Think Of Grandma

Allan Appel PhotoRazine Burton finds it inconceivable that some young people don’t give up their seat on the bus to an elderly person.

“I think of my grandmother” when facing a decision like that, she said.

Burton (at left in photo), a student at New Haven’s High School in the Community, joined high-schoolers form throughout the region this week for a televised discussion on manners and civility.

Why, they wondered, are some people so rude? And what can be done about it?

They participated in a taping of N’Zinga Shani’s cable public access program 21st Century Conversations produced by OneWorld Progressive Institute

Grandparents and parents who set real boundaries and values at home came out winners in the wide-ranging discussion.

“Too many parents are trying to be friends [with their kids],” said Williams.

The result is that the kids come to school thinking they can do whatever they want, she added. Both Williams and Simms Sonet, a junior at West Haven High, described instances where kids gave serious lip to their teachers, or even stormed out of class with relative impunity.

These kids were calling for more serious discipline, at school and beyond. “Without punishment, it sends bad messages to teacher and student,” said Bruton.

Like most of the kids on the program, West Haven’s Caitlin Morrissey (right) and Lorhely Velez said “the home is where it [politeness, kindness, etc] begins.”

“I’m not going to forget my manners because it’s second nature to me,” said Morrissey, a junior.

The student moderator and convener, Julie Buonasora, a senior at North Haven High, wanted to know if media loudmouths and Jerry Springer-ish reality shows contribute to the problem.

“You don’t get your ethics from TV,” said Morrissey.

Chante Lewis and Marcus Harrison, the panel’s representatives from Hamden High, don’t, although Lewis admitted candidly (of course) that she occasionally watches Maury Povich’s shows.

Both Hamden High students cited not only strong parents and grandparents but growing up with a Christian tradition that had bearing particularly on how they treat older people.

“You have to give everyone a chance,” even strangers,” Lewis said.  The word she used to describe her attitude to people, learned at home and in church, was “generous.”

“Teens are rude to their elders,” Harris said. He had a turn-the-other-cheek suggestion: “If a grown up is rude to a teen, they’re still older than you, you should treat them with a higher standard [of respect].”

Not all grown-ups came out with such high marks. North Haven High’s Kaitlin Fung (right in photo) said she has had at least two encounters recently where the lack of respect was from an adult toward a kid.

“At a senior class school event, I opened the door for a town official. He didn’t say thank you or acknowledge me in any way,” she said.

Fung wondered aloud if the official had a sense of entitlement.

She said the pervasive lack of manners, across generations, might also be affected by the new technology and by being able to post nasty remarks anonymously, and with impunity on Facebook and other social media.

“Technology makes people more disassociated,” she said. Meaning, moderator Shani offered, that “being anonymous, people can disassociate bad behavior from your persona.”

By evening’s end, the discussion returned to grandmas.

“If I won’t do it in front of my grandma, “I won’t do it,” said Nubia Williams, a junior at New Haven’s Co-op High who hopes to graduate and go into the fashion business.

The final word was from the student convener Buonasora from North Haven High. “Our principal suggested [something]to us, as we plan our prom: “Dance like your grandmother is watching.”

Click here and here for stories on previous Shani shows.

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posted by: mary rosario on May 21, 2010  4:20pm

great show.kudos to kids being leaders for others.

posted by: debwil on May 21, 2010  4:38pm

Your program allows students to voice their opinions.  In order to make social change we must listen to all age groups.  Thanks for providing this service.

posted by: Raizine on May 21, 2010  10:58pm

I want to once again say thank you to Ms. Shani for the opportunity to talk amongst other teens who care so much about the issues facing America ,as I do.
I hope that people, especially teens can really begin to question their ethics and morals, and check to make sure that they are carrying themself in a fashion that reflects not only the respect they have for themself but for others as well.

posted by: James Sonet on May 22, 2010  6:54am

I was delighted to watch and listen to these “young” people who clearly have a better perspective on decency than many of their “elders”. Thank you Ms. Shani for providing them this opportunity.

posted by: Rose Robinson on May 22, 2010  8:43pm

My goodness, what more could we ask for?  Here are a group of multicultural teens talking about the importance of civility and manners.  Yet, what we hear about most are the teens who are doing the opposite.  The director of New Haven Independent needs to know that this is an important service to the community, and that articles such as this one set the NHI apart from so many other such sites.  It is great to just click onto the site and read about whatever issues of importance are happening in the community.  This is truly an excellent site.  I am pleased that you bring us coverage of this very important TV program 21st Century Conversations.  These are the types of stories our young people who are heading down the wrong path need to know about and get involved in.  These are very good alternatives.  The story about the green jobs at Gateway is also very good.  This is a great service.

