One of the most overlooked ingredients for making life tolerable in this cold cruel world of ours is good manners.
Yesterday there was an inspiring report in the New York Times about a school in Harlem that endows young women with the appropriate skills, including good manners, to advance them in their professional and personal lives.
The article, headlined “Poised to Learn: Girls Study Feminine Charms,” began with a young graduate who, her arms encased in full-length lilac and satin gloves for a ceremony, “held back tears as she thanked the parents and friends who had gathered at a 110th Street banquet hall last week to watch 34 young women, with newfound poise and elegance, graduate from Harlem’s only finishing school.”
The Development and Finishing Institute, as the school is named, is on West 121st Street; its goal is to prepare young black, Hispanic or other minority women “for adulthood. They take their finishing school courses after regular school, and must complete them while maintaining a B average or better in their regular classes.”
One of the most popular classes is a trip to New York’s fancy Plaza Hotel where the young women learn appropriate behavior for such a setting.
The Development and Finishing Institute was founded by a longtime Harlem resident, Rose Smith, who used her inheritance from her father to make it a reality. Ms. Smith wanted, according to the Times, to “teach young people ‘how to act in an acceptable way,’ and to expose them to rules of etiquette and social skills not only as tools for getting what they want, but as ways to give back to the community.”
One of the girls at the graduation was 12-year-old Britney Brown of Harlem. Her mother, Kecia Bethea, 36, of Harlem, spoke highly of the experience. She “said Britney was transformed by the finishing school. ‘When we are out doing things, I notice that she’s using certain skills she learned, especially those from the course at the Plaza,’ she said.”
Unlike all too many educational experiments, this one seems to have worked quite splendidly.