Manners maketh for a more comfortable life

From “How We Must Speak To Each Other, distributed to students this fall at Michigan’s Hillsdale College, as reprinted in The Wall Street Journal.

Like all human things, speech can be abused. Indeed, it is one of those things we abuse most often. Many colleges and universities today seek to correct such abuse through the implementation of speech codes.

Not all speech codes are created equal, however. We have one here at Hillsdale College, one that we have followed for as long as memory serves, and one that we think serves the end of education. It is simple and can be stated in a single sentence: you may assert and defend any argument you can conceive, as long as you do so in a way that is civil, academic and conducive to thought and deliberation ……

Understanding what it means to be civil require only common sense. Courtesy is an element: it includes manifesting good will and not offense; being willing to apologize when offense is given; and avoiding harsh criticism. It also involves not making a public spectacle of the faults or perceived faults of others. Rather courtesy requires that we share our concerns and settle our disputes in person ……

We have a lot of fun here, a fair amount at one another’s expense. It is not intended to be malicious but jovial. It is fun that is characteristic of people who are or wish to be friends. Friendship, however, has natural limits. It cannot include every person, or even many persons. Because of this, our partnership here is intentionally small. Although the college is known to many millions of people, its central purposes can only be achieved here on campus and among us few. That is how it must be. And that is why we have the advantage of knowing each other and arbitrating our differences with civility and courtesy.

Comments are closed.