They risk stifling the spirit of a child

CM Langan

Friday, 22nd February 2019, 04:58 am
Updated Friday, 22nd February 2019, 05:02 am

Beauchief, S8

The days of finishing schools, debutante balls and classes in deportment, (which doesn't, incidentally, mean being kicked out of the country like someone once thought!), may be long gone, but I've recently learnt about parents shelling out £300 for a six-week course of social etiquette lessons for their kids. As one of their teachers put it, "they learn how to dress, communicate and conduct themselves properly".

Well, we all know what maketh a social car crash! Queue jumping, failing to acknowledge gifts or favours, slurping and burping at the dinner table, paying more attention to your phone than to the person with you, nose picking and trumping in company, swearing like a sailor's parrot, getting publicly plastered, mooning from the back of vehicles, (or indeed, from anywhere), and yes, graphically listing them all, so before causing further offence, (for which I apologise), I'll move swiftly on!

Of course, kids need to be taught good manners, to consider other people and to endeavour not to upset or offend them, but these classes go way beyond all that. They risk stifling a child's spirit, the sense of mischief that makes them lovable. You could end up kissing goodbye to your cheeky little scamp with the mucky face! If elocution lessons are involved, there is also a risk of losing their identity by suppressing their regional accent which defines who they are.

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One child who'd been to one of these classes said that as well as being taught how to dress for different occasions, they were taught never to wear more than three colours at once. Really? Wouldn't it make more sense to teach them not to judge people who do?

Being the blunt type, no one could identify me as being a charm school graduate, but that's fine by me, and all who know me, as I always say please and thank you, apologise when appropriate and offer help to anyone in trouble. My language may not be perfect and I'm somewhat graphic in my turn of phrase, but I don't (really!) indulge in any of the social monstrosities aforementioned.

So long as you have a basic grasp of good manners and social graces, isn't that the main thing? All these things can be taught by parents and teachers without going any further. The confidence and assertion that these classes are also meant to equip their pupils with could easily be provided by drama, dance, karate, self-defence, social skills or assertiveness training classes at community centres, without paying an arm and a leg and without the fear of your kids no longer being... well, kids! They could end up being so well polished that they're no longer recognisable.

A well-mannered, confident, considerate child is something to aspire to, but an automaton who never puts a foot wrong is somewhat disconcerting!