Considered a first for an accredited university in the United States, Mason now offers a one-credit course that delves into a problem becoming increasingly pervasive in a society more apt to celebrate a foul-mouthed reality star than a help-grandma-across-the-street boy scout: bad manners.
Launched in fall 2010, Professionalism and Civility is an elective course taught through the School of Recreation, Health, and Tourism that teaches everything from making eye contact when speaking with someone to proper table manners.
“Etiquette, manners, and civility are things that must be practiced,” course instructor Leslie Morton explains.
As part of the course, Morton says students, who are not allowed to have their computers or cell phones on during class, often discuss poor behavior they recently encountered and ways to deal with it. In an assignment to teach tolerance, she recently had her students strike up conversations with people they thought were different from them or had frustrated them in the past.
Other elements of the course include proper office behavior and appearance, cultural sensitivity, and “netiquette,” or being respectful of others while online.
Morton, who attributes much of her own professionalism and civility to working in her family’s jewelry store at a young age, blames a lot of today’s poor manners on a fast-paced society, in which people are too rushed to mind their manners.
“When you ask someone, ‘How are you?'”she says, “you should really care how they are doing.”
The course will be required for all tourism and events management students starting this fall.