SDSU needs to fork over some etiquette education

by Madison Hopkins

Imagine this: You graduated college and you’re at your first fancy business luncheon for your new job. The food is served onto one of three pristine plates in front of you, but nobody starts eating. Do you wait? What fork are you supposed to use? These questions set off a wave of uncertainty and panic until you awkwardly fumble for the bread bowl to postpone any embarrassment.

OK, you can calm down. It’s just a hypothetical situation—at least for a little while longer. But once we’re out in the real world, it may become a reality. I know I wouldn’t know what to do in that situation, and it’s safe to assume most of my fellow Aztecs wouldn’t either.

To combat these awkward encounters, one school is helping students boost both their IQs and emotional quotients with lessons on proper business and social etiquette.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology recently celebrated the 20th anniversary of its Charm School. This may sound like an antiquated custom designed for 19th-century aristocrats, but for MIT students, it’s a chance to transform from geek to etiquette-savvy chic. fifteen-minute classes are offered on a range of topics from semiformal dinner etiquette to proper dating protocol and dealing with cultural differences in the workplace. I know from experience that the men of San Diego State could use a lesson in at least one of those topics, but I can bet we could all benefit from the rest as well.

Many SDSU students may think they are perfectly polite, upstanding citizens who will be just fine with nothing more than their natural charm and manners. But the truth is, we are a generation that relies more on communication from behind a computer screen rather than face-to-face interactions. You may be able to craft the perfect hard-hitting yet polite email when there is plenty of time for planning and revision, but do you know how to appropriately convey that same message in person?

According to Edelman Digital, 43 percent of 18 to 24 year olds consider texting just as suitable for communication as spoken phone conversations. That simply isn’t going to cut it in the professional world.

The millennial generation prides itself on being technologically proficient, but we seem to have skipped learning the standards of polite conversation. Even with all the necessary qualifications to fill a resume, if graduates can’t effectively network or present themselves as well-mannered adults, their career will hit roadblocks.

I’m not trying to place the blame on anyone here. I’m simply pointing out there’s some room for improvement. Even those of us whose parents tried their best to send us out into the world as polite young adults could probably still use a little extra instruction.

I come from a family that regularly held “proper restaurant behavior nights” while growing up. These occurred at our house, or sometimes a McDonald’s, and consisted of my parents trying to convince my brother and I to sit with our napkins in our laps and to successfully put a fork in our mouths. Unfortunately, their hard work came to little avail, as I now consider it a grand accomplishment to get through an entire meal without spilling something on myself.

Needless to say, it may be time to have another go at etiquette lessons. What better place to do it than at the university responsible for the rest of my education? As adults, we are able to focus and actually comprehend the importance of such skills, rather than blow them off as our parents nag us. College is the time to prepare and mold young adults into productive members of the workforce. To do that correctly, it’s necessary to provide the whole educational package, social skills and all.

A national survey conducted by the Center for Professional Excellence at York College of Pennsylvania found that more than one-third of managers feel the youngest generation of new hires acts less professionally than older generations. That’s embarrassing. We don’t want to be known as the generation who can work a computer, but not a room. Learning how to do a proper handshake or knowing when it’s appropriate to talk about salary in an interview is just as crucial to your ultimate success as any other career-specific skills.

MIT implemented its program to teach interpersonal standards for their highly intelligent, yet sometimes socially challenged students. Although SDSU enables the success of its students academically, equipping them with interpersonal skills for the workplace creates a more complete education.  With a little help, we can make SDSU students known for their superior etiquette as well as their esteemed educational background.

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