Once upon a time, students learned good manners from their parents. Now there are school programs to teach niceness in the hopes of preventing stereotyping, bullying and violence. The Washington Post reports on Challenge Day, a voluntary program at a Virginia high school:
Curriculums devoted to teaching children to be nice to each other are gaining popularity across the Washington area, under headings such as “ethics days,” “honor days” and “character education days.” In Virginia, schools are required to include a component aimed at producing “civic-minded students of high character,” and students in Maryland must perform 75 hours of community service to graduate. Dozens of District schools are rolling out programs on how to be a good person.
Although eye-rolling students tend to dismiss such efforts as “cheesy” or “touchy-feely,” the lessons imparted at Marshall yesterday seemed to resonate loudly and immediately. During an afternoon session, facilitators with wireless microphones tried to keep up with the teenagers coming forward to confess thoughts of suicide, abusive relationships, eating disorders, gang activity and family problems. One student revealed he was gay. Another warned her friends to stop drinking and driving because they were frightening and hurting her.
I’m puzzled by the lead example: A boy apologizes to his girlfriend’s friend for disliking her because of her high, whiny voice. But before Challenge Day, they always exchanged “fake smiles” in the hallway. Surely, faking niceness is good enough. Why should he have to like her?