Another semester has begun. New classes have arrived in all their ghastly glory, and once again college students settle in for another week of reading the various syllabi to see what this term will hold for them. As one progresses through the education system, the information becomes more complex, building and growing with experience. Some information must be repeated simply because it is part of the core curriculum and value system of a certain trade. However, the common thread I am seeing in my particular program saddens me.
Each year my program studies diversity and how to best interact with those of a different culture, orientation and economic level. Instead of giving us an inclusive class on such views, we are versed in manners by guidelines stated by the commission ruling our profession. Basically, do not be ignorant, offensive or lewd in the workplace. Last time I checked, students don’t go to a university to obtain degrees in manners. That wasn’t the job of our professors.
Ignoring the fact that I am spending a good chunk of hard-earned change on a book telling me to be nice to patients, I’ve found it is not the circumstance of another broke college kid that angers me. It’s the fact someone has to tell me to play nice with others: something we all learned in preschool when little Johnny told Susie she couldn’t play with the fire truck because he said so.
Granted, this is all coming from the girl who still feels incredibly uncomfortable calling professors by first names because of how I was raised. It is so disrespectful. It not only had grounding level consequences, it left me with a feeling of guilt and frustration. I was taught not to stare at those who were different, or to bully someone because they were. And questions? Questions are okay as long as you are not being mean about it. There is a difference between attempting to make someone feel like an outcast and trying to include them through understanding their uniqueness. I don’t need to pay $1,000 to hear this from a professor who has so much more to offer than etiquette.
In a world so interconnected by technology, why is there such a disconnect when it comes to a value as simple as respect for thyself and thy neighbor? Stumbling over many violent impasses where respect had no effect, we come to another crossroad of fear and fragility. Fear of difference. Fear of change. Fear of the consequences we have seen perpetrated by others whose actions we do not understand. What have we done to ourselves to need a college level class to tell us to be nice to everyone? I’ve already seen that poster of the golden rule plastered on every door of my elementary school. And I wish I could say the same for others.
Hate is a strong word. And I know if there were a stronger one, many people would use it. Perhaps all of us would. But indiscretions of one person does not define an entire culture. And difference does not equal dangerous. Classes which are simply there to make sure students mind their manners are not effective. Knowledge is where the true cure lies. Instead of telling me to mind my manners, maybe we should be learning about the beauty in the diversity of the world, to better understand patients, coworkers, clients and simple passersby. Not only would it be infinitely more interesting for the students – maybe it would make a difference in the treatment of those we don’t identify with.