What is civility if not a constant awareness that
no human encounter is without consequence.
Nearly a decade ago, P.M. Forni released a powerful volume titled Choosing Civility: The Twenty-Five Rules of Considerate Conduct. The chapters, while short (usually about five or six pages in length), make for excellent reminders and guideposts for a society that at times seems to be enamored by boorish behavior –the more boorish the better for some.
On the whole, I have wonderful students. Young and old, they want a better life for themselves and their families. They have dreams and they are moving toward those dreams. I am glad—and fortunate—to be able to work beside them each day I am on campus.
Forni’s book, however, came to mind this past week as I digested a few more servings of what has come to be a regular diet of rude behavior in our college classrooms. While they might represent the minority, they are becoming more frequent. These are just three instances that come to mind.
- One colleague (in another state) related this incident. She had a student who was regularly making inappropriate comments in class. This colleague—who happens to be one of the least confrontational people I know—quietly took the student aside and asked what was going on. The student snapped that “all of my professors are a#@holes!” That would also include my colleague of course.
- One student who missed about 50% of the semester (absences) returned to class. When told by the professor that he had reached the limit on his absences, the student responded with, “A family member died.” (When asked if a family member had passed away a few weeks ago when the student missed two weeks of class. “No,” was the asnwer.) Before coming back into class, this student asked the professor if he could turn in late work. He “really wanted” to do well. Within 5 minutes of the class start, the student’s head was on the desktop–and asleep.
- One woman announced to her professor in class that he would just “have to wait” for her to turn in a paper.
For those who do not teach in a classroom day after day, the above might sound rather trite and inconsequential. So, let’s put them in more of a corporate, non-school context.
- An employee is saying inappropriate things in the workplace. The supervisor speaks privately to the employee to see what can be done. The employee rudely states, “All of the supervisors here—including you—are a#@holes!”
- An employee misses 50% of his work days during the past two months. He has not called in. He has not completed work that he had been assigned. Upon his return to the office, he goes to his desk—puts his head down and falls asleep.
- The boss asks an employee to turn in her quarterly report. She tells him—in front of the office staff—that he will just have to wait.
Forni finishes his book with the following quote:
What is civility if not a constant awareness that no
human encounter is without consequence? What is it
if not sharing with intention the best that is in us?
Sharing it again, and again, adding brightness to the day.
Enjoy your week—and bring brightness to those with whom you share the world.
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