OneWorld Progressive Institute, with its excellent 21st Century Conversations TV programs and NHI are all to be congratulated for the outstanding contributions you are all making to the Internet community and others.  I really enjoy reading these articles.  Thank you all; please keep doing this.


posted by: Kaitlin on May 23, 2010  2:18am

This was a great opportunity for young adults to be able to voice their opinions on topical issues like civility in today’s culture.  I very much enjoyed hearing about others’ experiences and views on it.  Not to mention the fact that it was quite fun to talk about something that has such an impact on my life, personally.  Although it’s surprising, some of the behavior mentioned.  I believe it’s very telling of the current state and evolution of human interactions as influenced by technology.  Again, thank you, Ms. Shani!

posted by: Marc on May 23, 2010  10:56am

Adults tend to forget that they are role models to young adults/students.  It has been my experiuence that students respond to others in the same manner that they are treated.  Whether the parent, teacher or friend, yound students see the differences between “what they are told to do” as opposed to what they see (and feel) in their environments.

As an adult it is my resonsibility to reflect, in my actions, the values I preach!

posted by: A Respectful Teen on May 24, 2010  8:49pm

Dear OneWorld:

Thank you for demonstrating that there are respectful, ethical and very civil teens.  Too many adults tend to dismiss all teens, except their own children, as being disrespectful and callous.  Of course, that is not true as proven by this program.  There are adults who don’t realize that the way they treat teens dictate how we treat them. Thank you for showing these smart respectful teens who don’t appreciate dealing with rude teens or rude adults; there are plenty of rude and disrespectful adults all over the place.


posted by: Hope on May 25, 2010  3:44pm

Hey Ms. Shani:
Thanks for another great program and for showing off cool teens.  There are lots of polite teens around.  We don’t get into the news because we’re not getting into trouble. The media plays a big role in the public things that some kids do; just ask Lindsay Lohan.


posted by: Charles Shooshan on May 25, 2010  10:52pm

Thank you students for all your efforts! It is wonderful that you are spending time reflecting on the importance of these simple virtues.

“Good manners have much to do with emotions. To make them ring true, one must feel them, not merely exhibit them.”

—Amy Vanderbilt

posted by: Simms Sonet on May 26, 2010  8:55am

I would like to thank Ms. Shani for having me on the show, and Mrs. Gardener for requesting me. I was happy to meet other like minded teenagers. The discussion was very enlightening and everyone made great points. I am sure our Grandmothers are proud. Thank you again Ms. Shani for having me. It was truly an enlightening and inspiring experience.

posted by: Amber on May 26, 2010  1:59pm

Think Of Grandma is totally cool.

Hello OneWorld:
All kids need to do to see bad manners is to watch some of the political mouthpieces (on Fox) and some of the politicians.  They lie with a straight face.  Everywhere kids turn they can find poor examples.  We can’t follow those who have no idea for a good future.  Nubia, Caitlin, Raizine and Lorhely are all smart, polite and classy young women.  Not everyone have parents who can teach them the best way to be; it helps to have great teachers too.

Hey, if you have the smarts and the manners you’re destined to get to high places.  It’s really good to read comments being made by teens.  Thanks Ms. Shani and OneWorld.

posted by: Mark Consorte on May 27, 2010  12:13pm

I am the faculty advisor for the Academic Integrity Committee (AIC) at West Haven High School. I just wanted to say how proud I am of this group, especially the senior officers who have given so much of their time and effort over the past three years (President Liana Teixeira, Vice President Kim Hawley, and Secretary Sarah Green).  AIC is a group of 30 students and teachers committed to reducing cheating incidents and promoting integrity at our school. This week AIC members are visiting local elementary schools reading stories about why cheating is wrong to 3rd graders. We have had over 500 students take an Integrity Pledge promising not to cheat. We have run PSA’s, essay contests and movie nights to raise awareness about this issue. We have visited Washington D.C. to brainstorm with other schools from across the country with similar programs. We recently developed a new cheating policy for our school that is currently in draft form. Next week, we will participate in a survey on cheating conducted by the University of Connecticut Psychology Department in conjunction with the School for Ethical Education in Milford.  I am so proud of the work we have done and will continue to do next year to advance this worthy cause.  Sincerely, Mark Consorte, Social Studies Department Head, West Haven HS

