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Why Are Good Manners Important Essay

Put your napkin on your lap. Keep your elbows off the table. Chew with your mouth closed. Society imparts all sorts of manners for us to follow at the dinner table, and elsewhere.

Are manners important? What should be their ultimate purpose?

In the New York Times Magazine essay “A Manners Manifesto,” Tamar Adler writes:

For 4,000 years, humans have implored one another to mind their manners. I am personally invested in the crusade for two reasons. First, my brother and I were raised by a man who, as a child, was sent from the table hungry if he so much as slouched. At my own table growing up, when we small savages a) failed to put our napkins in our laps; b) ate before everyone was served; c) served ourselves first; d) opened our mouths while chewing; e) moved our forks from the left to the right hand; f) ate with our hands; g) failed to say please, thank you or excuse me; h) put our elbows on the table; i) did not ask permission to stand; or j) failed to eat soup properly (a nearly impossible task, requiring always spooning away, sipping noiselessly while sitting bolt upright, obtaining any final spoonfuls by a discreet tip of the bowl), we were ordered to push back from the table and contemplate our philistinism for several monstrous minutes before we could return, rehabilitated, to try again.

Second, I have always found manners books absorbing and have read all of any age that crossed my path. Like most rules, manners are written from social heights. Many decrees for how (or how not) to do things — to use snail tongs and fish knives, finger bowls and consommé cups and other formalities of fine dining — seem built to keep interlopers out, as part of what Charles William Day, in “Hints on Etiquette and the Usages of Society” (1834), calls “the barrier which society draws around itself as a protection.” Some standards change, like passwords, as soon as they’re no longer secret. Forks had to be switched from left to right hand, until everyone was doing it, and then they had to be held fast in the left one. (Europe went along with the change; the New World, in a streak of rebellion, didn’t.) Hands must be on the table . . . or must be off. Asparagus is finger food until it is fork food. Many of the guidelines are anodyne; but any populist would be justified, scanning the lot, in seeing a system for social segregation, and declaring that none of it matters — and that books on etiquette are useful only to prop up the legs of the kitchen table.

And yet: Throughout history, there have also been good rules, important reminders of things we often forget. …

Students: Read the entire essay, then tell us …

— Are manners important? What should be their ultimate purpose?

— What role do manners play in your family?

— Do you have good manners? Explain.

— Have you been taught any manners you believe are unnecessary, pretentious or simply ostentatious? Are there any manners you think are essential? Describe.


Students 13 and older are invited to comment below. Please use only your first name. For privacy policy reasons, we will not publish student comments that include a last name.

Questions about issues in the news for students 13 and older.

Why Is Good Behaviour Important In School?

Behavior comprises of the mannerisms and actions exhibited by a person. Good manners are not just about following set rules. Relating well with people, hard work, being able to stand up for oneself and others for the right reasons and knowing how to control emotions are also critical. Instilling discipline in children at an early age makes them grow up confident, respectful and knowledgeable of what is right and wrong. Poorly behaved kids not only create bad publicity but also cause a lot of embarrassment.

Every school has rules and regulations. Breaking them seems easy and fun. Many students see getting into trouble frequently as cool, but this is not the case. It takes gut and courage to constantly do what is right amidst negative pressure. Behaving well attracts favor and honor from peers, parents, school staff, even the administration. All this respect boosts self-esteem. Many would settle for leaders with good conduct. Moreover, well-behaved students always have the best recommendations.

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According to Duckworth and Seligman, good character is more integral to good performance as compared to IQ. (M.E.P, 2005). Morals enable one set priorities. Upright students do not permit any distractions. At school, they only focus on one thing; their quest for knowledge. When everyone else is busy trying to look good, they struggle to excel keeping in mind that their time is coming. They channel all their efforts and concentration to their books. Success in later life is commonly attributed to academic prowess. Directly or indirectly, it is evident that behavior influences people’s life outcomes.

Good behavior sets students apart. Everyone else will use you as a point of reference. Parents would wish for their children to behave like you. Your age mates and those younger than you will always try to put themselves in your shoes before making any decision. In case of any problems, they will run to you for counsel and help because your personality has earned their trust. Overwhelming, right? But it is all in good faith.

The whole issue about good behavior in schools may raise different opinions. Some may think that it’s a plot for the administration to be domineering and strict, making everything about learning boring, definite and predictable; but it is not so. Imagine an institution with self- driven learners; all focused on their education, active in all school activities, following all the set rules, engaging their teachers and guardians adequately in their learning process and presenting their grievances confidently through the right channels. What an epic situation! The school will run efficiently, and classes will be very effective as no one will create distractions of any kind. Learning will even be more fun because more benefits and rewards might be introduced.

In as much as school is meant to instill knowledge, it also presents challenges that can only be overcome by wit and wisdom. Being of noble character from a tender age puts you in a better position to solve more and bigger problems that may arise in the future. Wise people remember lessons learned from their past experiences; good or bad and apply them when a need arises.

Emotional intelligence is a strength very few have. Principles of morality are incomplete without it. Attributes such as self-control, perseverance, and sociability are very essential when it comes to relating with others. It is very common to find students fighting just because one of them bad mouthed another, or one hating a math teacher because of a failed test. Knowing where to direct negative anger emotions helps in building and sustaining relationships. Fighting and hating is not a solution. At times silence is the best medicine. Seeking help can contribute to improving grades and even kill the bad attitude.

The society we live in today is quite rotten. Demanding good behavior from students is quite tall order. Some institutions even go as far as giving incentives for students to behave well. How shameful! Ultimately, winning is the game of those with proper conduct.

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