What most easily comes to mind when we think about education is the academic stuff. For me, it’s a dark green board filled with equations; you know those long monstrous ones that look like they were invented specifically to torture non-genius minds? Those things give me the jitters. Yes, of course, academics are important and vital. Yes, they are the main reason why we go to school. But is that all we can get from a place where most people spend the vast majority of their young lives? I believe that schools and universities absolutely should educate their students on social behaviour.
When it comes to the topic of social behaviour, it seems almost obvious that this should be taught at home. And it should. Home and/or the family is where we learn our most basic social behaviour, manners and etiquette, before we ever even get into school. Some behaviour might be taught directly, but most of it is picked up indirectly from children copying the actions of the adults, and that is where the problem begins.
Truthfully (and quite unfortunately), not every parent is really putting effort into the whole ‘raising a child’ thing, or, for that matter, teaching their kids proper social behaviour. They do their parenting by making sure the child has what they need for school and maybe does their homework. Funny enough, most people think little kids are either deaf or blind or dumb. They will curse and tell lies in their presence and then be shocked when the kid uses a swear word. And in a way we cannot blame them. Almost anyone can get a child but barely anyone is born/trained into being a good parent or with a straight moral compass they can use to guide their kids. Many are simply too busy making a living, which is not bad, because we all need to survive. So, for one thing, schools should teach us these things, because some parents aren’t doing it anyway. Moreover, the teachers would be trained to do this and not just be gambling.
Some children on the other hand do not even have a proper family they can say they belong to or live with. Some are orphaned or their parents live and work elsewhere so they are constantly being bounced around from some aunt to some uncle to some family friend. These other people care enough to provide a roof over the child’s head and food in their mouths but not much else. In the end, the child just adopts whatever kind of social behaviour they adopt, and that is it. Let’s not forget those who come from dysfunctional families, the ones for whom violence, aggression, quarreling, profanity and disrespect are a daily thing. Let them, as they learn to add and to subtract, learn too that this is not the way to behave amongst others.
We also all come from very different backgrounds. To some, a certain way of behaving may be right, and to others, not so much. Every society has its way of doing things and that is okay. However, we now live in a setting where people from all over the country or all over the world are next-door neighbours. Somehow, we have to find peaceful ways of coexisting and this could be best done by coming up with at least some basic common social etiquette that tries as nearly as possible to work for everyone. I believe that the greatest responsibility lies on the schools to teach these, as school is where the biggest number of people from different backgrounds meet and interact; moreover, when they are still young enough to be successfully taught how to conduct themselves.
In addition to school being the greatest meeting place, it is also the place we spend the biggest amount of our time. Like a lot. Too much. Of late, kids go to school as early as six in the morning and leave late in the evening. Now for those who go to boarding school, it is a whole other story. I recently realized how little of my teenage years I spent at home. The holidays are barely holidays: they do not take up even a quarter of the year. I have so few memories of home from that part of my life. And then, to make it worse, school now starts as early as two years old, with parents taking their kids early because they are “clever”. I do not want to start calculating here, but clearly we spend too much time in school and too little at home. It only makes sense that schools should teach us the lessons in social behaviour that we would be getting at home if we spent time there.
Another thing I have noticed is that children take proper social behaviour to be a home-only thing, which makes sense because many times parents teach us how to respect them and honour them and after that, not much else. That is how a person ends up able to greet their relatives so politely at a family get-together and not able to greet someone whose office they just walked into to get a document signed. For many children, the family is a constraining group of people around whom they must act prim and proper. Given any whiff of freedom, you’ve never seen someone more rowdy or disrespectful. Schools should eliminate this selective behaviour by teaching children proper social behaviour to show them that these things apply everywhere and to everyone, that respect for oneself and for others still stands even amongst strangers.
In addition, schools are the most logical way through which to teach the kinds of etiquette that are in compliance with global standards, like how to behave in an interview, how to be respectful in writing, ‘netiquette’ or internet etiquette, what to do in situations like when another country’s national anthem is being played (I have always wondered about this one), or those cutlery rules we see in movies where people lay the fork and the knife on the plate in a certain way to mean they are still eating and in a certain other way to show that they are done. In this way, communication is made easy across different platforms and proper behaviour towards one another becomes easier to achieve in this globalized age.
Last but not least, academics on its own is often not enough to start someone off in life. After getting out of school, many students find themselves stuck in social situations in which they are not able to conduct themselves as required as they try to kick off their careers. Schools should teach us these things so that we not only have the knowledge but also the social skills to carry ourselves the right way and behave in ways that will not be detrimental to our careers and also enable us to form the relationships and networks that will move us forward in our personal and professional lives.
In conclusion, we really should be getting out of these majestic academic institutions as more well-rounded people with both the academic knowledge and skills they give us and the right social conduct to help us successfully balance our lives.