posted by: OneWorld Progressive Institute, Inc on May 28, 2010  1:22am

On our “21st Century Conversations” program titled Civility, Ethics & Manners taped on May 18, students from West Haven High School spoke very proudly of the Academic Integrity Committee (AIC) started at their school by Mr. Consorte and Mrs. Mary Janeczek. On April 27, on our Issues of Concern program Caitlin told us about starting a Snapple Recycling program that is now used throughout the school district. The students also spoke very proudly about having representatives to the Board of Education meetings.

None of these things could have happened without solid administrative support.  Such support sends a very positive message to the students. Both the AIC and the students representation to the BOE are paying dividends among the student body because they speak about both with great pride.  Of course, to be a student representative one must get good grades, behave responsibly and take an interest in the civic, ethical and cultural life of the school.  What a great incentive to be at your best at all times and set a good example for others?

It has been a pleasure to work with Mrs. Pamela Gardner, principal at WHHS.  OneWorld has had no difficulty getting student representatives from the school; Mrs. Gardner makes the recommendations herself; she returns phone calls and responds to emails. Of course, like all schools with a dynamic population, WHHS deals with numerous challenges on a daily basis.  It is impossible to get a 100 percent positive result from each challenge.  However, since 2008, all the students from WHHS who have participated in our teen forums have spoken in very positive terms about their experiences at school. And yes, I fully understand that we get some of the best and brightest, but as evidenced by the activities described in the article, and by Mr. Consorte’s comment, something very right is happening at WHHS, and some very specific things such as manners, rules, respect and boundaries are established in the homes from which each student comes.

Of course, good things are happening at every school represented in our forums. The children who benefit most are those who come to school prepared to learn and those who have been taught from infancy to value education, have self-respect, live ethically and responsibly, and always be polite to others.

Nubia Williams, Raizine Bruton, Lorhely Velez, Simms Sonet, Julie Buonasora, Kaitlin Fung, Caitlin Morissey, Marcus Harrison, and Chante Lewis are shining examples of what is possible from our public schools when home and school are on the same page, and when students connect with caring, committed teachers. 

We thank those who have posted comments; we value them greatly.  We encourage visits to our comprehensive web site; there you will find an array of education resources. We welcome suggestions and specific recommendations for our Teen Center.  The programs we present are available on DVDs through our web store.  We greatly appreciate the work being done by NHI. As graduation dances continue, I remind every teen, dance as if grandma is watching you.  A safe and wonderful celebration to everyone.  Peace.
N’Zinga Shani

posted by: curtis wilson on May 28, 2010  9:45am

your program helps remind us of how people and times have changed for the worse. there seems to be a sense of entitlement that teenagers feel today. they forget who they are, who they represent and what sacrafices were made for them. it all starts at home! teenagers speak to their elders like they would speak to their friends on the street. the problem is the lines are blurred at home and it follows them to school and where ever they go. we need more please and thank yous.

posted by: Cynthia on May 30, 2010  10:59am

Hello N’Zinga:
It is wonderful to read this beautiful article about these mature and responsible teens talking about civility and manners.  I like what Kaitlin Fung said about the town official who seems to think he is entitled to have her hold the door for him.  Clearly these children have parents who have taught them that having good manners is important.  I appreciate that instead of doing the regular chit chat issues you are focusing on these less obvious but important social issues.  Basic civility matters and a lack of it affects our entire culture and social interactions; I wish that some of the large cable stations would take a page from what you are doing.  The NHI also does a nice job.  Keep up the good works

posted by: Esther Duncan on June 3, 2010  10:02am

This one is a beautiful article about these courteous young people, and the importance on civility.  We want to stress how important it is for parents to teach their children good manners.  This is one thing I know that you are consistent about, and I commend you for it. 

posted by: Darnell Goldson on June 4, 2010  10:40am

Great activity, positive energy. We need more of this kind of coverage. Kudos to all involved.

