INVESTIGATING THE AMERICAN CULTURE OF RUDENESS
Sociology 2306 Group Projects

Each term that this social psychology course is taught there is one overarching theme which also is the topic area for group research projects.  During the Fall 2002 semester this theme involved the supposed rise of an American culture of rudeness.

The following,  from the course syllabus, lays out the research problem and possible lines of research:

Listening to the news it seems that the social fabric that binds Americans is fraying.  Within weeks of the national unity and shared civilities experienced immediately after 9-11, there appeared media claims of growing rudeness in American society. Last April a poll by Public Agenda was released reporting that nearly 8 in 10 Americans believing that the lack of respect and courtesy is a serious problem, with 6 in 10 saying the problem is getting worse and 4 in 10 confessing that they themselves were sometimes part of the problem. Examples:

 Unlike the good old days of the cold war when we feared the Reds, now we fear each other.  We lock ourselves into gated communities in homes filled with alarms and motion detectors (Joan Ryan, “Too panicked to live,” San Francisco Chronicle, April 9, 2000).  One can no longer even trust one’s priest!

 But have things really changed?  How do we know?  In fact, there may not have been any real Golden Age of etiquette, according to Mark Caldwell’s A Short History of Rudeness and C. Dallett Hemphill’s Bowing to Necessities: A History of Manners in America, 1620-1860.  The complaint is not new.  In 1431, Christine de Pisan wrote The Book of the City of Ladies, in which she complains about the deterioration of manners.

 If we should find that manners have, indeed, been evaporating from everyday life, what has been the cause?  Let’s bring out the usual suspects: urbanization and breakdown of community, extreme individualism and its “me-first” mindset, secularization and its shift of focus from the spiritual to the materialistic. 

 

Here are the summaries of the groups' presentations:

 
Movies as Reflection of Rudeness in America
Television Rudeness
Politically (I)ncorrect
Restaurant Rudeness
Service Industry Rudeness

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