12 Oct Manners reborn: why a new generation prefers etiquette to ecstasy …
Manners reborn: why a new generation prefers etiquette to ecstasy …
* etiquette * By Edd McCracken
Published on 11 Oct 2009
By Winston Churchill’s logic, being young and conservative is almost unnatural. “Show me a young Conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart,” he said. But according to a new survey, a startling proportion of young people are confounding Churchill’s wisdom and wholeheartedly celebrating traditional conservative values. They believe in the importance of manners, espouse the joys of the family unit, and, most surprising of all, more than three quarters believe that the country has changed for the worse. The survey found that 77% of 18-24 year-olds believe that Britain has declined in its standards over the last 20 years. Family breakdown, individual greed, and less discipline in schools were given as the three main reasons for this slide. Taking a further leaf from the past, the same age group rated basic good manners as the most important values in society. Vacating your seat on the bus for the elderly, saying please and thank you, and children showing respect came top. Also, when asked what 18-24 year-olds considered important past times for society, the vast majority said spending time with the family on day trips (71%), dining together (64%), and playing traditional board games (66%). The echoes of Conservative leader David Cameron’s speech this week at his party’s conference are obvious. In the course of making his point that “society begins at home”, Cameron asked: “Why aren’t we building homes with enough room to sit around a table and actually eat a meal together.” Does this mean that the young people of Britain are becoming more conservative in their outlook and traditional in their interests? After all, Churchill went on to equate being old and a Liberal with not having a brain. So, has a young generation rapidly matured?
Lois Turnbull, 24, from Kelso, recently graduated from university in Newcastle. She is one of the apparently growing number of young people who believe the country has been in decline. “Certainly over the last 10 years,” she said. “I remember starting primary school – we very much respected the teachers and their word was law. That seems to have gone downhill. Pupils don’t respect teachers anywhere near as much. We need to get discipline back into schools.” She added that while “family values should be at the heart of society” the family unit had been weakened. “The government seems to support single parents more than it does the family unit,” she said. Most of her friends feel the same. “But for a while now people haven’t been listening to the young people,” she said. “We should make it known that we do think that spending time with your family is incredibly important. ” Other young people were more sceptical about the survey. “I wouldn’t have expected so many young people to think the country has changed for the worse,” said Derek Couper, 18, chairman of the Scottish Youth Parliament. “But that might just be a reflection of the older generation feeding the idea to younger people that Britain has gone downhill.” Experts in manners and traditional past times have reacted warmly towards the findings, which was conducted on behalf of the Chelsea Building Society.
William Hanson, who at 20 is regarded as the UK’s youngest etiquette expert, said he was surprised and heartened by the news that manners were valued so highly by young people. “This is encouraging that young people have realised that manners are a good thing and it will open doors for them, both literal and metaphorical,” he said.