By Renee Miller
Many of us are lamenting our culture’s quick descent into coarseness and vulgarity. How do we even begin to slow this free fall so we can inject some civility? One area we’ve given some thought to as a school are rites of passage for our teens.
One rite of passage most of us are familiar with is High School Prom. I’ve begun to wonder: when did reasonable parents decide it was okay for their daughters to dress like street-walkers, spend all night in the company of a boy of questionable morals (or even a boy with impeccable morals), and have the school hire cops to police the craziness? Having worked with teens for years, I can assure you most of the fun has gone out of the event. I think it’s time to take another look at what these events could be like for our children who are coming of age.
Here are a few examples of how we’ve tried to do this in the Garden School community:
First, we teach the teens how to dance. We have some people in our community who have been willing to teach them how to swing, waltz, folk, and contra dance, all while interacting with several different age groups. This has the added bonus of teaching lifelong skills that will give them confidence at things like weddings and other social and cross-cultural events.
Next, we encourage them to learn manners. Yes, the young men open the doors for the young women, pull out their chairs for them, learn how to ask someone to dance, and even how to hold their forks. The girls learn to be gracious and how to dress so as not to scandalize everyone present and even be comfortable when dancing. Indeed, it is the ancient beauty of chivalry that has currently been thrown aside-and for a poor substitute.
And then we take them out to a classy community event. Our local symphony has a yearly fundraiser where they play big band music. The dinner is first-rate. Once our students experience dancing to a live orchestra, dressed to the nines, it is pretty hard to beat. We call it promenade. And not just the students attend, but their parents, too. We all look forward to this yearly event.
What are your ideas for bringing civility back into our communities?
Renee is the founder and director of The Garden School and Cornerstone Classical School (as well as “The Miller Family School.”) Though trained in the public school model–she has taught everything from first grade to junior high science–Renee’s first foray away from this system resulted in The Garden School. Renee holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning from Point Loma Nazarene College. She is a strong advocate for classical Christian education and an accomplished public speaker. The Millers currently live in a busy multi-generational household immersed in classical and Christian ideals and a whole lot of love.