Raymond 0. Arsenault, Ph.D.
Robert Dardenne, Ph.D.
James A. Fellows, Ph.D., CPA
University of South Florida St. Petersburg
In Chapter One, Edward I. Morse expresses his ideal of courtesy speaking at Vassar College in 1894. He said, "courtesy is not manners; for, manners are the garments of good behavior. It is not etiquette; for, etiquette is simply a technique of social proprieties. No, nor is it civility; for, civility may only be the chill of patronizing decency. Courtesy is an atmosphere of graciousness. It is the real ring of noble character. It is self-respect, refinement, good- heartedness, self-forgetfulness, and ideality." Chapter Two traces the tradition of courtesy to the beginnings of recorded history as an ideal preserved in the "Instructions of Ptah-Hotep," an Egyptian volume that is supposed to be the oldest surviving book. Europeans absorbed this ideal of courtesy, and it is well noted in the annals of patriarchal writers, the chivalry of medieval life, Celtic legends, Renaissance art, the concept of the Christian hero and courtly lover, and American literature. Chapter Three explores the demise of the gentleman culture in society affected by the Industrial Revolution, the influx of immigrants, shift in demographics, and the New Age self-actualization. It is the perfection of the gentleman that brought about his demise and with his demise, society's example of courteous behavior. The ethos of democracy, which applauds equality as a right of all people, militates against differentiation. And, intellectual currents, popularized by the mass media, have blurred value lines making almost any 3 behavior acceptable as a subjective choice. These are all factors that contributed to the decline of courtesy as a gentleman's or gentlewoman's attribute. Chapter Four suggests that the stress of modern life and a shift in traditional values have led to an increase in rudeness. As pointed out in Chapter Four, Letitia Baldridge, an authority on manners, believes the decline in courtesy transcends economic, social, and racial lines. She insists that it has nothing to do with money or social class. Courteous behavior is simply a matter of the way you are brought up. Others believe that it is the idealization of the past that has set us up for unrealistic expectations. All generations and eras have values and positive aspects. Courtesy and rudeness may best be approached by a reality check.
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Lindsay, Anita Rothwell, "Uncommon courtesy" (1996). USFSP Honors Program Theses (Undergraduate). 84.