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Friday, May 11, 2012

Do Rules of Civility matter?

Before he was 16, George Washington thought about the rules effective citizens and leaders use for their own conduct

Sometime before he was 16, George Washington thought about and wrote down "Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour In Company and Conversation".  They include:

  • Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.
  • Sleep not when others Speak, Sit not when others stand, Speak not when you Should hold your Peace, walk not on when others Stop.
  • Think before you Speak pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your Words too hastily but orderly & distinctly.
(Remember, writing and spelling looked a little differently back then.)
Some of the "rules" are about simple manners, while others involve life skills including communications, persuasion, critical thinking and leadership. Did Washington remember those rules when he became the first President of the United States? Many scholars say yes. What do you think?

Learning opportunity

Incorporate the Rules of Civility into your classroom or dinner table discussion
  • Review George Washington's 110 Rules of Civility - do they still apply today? Why or why not?
  • Write your own Rules of Civility. What's most important to you, and why?
  • How important are rules of civility today? Is it old-fashioned, or relevant?
  • How do politics and civility go together? Should a political campaign follow rules of civility? Does that give them an advantage, or disadvantage? How would you advise a candidate or official to adopt (or ignore) rules of civility?
  • Think about candidates and people already in elected office. Do their actions follow George Washington's Rules of Civility? Your rules? Why or why not? Do they make up their own?
  • Does media and technology make it easier or harder to follow rules of civility? Why?
  • Tell us YOUR #1 Rule of Civility, and name an elected official or candidate who exhibits that quality, and why. With a #k12in2012 tag, post it on Facebook, tell us on Twitter or make and upload a YouTube video

Learn more

Library of Congress
George Washington's 110 Rules of Civility
Do you follow the rules? Lessons in Leadership