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 365 Manners Kids Should Know: Games, Activities, and Other Fun Ways to Help Children and Teens Learn Etiquette


   Richard Scarry's Please and Thank You Book



For some odd reason, my memories seem to be more strangely selective than for many people I know: some things are recalled as if they happened yesterday, others I hardly remember at all�  Interestingly, a recent trip to the Field Museum in Chicago brought back vivid memories of field trips from my grade school years.

The why for that will become obvious; I grew up in an era when things were vastly different. As an example, hats, whether on men or boys, were not allowed indoors and never in places like restaurants. Manners and polite behavior were the epitome of good conduct, no matter the location or occasion. My parents disciplined me at home if my behavior was improper, instructed me in the proper behavior to display when I was in public, and my teachers disciplined me at school � my parents always and without question supported them � if I misbehaved.

One message was clear and consistent, no matter under whose tutelage or care I found myself: there were venues  where excessive noise and �shenanigans� were simply not allowed and decorum was absolutely the rule of the day.  Without going into great detail, places like museums were quiet places where any conversation was hushed; moving about was done slowly and hands were to remain at one�s sides.  Failure to follow these few simple rules resulted in removal from the museum and a trip back to the bus, waiting there with the driver until the rest of the class was ready to go home.  No second chances were offered.  Upon return to school, discipline took place in the principal�s office first� and then again at home.

Our recent trip to Chicago to the Field Museum of Natural History � a place I had not visited in a long, long time � turned out to be a quick study in just how far we have ventured from a time in history that adhered to the abovementioned protocols.  A day that started out as an enjoyable journey quickly turned in to an undeniably frustrating and stressful experience.  Our first stop was at the Ancient Egypt exhibition.  My enjoyment of the quiet conversation with my wife and wonderment at the ancient artifacts lasted but a few minutes.

Suddenly the near-silence was shattered by the first wave of what would seem like an invasion.  I recently saw a quote from Shakespeare, who once wrote: �When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.�  These battalions were in fact school children, although not dissimilar to a hoard of locusts that swarm in, plunder everything in sight and then move on to the next feast.  After they depart, the only thing that remains is the buzzing in one's head, a barren wasteland and... greasy smudge marks on the glass of every single exhibit in their path.  The silence had been shamelessly shattered.

It happened in every exhibit, on every stairway and on every floor.  Perhaps our mistake was choosing a Friday for a visit; it seemed as if every school in the state of Illinois had selected this day to visit the museum.  But it wasn�t just the sheer numbers of school-aged children, it was their overall and generally bad behavior: running up and down the stairs and through the exhibits, with all the finesse of Grant taking Richmond.

They called out to each other in loud and high-pitched voices at opposite sides of the museum; they pushed and bumped their way past us and in front of us to take pictures with their phones; they touched and smeared greasy fingers across every piece of glass on every display case in sight, they sprawled on every bench available; they came in swarms and hoards, noisily and rudely disturbing � like a Klingon disrupter -- the decorum of the entire museum.  Their teachers, often losing track of tens of children at a time, did little to tame the herd of wildebeests as they ran through every exhibit and touched everything within reach.

And, unfortunately, the story was the same throughout the entire visit, starting with a walk through "Inside Ancient Egypt", and continuing through every exhibit we visited.  I will not put the complete onus of responsibility upon the shoulders of the school children; it rests more squarely upon the shoulders of the parents who have failed to provide proper examples and training, and even more so upon the shoulders of the teachers present who failed miserably by making almost no attempts whatsoever to quiet their students.  I only wish I knew the particular school districts present, so that I could thank them individually for ruining my visit.

It is obviously of little use � and certainly in vain � to attempt any comparison of my distant youth with their current version, as I am certain that, on my grade school trip to the Planetarium for instance, the entire school would likely have been asked to leave� with no refund offered.  Most museum staff on our recent visit simply sighed and turned the other way. Far too much has changed since my wonder years, and there are no signs that things will get better.  It is however, quite sad to witness the decided lack of respect, decorum and discipline of these children.

Many places, i.e., certain Frank Lloyd-designed homes, no longer allow entrance to children under the age of twelve� and likely for the very reasons mentioned above.  If you do plan a trip to the Field Museum or any other public place, perhaps you may want to call and check to see what types and numbers of guests are expected on the selected date of your visit.




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