It was not so long ago that manners and conduct were part of the official academic curriculum, taught in all schools as Good Manners and Right Conduct or GMRC.
However, recent changes in the educational system led to the removal of GMRC as a specific subject, and the program was assimilated into the general curriculum.
The change was meant to make other subjects touch on values for schoolchildren to absorb all year long.
For instance, Araling Panlipunan or Social Studies covers Philippine history and geography, but also discusses patriotism and nationalistic pride.
Language Arts and Reading, while teaching grammar essentials, includes positive and value-filled reading handouts.
While there are teachers who successfully apply it, not all have been able to balance the goal of teaching both academics and values. Many parents are now clamoring for a return to the traditional teaching of manners and values as a subject on its own.
Learned through example
Ideally, this is not something children have to learn outside the home. Manners, values and conduct are best learned through example and stories told at the dining table from respected elders, rather than as lessons in the classroom.
However, times have changed, and with many children now growing up away from their parents and learning social norms and customs from whatever media they are exposed to—many times age-
inappropriate—the right time for GMRC to be revived is now.
Today’s youth adeptly use messaging apps and social media for interaction. While convenient, opportunities for lessons in proper human interaction may be lost.
One of these is the failure to learn the proper way of addressing elders, and the use of the right tone and “magic” words to show courtesy and consideration when dealing with others.
Text etiquette is completely different from face-to-face conversation etiquette.
Thanks to the efficiency of most forms of technology, we can have everything at our fingertips at the speed of light.
But we are also losing our patience and respect for the ordinary human pace of work. Aside from words, there are also the unspoken forms of respect and manners, which used to be the norm, but are now a thing of the past for some.
Rather than seeing elders, disabled, pregnant and child-carrying mothers in person, thus, seeing the need for them to be offered assistance, some kids are too engrossed with whatever is on their screens instead of the people around them.
Morals and character
Truth be told, the country will not fall apart overnight if a child does not use the right words of respect in addressing elders, or does not demonstrate proper manners at the dining table. In fact, we have already set aside many of the rigorous practices that our ancestors used to believe were absolutely necessary to appear educado, as some are no longer applicable to contemporary times.
But this term of educado, signifying that one was properly educated, is a good reminder that education should not be limited to simply acquiring academic knowledge. A truly educated person is one who is formed in all aspects, including one’s morals and character.
Morals and character cannot be taught through mere discussion. But manners, correct behavior and conduct can be
imparted, and, through consistent practice, help lay the foundation of a person’s good
Character is built over time by our values and virtues and the decisions and actions we make.
Decisions and actions do not just come out of nowhere, but are a result of the values and virtues we hold in our hearts, and the correct and expected conduct and actions taught to us.
The conduct may consist of little things such as putting small pieces of litter in our pockets instead of tossing them on the street, or saying “please” and “thank you” when asking for something.
It’s in the small things that we can start learning how to love the country.
After all, if we cannot bring ourselves to carry out simple tasks of respect for our country and countrymen, then how can we expect significant sacrifices and difficult decisions to be made for our country’s good?
A person’s character will never be graded, but its effects will be seen and felt in society.
And if, by chance, we are able to educate a whole generation to value the country and its people through words and actions, then we will be rewarded not with a school medal, but with a prosperous and progressive nation.