Why Have Manners Changed in America?

Apr 15, 2012
by: harniy

Something that I have been interested in learning about, is if manners have changed in America. Ever since we were little, we’ve had our parents teach us to say “please, and thank you”, and to respect our elders, but growing older, do we actually still do this? What made me interested in this topic is the fact that I’ve witnessed teens disrespect adults, and have seen doors being held open for people without the person walking in acknowledging them. I personally learned manners from my mother. She would always tell me that practicing good manners outside of home was a representation of her, so I took this to heart, and always tried my best to be a mannerist. Lately though, I feel that America is slipping when it comes to manners. I think that today’s society would only know the basics like, please and thank you. There have been so many changes, but manners is one thing that I feel should never have changed in the first place.

I did know a bit about the topic before I researched it. I knew that the decline in manners could begin in the home. If the parents aren’t enforcing manners to their children, then they won’t take it seriously, and won’t practice good manners inside or outside of home. I also speculated the fact that the decline in manners could be due to the continuous economic struggles. People could possibly be more worried about the amount of money they have, rather than their children growing up with manners in the world and representing them. In today’s world, teaching a child manners seems to be the road less traveled, which is not in the least a good thing.

The article,”Bad Manners in America,” was very informative as to why these changes were taking place. The article stated that our changes in etiquette are coming from other sources. The article also stated that the decline of a mother's influence at home, is leading to the decline in manners of America’s children. There is less formality in the family, and a minimum restriction upon the family. There is also a difference between the sexes and how they approach manners. A piece of information that caught my eye was something called the “Negro Revolution,” and its massive and continuous effect of manners and mores in America. When other cultures join the social stream, the behaviors of people begin to change. This information helped to answer my question because gave me an insight as to why people are changing. I honestly didn’t think other cultures influenced changes in manners.

In another article,”Manners lost in our contemporary age,” there was a different opinion. This article states that manners have not changed at all throughout history, and probably will not get any better. Manners depends on the type of person that you encounter, and whether or not manners have changed is relative. An example from the article was,”If you go to a few crappy fast food restaurants and get bad service you might determine that the world is losing something in the manners department.” I do agree with this, because it depends on who you meet and whether they have manners, or not. Just because one person is rude, does not mean that everyone is going to be rude. This didn’t help answer my question. It did, however give me a different outlook on my question making me think about it more thoroughly.

The article,”Tracing American Manners from Colonial Times through the 21st Century,” was also very informative. This article mainly focuses manners in the early 00’s, and how they’ve regressed as time progressed. This article states that we use manners whether we realize it or not. Set etiquette rules are not evident in today’s society, which makes people think of them as outdated. A piece of information that I found interesting was that manners vary between places and time periods. Manners in the 21st century America, however requires less active input than before, this means that American etiquette is more casual, and less work is required to interact with other people. This did help to answer my question, because I didn’t realize that in today’s society, manners may have become outdated. I also didn’t realize that the reason that manners may have been changing, because less work is required to interact with other people.

In another article, “Are Americans Done Being Polite, or Are Manners Just Changing?” was quite interesting. This article states that different, more casual phrases are taking the place of the old fashioned, ”thank you”, or “your welcome.” While at restaurants, we find ourselves saying,”I’m good”, rather than ,”no thank you”, when a waitress comes by. The previous sentence stood out for me because I’m guilty of doing exactly that, but these days, who isn't? This source did help answer my question, because it let me know that manners are still here, just in a different sense.

Finally, the article,”Important Information You Should Know About Manners,”which was also very informative. This article states that good manners have shifted in the past generations from caring for others to pleasing ourselves. While doing this, we lose respect for one another, and this is where incivility becomes a growing problem. Apparently experts believe that parents are too busy adjusting to their new roles, therefore teaching common courtesy to their children are pushed to the side. An interesting piece of information was that we’ve become a society that is lacking social rules, because we think that they will bring back the old gender roles. This information helped to answer my question, because it let me know about the possible reasons that manners may have taken a turn for the worse. I didn’t know that losing respect for one another contributed to the decline of manners.

Most of these articles have stated one thing in common about manners; they’ve definitely changed overtime. As society progresses, the traditional “please” and “thank you”, have started to fade away,or just change more casually. It could also depend on who you meet, so assuming everyone has no manners is not wise. All of this information makes me want to continue to practice good manners, and think before I assume most people have no manners. I’m starting to believe that manners have not completely disappeared, but have just change. People have adapted more casual ways of showing manners rather than the old fashioned ways. I think that manners are always a good thing to have, so people should never forget to say, “please” and “thank you”.

Works Cited:

Bad Manners in America
By: Amy Vanderbilt
July 1968

Tracing American Manners from Colonial Times through the 21st Century
By: reganoconnellcfyb1
December 9, 2011

Are Americans Done Being Polite?
By: Aylin Zafar
March 18, 2012

Manners lost in our contemporary age
By: Royce Radcliffe
March 28, 2007

Important Information You Should Know About Manners
By: Jill Evans Kryston
month( unknown) 2008