posted by: mlw on June 4, 2010  1:21pm

I enjoyed this story.  We need to share more stories of our young people who are making a difference in their daily lives.  It’s important to show the younger generation that it’s ok to have a dream, to set goals and to work hard to get them.  To have good manners, build good charaters, and have respect for yourself and others.  You’re doing a beautiful job and continue to give us that different perspective.

posted by: Mr. Davis on June 4, 2010  6:11pm

Dear Ms. Shani:

I have been meaning to send you this comment.  Most of us take it for granted that parents teach their children good manners but that some children just don’t practice it. I know now that is not always true.  I recently witnessed a woman cursing at her very young grandchild.  She told him to get away from the expletive door and don’t let her have to come and get him. She then reached out and grabbed his arm and twisted it while continuing to curse at him.  What a lesson to teach a young child! Before long he will be doing that to others.  Being civil to each other is falling off badly in America.  Watch some of the cable shows to see what I mean.  OneWorld is commended for doing these types of programs; we need more of them.  Praise for the schools that send you these students.

posted by: L Rao on June 6, 2010  3:51pm

One-World Progressive Institute is commended for featuring youth and teens in their public TV program, 21st Century Conversations.  It is refreshing to see programming that more accurately reflects teenagers as the thoughtful,positive and respectful individuals they truly are.  The media often casts a negative spotlight on teens & expands or sensationalizes a story way out of proportion to the single act or mistake youth and/or adults make during the course of their lives.  Please continue to produce your superb public TV programs which are informative and timely.

posted by: Maria Dominici on June 8, 2010  6:08pm

I completely agree that some young people today are rude, use terrible language and really don’t have self-respect.  A friend of mine said recently that she believes all people should try to live their lives with grace.  I think that’s good advice.  Treat others kindly and with respect, especially older individuals.  Say please and thank you.  Look people in the eyes when you speak to them.  And keep your negative opinions to yourself because nobody really wants to hear them anyway.

posted by: Tracy Smith on June 9, 2010  9:04pm

Wow…I believe not only do the children lack respect, but the parents as well..when I was growing up (in the 60’s) you were taught to respect your elders and be polite to everyone. Now a days, everyone just wants to one up the other and they don’t consider the outcome or the other’s feelings.. There is so much that I could say on the issue, but I will say that it is a sad day we live in when we cannot just live and love and be happy with what we have been blessed with…children, you are going to hopefully grow old one day, wouldn’t you like someone to show you a kindness or two? THINK ABOUT IT!!!

posted by: A Distressed Teacher on June 10, 2010  1:09pm

Dear Ms. Shani:

Reading this article was most interesting; at least it gives me hope that these young people are so mindful about manners and self-respect, etc.  As a teacher I have come to accept the disrespect I get from some of my students.  No, I do not like it one bit, but in today’s job market and public school systems (and this is true throughout the country) there is little a teacher can do but go along with the dictates of the system so as to keep working.  Some of the parents are worst than the children, so there is nothing we can do to change the behaviors of children whose parent continue to set bad examples.  Ask many teachers in your community and you will hear the same story.  Some parents are abusive and disrespectful so the children think it is fine to behave in like manner.  Thank you for shedding some light on this issue. 
A Distressed Teacher

posted by: Lyn Hinds on June 14, 2010  11:16pm

Hi Ms. Shani,

What a wonderful opportunity you are providing for these young students, to be having a conversation about civility at this point in time! Its truly great that these young ones are thinking about how to be kind and caring to older folks.  It makes me feel all is not lost and we as parents should do all we can to guide these young people in the right direction.

Your Public Access Program “21st Century Conversation” is a wonderful community Outreach Program that allows these young students the opportunity they need.

Ms. Shani, keep up the good work.  Lyn

posted by: L. Barrett on June 15, 2010  11:15am

Hello OneWorld:
For those of us not in your area it is often very difficult to post comments to these remarkable articles.  As a young person I enjoy reading about other intelligent
and responsible young people who are aware of other things than what is normally attributed to teens. One of the reasons many teens behave irresponsibly is exactly because so little is expected of them.  Those of us who have parents who hold us accountable and responsible do not behave like we have empty heads.  I thank you for producing these informative TV programs and for engaging these students in ways that are positive examples for other teens.  OneWorld and the New Haven Independent are providing an important service to the Internet community.  I wish it was easier to get our comments posted.

posted by: Caitlin on June 17, 2010  6:40pm

It was a great experience for me to be able to talk on this show! i would like to thank everyone involved and all the readers of this article.