Sunday, March 29, 2009

A New Civility Project

If you look hard enough you can see a glimmer of light in the miasma of American academic thought.

Inspired by Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners, the University of Virginia is launching a Civility Project to write a new set of rules for courteous and respectful behavior. The Project plans to make free use of a set of rules that George Washington wrote down when he was 15. It is open to outside participation. Link here.

To honor the occasion let's read Gordon Wood's assertion of how seriously Washington always took this topic.

Overcoming aristocracy and establishing a republican government was one thing. Washington also knew that the new Republic would have to establish a new set of rules for social interaction that did not involve aristocratic obeisance.

In "The Radicalism of the American Revolution," Wood wrote: "All the founding fathers were aware of these conventions of civility, and all in varying degrees tried to live up to them. But no one was more serious in following them than Washington. He wanted desperately to know the proper rules of behavior for a liberal gentleman, and when he discovered those rules he stuck by them with an earnestness that awed his contemporaries.... He was very desirous not to offend, and he exquisitely shaped his remarks to fir the person to whom he was writing-- so much so that some historians have accused him of deceit."

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