The Decline of Civility

February 15, 2010
Listening to iPods during a class lecture, flicking people off when they take too long to turn at the intersection, making fun of the senile, crazy, “old people” who may just happen to be one of the individuals who fought for the United States in World War II; every one of these actions portrays the disrespect that has slowly engulfed the nation. What has changed over the years in society that allows for such insolence and lack of respect between individuals? A paradigm shift occurred transforming the low tolerance for this type of behavior to the rudeness and discourtesy now accepted in the modern world. Steps must be taken in order to reverse the decline of societal civility.

Of major concern, adolescents gradually express more disrespectful behavior towards educators and adults. Young people often mock, back sass, and in some instances even make adults feel inferior or powerless with their inappropriate and uncouth conduct. In a 2002 survey, seventy-nine percent of the people said a lack of respect creates a serious problem in society; ninety-one percent of the people went on to say adolescents especially contribute to this issue. What happened to respecting elders and the people who made society everything it stands for today? According to a North Allegheny Honors English III teacher, “Over the decades, students have always displayed disrespectful behavior in school. To me, it sometimes seems more offensive because students do take the freedom to use language that is quite bold and offensive, when in the past, offensive language was used, but not quite as explicitly.” In other words, students and young people never embodied perfect angels in preceding generations, but the open crudity they now express exceeds that of the past.
Equally important, people of all demographics, particularly youth, continue to disregard honored American traditions. The recitation of the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance represent America and everything it signifies, yet neither of them receives the respect nor reverence from U.S. citizens they deserve. Schools drill the pledge into children’s brains at an extremely young age, where they proceed in reciting it daily. No questions asked, children know the Pledge of Allegiance, but disappointingly by the time they reach middle school, most recite it vacantly, without even a thought of the words which they speak. Even worse, a band will play the National Anthem at a high school football game and most teenagers do not even care to stop conversing for thirty seconds to honor their country, let alone remove hats from their heads. While people in the armed forces risk their lives fighting for America, others cannot even find the courtesy to silence themselves and politely listen to our National Anthem. Many citizens still incorporate these American customs daily, but the essential admiration for them dwindles.
Alongside incivility towards educators, adults in the workplace also display an abundance of rudeness and bad manners. Workers struggle with delivering and receiving discourteous behavior from coworkers, superiors, and customers. Rudeness creates low job satisfaction, leading to a domino effect of employees arriving late, taking unnecessary sick days, and in general not working to the best of their abilities, according to psychologist Lilia M. Cortina, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Disgruntled employees have the ability to generate discontent among coworkers and dissatisfaction among clientele. People do not take pleasure in calling and speaking to a rude, impatient, dissatisfied, employee. It only takes one person in the workplace to start a ripple effect of discourtesy, which unfavorably occurs often, affecting numerous people.
With the aforementioned points, a few arguments refute the idea of taking action to reverse the decline of courtesy and good manners. Freedom of speech entails people to speak their minds; however, if all people choose to voice anything and everything they desire, words articulated may afflict the values of America and the founding fathers. Secondly, people may view the change in civility as just another part of modernization, times changing. Nevertheless, behaving a particular way may make an individual feel powerful, but that does not justify impudence towards undeserving, innocent, people. Despite what various people might say, nothing excuses today’s incredibly ill-mannered speech and behavior.

Furthermore, people continually spiral away from the fundamental respect that at one point inhabited and unified the United States of America, through the discourtesy for their fellow citizens and country. Unless people take action, the lack of respect in the nation will amplify. Contact local school boards to reinstate character classes as part of the curriculum or contact business owners for a workshop on proper, professional, behavior; this issue will not terminate itself, the pending civility of future generations lies in the hands of the American people.

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