H O W A R D   U N I V E R S I T Y

Faces & Voices 5
An Anthology
of Verse and Prose

the Composition
for Honours Class,
Howard University,

E. R. B

Faces & Voices 4


Is Civility Dead?
By Tracy Hunter
      As American society has sought to discover different characteristics which uniquely define each new generation, they have overlooked the changing face of civility. I remember walking into my Language Arts class my first day as a sixth grade student. “You will address me with ‘Yes Ma’am, No Ma’am,’ ‘Yes Mrs. Gary, No Mrs. Gary,’ or ‘Yes Mrs. G., No Mrs. G.’,” said my new teacher. I must have looked at this woman as if she had lost her mind. Who was she to tell me that I had to address her in that manner? I didn’t even extend that type of communication to my own parents. That didn’t mean that I disrespected them, I was just never required to address them in that way. Now, if we talk about the way in which my parents addressed their parents, then we would have a different story.
      I do indeed believe that civility begins in the home, and as parents begin to extend more freedom in that area, it is the American society as a whole that suffers. When one speaks of the “Golden 50s,” when civility was supposed to be at a peak, parents were not afraid to do things such as discipline their children. Communities were free to discipline the neighborhood children as they pleased. My grandmother often tells me how it wasn’t uncommon for you to be spanked three of four times before you got the real “whuppin” from daddy! Children were full of respect, manners, and discipline.
      I feel however that this is only one reason why the face of civility has been altered. American society itself has changed. I heard it best described this way: “American society was once considered to be a melting pot, now it’s more like a tossed salad. People continue to get into the mix, but everyone wants to maintain his/her own customs and beliefs.” Ultimately, America is not what it was fifty years ago and obviously, neither is the nature of civility. 
      Different controversial groups are deciding to more freely express themselves and the majority of Americans continue to vow for their right to do so. In Essence, we can’t have our cake and eat it too. As we slowly accept the nature of the differences in all American people, we also began to accept the decrease in civility.
      Not only that, but when we look at the nature of civility in public service, that too is something that is the fault of the people ourselves. With this, I mean that as we continue to accept mediocre service, it will continue to be extended to us. How often have we been disrespected or treated with a lack of civility somewhere, yet later returned to support that establishment? We have accepted the lack of civility for so long that it seems almost to late to do anything about it. So if indeed civility is not dead, it is surely on life support!

© 2001 Tracy Hunter

© 2001 Howard University.
(First Published in limited print edition, An Anthology of Verse and Prose, by the Composition for Honours Class, Howard University, Spring 2001. Professor E.R. Braithwaite)
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