Today, a wise friend made the comment: "Unfortunately, I am afraid to say, manners in America are becoming passe." Yes, in the last decade, there has been a noticeable change in manners in America. There has been a change in the lifestyle and priorities of the younger generation, thus a change in the manners and objectives of my students. Yes, some manners never change and are neglected. Other manners are passe. Certain other manners have evolved into a new generation as different. Not right, not wrong, just different.
For example, ten years ago, parents sent their children to me to fine tune their 10 year olds' table manners. Today, I teach 17 year old Seniors in High School how to hold a fork. Why? Change in lifestyle. Now, there are kids' menus at many casual restaurants kids can eat with their fingers. Easier for the tired, working parents. Children also eat fast food in the car with their fingers on the way to 6:00 p.m. soccer practice, or Sunday afternoon lacrosse practice.
Last year, I taught an extraordinarily talented teenager who had straight A grades, perfect scores on her SAT's, played in the US Open Tennis Championships with her Father, and had 600 hours of community service, but she did not know how to hold a fork. At least she knew that she did not know.
Today, sophisticated teens know everything there is to know about technology and how to gather any information needed on each of their multiple social media gadgets, but due to their busy school schedules and both parents working, families rarely sit down at the table for dinner. Not right, not wrong, just different.
Competition is so stiff for these few full scholarships, colleges and universities now invite these students to lunch. They want well rounded students and figure if a young adult has missed simple table manners, what else have they missed. If a student is asked to pass the salt, and only passes the salt, this student does not get the scholarship. Why? The simple answer is simple to those in the know.
This student did not correctly anticipate the next need of the other person, which would be also passing the pepper. The etiquette dictates that a self-directed, empathetic student, or business professional, always anticipates the next need of the other person , or customer, whether they know their own next need at that time or not.
Never mind one slip of the tongue. One slip of the fork, or passing of only the salt and one does not get the scholarship. By the way, can you pass the butter?