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Civility in College?

I had the pleasure and the privilege of speaking to two college classes yesterday at George Mason University.  The professor, Leslie Morton, teaches the only class on “Civility and Professionalism” in the country.  USA Today featured her class earlier this year.

The cool thing about this class is that it gets young adults excited about the act of civility.  The class is planning a Civility Day next week when they take their message campus wide.  The day will feature a talk by a homeless man who was given an opportunity by an promotions company to change his life.  As a result, he has become the number one sign spinner in the world.  You see sign spinners on street corners advertising home and other retail sales.  This, Leslie points out, is how we show civility to those who are less fortunate.

Yesterday, when I spoke to Leslie’s classes about how to Do it Well and Make it Fun in their life and work, I found the students not only attentive, but interested in how they might apply the information to their lives.  Then, after the class, I watched them opening doors for each other and saying, “Thank you” in return.  What a refreshing experience.  Of course, I then got on the highways of Northern Virginia where it was a tad more difficult to spot an act of civility.

Leslie and I have a common background in that she was raised in Texas and I was raised in Southwestern Virginia.  We were both taught to be courteous, to open doors, to thank people who did kind things for us, and to fry all types of food.  I remember the parents of one of my college friends being shocked that I sent them a thank-you note after having lunch with them.  But that’s how we rolled in the south.

It’s really about doing the right thing.  When I watch the news reports about Michael Jackson’s death, the alleged sexual abuse at Penn State, and the accusations against Herman Cain, I can’t help but feel that we have lost our sense of civility.  And don’t even get me started on that poor little Chinese girl who was run over by a van.  It’s appalling and it appears that people don’t know the difference between right and wrong.  Sure, we all make mistakes.  I’ve been very uncivil at times.  But the goal is to do the right thing.  And even though it’s sometimes harder to do the right thing, it’s still the right thing.

I applaud Leslie Morton for stepping out into an unknown world to teach college students what it means to be both civil and professional.  The more civil young people she turns out into the world, the more civil adults we’ll have.

You can read the USA Today article here:  Civility and college.
You can read an article on George Mason’s blog here:  Civility Class.
And Leslie’s class was featured in my newsletter in September.  You can read that here:  Values and Civility.












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