The rapid decline of common courtesy and general politeness is a trend I have witnessed first hand as a food/retail service industry worker. Having a grown man scream into your face about not accepting expired coupons when you’re at the age of 17 really makes you take stock in civilization. I have been treated so poorly by so many various people, that nothing shocks me about humanity anymore.”Please” and “thank you” have gone out the door, which people used to hold open for others. Instead what we have is everyone for themselves. Being civil to each other is a form of respect and equality, which we are sadly losing. Instead of treating everyone with the same amount of respect everyone deserves, we only treat those who we feel are our equals with respect. It is now reserved for only a select few and everyone else is unworthy. So what has cause this decline in civility? Why have we thrown out those formalities which our culture has been based on for at least decades. At first I thought it was the fact that women now can show their ankles, as the Victorian period was the last time civility ruled. There are so many small reasons we have shunted civility to the side but I realized the true beginning wore a cardigan, indoor shoes and talked to puppets. For 33 years Mr Rogers ruled our daytime television and changed the course of history forever, not necessarily for the better. Him and many other children’s programs have been teaching us and our children from the 1950’s that they are special, that there is no one else like them and they are loved for who they are. While initially they meant well, this message has been distorted and transformed over time to become a message telling children that they are better than others. When you think you are better than others, there is no need to be polite because why would you stoop to treat inferiors as your equal. This all stems from Mr Rogers Neighbourhood and the shows that followed in his steps.
First of all I have nothing against Mr Rogers. As a child I loved his show and his show had many great lessons and really creepy puppets. What I take issue with is telling children they are special. Children are already tiny little dictators filled to their tiny little brims with ego. I can say that because I have a diploma for child and youth work and I have over 10 years of experience in working with children so I have first hand knowledge. It’s the job of the parents, teachers and other caregivers to teach them how to be compassionate, and giving and polite. It is really hard to teach children how to put others before yourself. Lord knows my mother had a hard time bringing down this centre of the universe (You can’t tell but I’m pointing at myself). If I had been a child with no guidance and only had the man in the TV telling me I was special, I am sure I would be your evil overlord right now!
Just in case you forgot what the centre of the universe looks like
Thankfully for you I had supportive parents who took the lessons TV tried to teach and taught it better. Mr Rogers told me I was special but my parents taught me that if I worked hard and was good to other people and was polite I proved I was special. Being special isn’t a given, it’s an achievement. They were able to undo the damage of being told I was special. But there are generations of children who grew up believing they were special with no one to curb their egos or teach them better. The lesson they took was that being special meant that they were better than others. Those children grew up and told their children they were special. And those children Made more children’s programs where the host tells children they are special no matter what they do. If a giant purple dinosaur tells you that you are special no matter what, and your parents tell you that you are special then there is no need to be polite because you’re special and don’t need to. Everyone has become so focused on raising children’s self-esteem that there is no place for civility because civility focuses on others rather than yourself. Being special stems from that fateful day 30 years ago where Mr Rogers smiled at the camera and told each child watching they are special.
There is an elementary school I worked at and I saw firsthand the decline in civility. If a child did something bad to another child they didn’t have to apologize. They had to explain what they did was wrong but never once did they have to apologize to the other child. I was told that it would damage their self-esteem. Having to lower yourself to apologize to someone was seen as detrimental their growth. What about the poor child who doesn’t receive the apology? Doesn’t that damage their self-esteem because they don’t deserve an apology? Apologizing to someone is the simplest part about being polite and civil. We are teaching our children that they aren’t held accountable for their actions, which clearly flies in the face of the criminal code of conduct. What is the point of saying please and thank you when you deserve to be given something because you know you’re special? We are creating generations of adults who will feel entitled to whatever they want because no one stopped them and said that you’re only special if you can prove it to others. Being a good respectful person who works hard and is polite to everyone is going to get you much further in life because those qualities, which was once the norm, are now so rare that it makes you special.
Obviously there are so many factors that have caused us to get to this point were being polite is abnormal. Whether you blame parents or the internet, there is always first step towards the end and I feel that it is Mr Rogers Neighborhood. By Mr Rogers telling children that they are special has inadvertently made them not special and have caused civility as we know it to disappear. So ask yourself this question. Are you really that special?