Prof. Forni's Civility InitiativeA professor of Italian literature at Johns Hopkins, P. M. Forni, has made civility a special cause and subject of study.
Prof. Forni is director of the Civility Initiative, an outgrowth of the Civility Project, which he founded in 1997 to assess "the significance of civility, manners and politeness in contemporary society."
The Civility Initiative came to my attention recently via an alumni newsletter that led me to a press release touting research Prof. Forni conducted in partnership with the Jacob France Institute of the University of Baltimore. The purpose of the research was to get a handle on what behaviors people nowadays consider especially rude.
A sample of 615 people employees of two Baltimore companies, Lifebridge Health and E A Engineering Science and Technology, and employees and students of the University of Baltimore were surveyed. It's hard to know how representative this group is, so the results reported below can only be considered suggestive. Still, since plenty of people, including me, attach considerable importance to civility, any information on what strikes people as particularly offensive is of interest.
The respondents rated 30 behaviors on a scale of 1 (not offensive) to 5 (most offensive). Out of the behaviors evaluated, the following made it into the Top Ten (i.e., these were the behaviors with the highest average rudeness scores):
- Discrimination in an employment situation.
- Erratic/aggressive driving that endangers others.
- Taking credit for someone else's work.
- Treating service providers as inferiors.
- Jokes or remarks that mock another's race/gender/age/disability/sexual preference or religion.
- Children who behave aggressively or who bully others.
- Littering (including trash, spitting, pet waste).
- Misuse of handicapped privileges.
- Smoking in non-smoking places or smoking in front of non-smokers without asking.
- Using cell phones or text messaging in mid- conversation or during an appointment or meeting.