Montessori introduced Exercises in Grace and Courtesy in reaction to the young child’s need for order. The child has a need to know and to absorb the social structures in order to be more at ease in his environment. Grace and Courtesy lessons give the child the vocabulary, actions, and steps required for him to build his awareness and responsiveness of those around him. This in turn gives the child a better sense of orientation in his social structure.
The Primary Class is the perfect place to begin these Exercises in Grace and Courtesy because the child at the end of the First Plane of Development is not yet self-conscious. The child is therefore willing to try anything new and will then incorporate it more easily into his person.
Grace and Courtesy lessons are given to each child in the environment and usually in a group. This allows the child to have a clear understanding as well as a place to perfect himself with others. It is the Directress’s role to give the children the correct words, and the precise movements and steps. The child then fully absorbs the how, the when, and the vocabulary used in his environment to make life more pleasant for other and for him. In the end, the child will have incorporated these graces and courtesies into his everyday life, which will allow for a more pleasant classroom as well as a more pleasant environment wherever the child may go.
It is amazing how a society where so much scientific and political progress has been made could forget the simplest rules of etiquette. This exhibits a great deal of ignorance and poor training. Proper conduct must be taught in order for society to be considered truly progressive.
Unfortunately, most forgotten manners are those pertaining to consideration and respect. Frequently, the simple use of please, thank you, and you're welcome go neglected. What ever happened to the use of sir, ma'am, Mister, Mistress, and Miss? A hundred years ago, one would never address a new acquaintance by their first name without their permission to do so first. Even such things as passing wind is often considered a joke. It's not funny. It's simply impolite.
Today's speech is riddled with vulgarity. Swearing, gossiping, bragging and yelling are all examples of poor restraint. Asking personal questions and butting into conversations are also demonstrative of poor manners as is failing to introduce a friend to others to whom you are speaking.
Table manners have sunk to the depths of indecency. Often, one is subject to slurping, gluttony, elbows on the table, and boardinghouse reach (reaching across another person's plate). Guests seldom think twice about starting their meals before the host or hostess has lifted their fork or leaving the table before others have completed their meal. Rarely, does anyone offer to help clean up where that duty would otherwise fall to the host or hostess.
Poor etiquette is rampant in our society. There are too many examples for me to list in this essay. Proper manners must be reinstated for the sake of consideration, respect and true progress. Montessori presents lessons of Grace and Courtesy along with those of Practical Life. This is, of course, understandable as social skills should ideally help to oil the wheels of social living and should, in fact spring from the heart.
The exercises of Grace and Courtesy are especially important in preserving culture in the different nations to which Montessori is called. The special courtesies of each new country to which we take our philosophy should reflect that particular culture and should not be imported by us from our own culture. This should be true also of practical life exercises. These are two areas in which we must take great pains to reflect the best of each world culture.
Between the ages of 2 1/2 -6, the child is indeed in a sensitive period for the learning of good manners. Montessori comments that "a master of ceremonies at a...
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