Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Of Geometry and Table Manners

This interesting article appeared in yesterday's Washington Post: Trade Geometry Class for Entrepreneurship. The idea was that we need to rethink the things we are teaching our children in school to include subjects that are more appropriate for the 21st century ... in this case, drop the teaching of geometry and replace it with courses that will teach young people the fundamentals of business. The article describes such a program as one in which "...students would learn how to identify unmet societal needs in the for- and nonprofit sectors, create a business plan, and include online and in-person guided simulations of running a business. Each class would start an actual business during the second semester, such as a peer-tutoring business."

The article argues that geometry is a subject useful only for those destined to be engineers and carpenters; indeed, much of what we so laboriously learned to do in high school geometry classes is quickly forgotten after the last exam, and can in any case now be done faster and more accurately with the cheapest pocket calculator. Engineers are quoted as saying they would have benefitted more from classes in entrepreneurship than from their grounding in the principles of geometry.

Nevertheless, I'm not sure that I would agree with the idea of dropping geometry from our school curricula in favor of training the next generation of Donald Trumps and Bernie Madoffs. In my own case, had I not taken a class in plane geometry many years ago (shortly after the invention of geometric figures), I would have missed out on the opportunity to fall in love with Miss McNeen, the cute student teacher who led me through the intricacies of one of the only kinds of math I ever actually understood (the other was trigonometry). And this cartoon wouldn't have been nearly as funny ...

What does all this have to do with table manners? One of the bizarre little things that cadets at military academies are sometimes required to do is "eat square" - raise each bite of food straight up from the plate to mouth level, then straight ahead into the mouth, and return fork to plate in the same "square" fashion. This of itself is a pretty useless skill, although the larger issue of good table manners is certainly not. From a list I found on line yesterday, here are 11 Table Manners That Still Matter (actually, I'm only listing ten of them ... you'll have to read the article to find which one I left out):

1. If you are the recipient of a toast, don't drink to yourself ... keep your glass at arm’s length. Just nod your head and graciously say, “Thank you.” (Of course, if you don't attend weddings or state dinners, you are unlikely to be toasted anyhow, so this one is probably pretty much academic)

2. Never take your cocktail to the dinner table. (I'm not sure I agree with this one ... cocktails are expensive, and I'm not leaving them behind)

3. Allow your food to cool on its own—never blow on anything. (Especially, not on someone else's food)

4. Your napkin should be used only to dab your mouth ... not to wipe off lipstick or blow your nose. (It's also bad form to snap your dinner partner's backside with it as if it were a wet towel)

5. Keep your elbows off the table at all times. (Agnes is on my case all the time about this one)

6. Don’t put your purse, keys, sunglasses, or eyeglasses on the table. (In our house, there's no room for them anyway ... our books take up all the extra space)

7. Take food out of your mouth the way it went in. If a piece of steak fat went into your mouth with a fork, spit it out onto the fork. (If you miss the fork, create a distraction by shouting something like "LOOK! HALLEY'S COMET!" and then mopping it up with your napkin ... this is an allowable exception to #4)

8. Remove an olive pit with your thumb and index finger. (Do not spit it into the eye of the person across the table, even if he or she is an annoying religious or political wingnut)

9. Taste everything on your plate before you add salt or pepper. (I agree with this one ... seasoning your food before you even taste it tells the cook that you know in advance that you won't be satisfied with what he served you)

10. Leave your plate where it is when you are finished with your meal—don’t push it away from you. (And don't toss it across the room toward the sink like a frisbee)

Don't thank me ... it's all part of the service. What kind of friend would I be if I didn't circle back and be square with you?

Have a good day. Use good table manners. More thoughts tomorrow.



Amanda said...

Table manners...*sigh*....big issue in our house at the moment. Doesn't help when different families have different ways of doing things at meal times.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

Well after all these years I finally disagree with something on this site. :-)
I do not think they need to eliminate geometry however a class on entrepreneurship I find worthwhile.

I once spoke at a school who taught this. It was grades 1 -8. This school had the children make a city and all the things the city needed. They even printed their own money. It was government and entrepreneuralship all in one. Those of you with kids know how smart they are. I do not have children. So I was amazed. It fascinated me how these 9 - 11 yr olds thought. I had just started a business and sold my first franchise. So I was asked by the principal to speak to the class. I was to tell them how this all got started. What books (before internet) I used to help me. (library!!) I did this business on my own without attorneys because I went to the library and the principal knew this and asked me to share that info and more. I got the best damn questions from these kids better than any adult no lie! It was truly one of my favorite things. These kids gave me great ideas and seriosuly were smarter than my franshisee's.

I was then invited back at the end of this course to see their town, to buy their wares, to see who was elected this or that. Who became what and why. How they found the need etc. I think that class probably went further for them in life than any ole geometry....although still necessary. (which I might add I hated so i could be biased)

Mike said...

I try not to do number 5. But people get kind of irritated when I put my forehead on the table for a nap after eating.

Chrissy said...

I fully plan on forwarding this to my husband's boss. His table manners are...well...they're not there. Plus, I have noticed him playing WITH HIS FEET a few times at the table. It makes my tweak a little just thinking about it.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

The historical rationale for the study of geometry is the Doctrine of Formal Discipline -- supposedly it developed inherent qualities of the mind as the ability to think rationally.

The advice for table manners is well-taken. Also, don't eat asparagus like you're awallowing a sword.

Banana Oil said...

Blowing on food to cool it is so tacky!

Good table manners advice.