Thursday, April 27, 2006
Miss Manners Regrets
Is it our job to teach manners? Should it be?
As a bossy oldest sibling, I am happy to enforce norms and box ears. However, some bloggers take issue with "raising" students as well as teaching them. This is a point which also turns on gender in several ways, since it may very well be that those of us who resist and resent feminizing roles in the academy might also draw the line at being Mommy in the realm of manners, while those of us who do not feel particularly feminized might be perfectly happy to enforce better behavior. Or, some of us who HAVE experienced quite a lot of pressure to "act like a girl" in the academy--ie be daughter-like or mommy-like in legible ways--still might not mind being Miss Manners, because there's something satisfying and powerful about putting young louts in their place. After all, Mary Poppins understood that most of the fun of being in charge was being PERFECTLY superior in every way.
I am in the latter category.
It may be that it is related to teaching English, as I imply in my earlier post. After all, if we draw the line at knowledge (I am teaching Contemporary British Lit., and that's ALL I'm teaching), then I guess we would only teach writing in writing classes. That seems absurd. If we read Foucault, we know that besides our expertise, we are also correctly training docile bodies. That also makes the issue of not teaching manners and civility seem like an arbitrary line in the sand. After all, we are already doing so much more than teaching our actual narrow fields.
I wonder what you think?