courtesy Book” and companion workbook do not constitute a long, boring textbook approach, but rather some basic concepts that can be easily taught and reinforced. Remember, this book was written back in the 1920's so it embodies many of the customs and ideals that were in vogue when life was much simpler and the focus on family was much stronger.
In the book’s foreword, written by Margery Rex of the Los Angeles Evening Herald, she states, "So that, if normal courtesies and conventions of etiquette are not taught at home, it becomes doubly necessary that the school strives to make amends. Else it will happen in the crucible of the schoolroom and playground the mixture of good manners and bad will result in lowering the average rather than raising it. The father and mother first have most influence over the growing child, the school teachers next and thereafter other older persons of distinction and accomplishments. Good manners should be the accompaniment of learning. They deserve to be incorporated as a course of study from kindergarten to university."
In the event that you may be interested in knowing what is in the book, here are a few of the offerings from the table of contents: True Courtesy, Courtesy In Conversation, Family Courtesy, Good Table Manners, Courtesy In An Audience, Courtesy In The Schoolroom, Telephone Courtesy, Real Courtesy Instead of "Put On" Manners, Business Courtesy, Good Taste In Dress, Courtesy To Guests, Courtesy In Visiting, Giving and Replying To Invitations, Courtesy In Shopping, Little Everyday Courtesies and The Courtesy Of Punctuality.
At the end of each chapter there are some "Points To Remember" and I just picked one that is important to all of us: Courtesy In Conversation. Give some thought to these points and I believe you will agree that we would have a much better society if all of us, me included, practiced these things.
1. We must use gentle, quiet tones in speaking.
2. Words must be pronounced correctly and distinctly.
3. People who talk too much are avoided.
4. The courteous person is a good listener.
5. Do not interrupt a person speaking.
6. Never dispute or quarrel.
7. Do not talk too much about yourself.
8. Do not talk about things unknown to some of the company.
If you would like to have one or more copies of these materials, the book sells for $7.95 and the workbook for $4.95, and the Yosts said they would be happy to pay the postage to get these values out to children. Order from Clayton & Sherry Yost, 23904 11 Road, Montezuma KS 67867.
Believe me, when children are courteous and have good manners, it's no accident.
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. He may be contacted at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)