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Bad Manners in America

Amy Vanderbilt
The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Vol. 378, The Changing American People: Are We Deteriorating or Improving? (Jul., 1968), pp. 90-98
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1037452
Page Count: 9
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Bad Manners in America
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Abstract

The widely held contention that American manners are uniformly bad is not tenable. The very mobility of American society brings into sharp focus the bad manners of the minority, thus making bad manners seem to be the norm. The sharp delineations between classes are less important as proponents of exemplary manners and mores. The changes in etiquette frequently come from other sources. Higher education does not necessarily result in culture. Education and social grace are today not necessarily synonymous. The decline of the mother's influence in the home has meant the decline of what was once known as "ordinary" manners among America's children. Because of many economic pressures, we are living more simply, with less formality and a minimum restriction upon the family. The pattern of meal-taking has changed drastically. There is a blurring, too, of the difference between the sexes, with a resulting difference in our approach to manners between them. "Society" has taken on many meanings and is influenced by geography. Reduction in service has been one of the most striking changes in our society, along with a great change in our attitude toward language, from which "indelicacies" have virtually disappeared. The Negro revolution is making, and will continue to make, a great change in our manners and mores. The admission of new peoples into our social stream has made changes in our behavior. We have become increasingly forthright. Our etiquette is changing. When developing manners are deemed "bad," they are usually modified because bad manners make people uncomfortable.

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