The Invisible Curriculum: What middle class and or decent people do and don’t do!

13 Dec

I had my monthly breakfast with my friend Donna at the Carolina Inn this morning. Donna is one of the sane, intelligent people on campus that I can talk to and bounce ideas off of without either scaring the crap out of her or confusing her totally.  I shared with her that I am frustrated sometimes by what I see as a lack of understanding of what used to be considered common knowledge for a certain group of people.

Now days we would probably call them middle class, but back in my childhood I believe they would be called decent people. When I was a child, back when the earth was still cooling, decency was not necessarily tied to class or to money, it had more to do with the character and aspirations of a people than with how much they had in the bank. Some of the wealthiest people in the East End of Xenia made their money in nefarious ways and they were basically socially shunned, even by those who had very little, as bad people.

I explained to Donna that I felt some people needed a course in how to have middle class/decent values. I also acknowledged that in this century some black people would call what I was talking about acting white. But the things I am talking about never belonged solely to white people. I went on to say that I am not  talking about using the right fork at dinner, or at least not just that, I am talking about what one does or does not do if you want to meet certain standards, or simply fit in with certain kinds of people.  Donna gave me the term, “Invisible Curriculum” which I love!

So, here is the gospel according to St. Cookie on what decent people should do and should not do. I welcome your critique and objections, just make sure they are based on something.

Let’s start with the list of  some things one does do:

  • One gets married by at least the birth of the second child bred with another
  • One finishes high school at least and if that is the end of one’s education one finds a career that supports one and any offspring
  • One speaks standard English except when socializing with folks who do not outside of the workplace
  • One wears clothes that cover most of the body unless one is going to a club
  • One wears clothes that fit, just because they make it does not mean you can wear it
  • One wears said clothes in the areas they are supposed to be worn in. Bras should be covered ( yes, even the straps) and pants should not allow your underwear to show, either through the fabric or due to “sporting the droop”
  • One is polite in public, keeping outbursts of raucous laughter and/or profanity to a minimum. There are other, more positive, ways to attract attention.
  • One sends thank you notes, one rsvps when asked and one does not ask if one can bring someone else or who else is going to be there
  • One is on time unless something truly dreadful has happened to them. Being late not only proves you are disorganized, it proves you are disrespectful of other people’s time
  • One objects to injustice and unfair treatment, no matter who the object of the injustice or unfair treatment is.
  • One says “excuse me” when one walks in front of someone or otherwise invades another’s space
  • One says “please” and “thank you”

Things one does not do

  • One does not call one’s baby daddy one’s fiance ( or baby daddy for that matter, I typed that for shock value)
  • One does not brag about one’s material possessions. Being seen in your new Lexus is not bragging, telling people who have not seen it about it is.
  • One does not call people rude  racial, ethnic or other personal characteristic terms, not even to be “funny”
  • One does not wear pants that have anything printed on the derriere area. If you must advertise that your buttocks are “Juicy” please save that for private moments with your significant other
  • One does not cut line, not ever, not for any reason
  • One does not ask for “to go” food containers at events that are clearly not to go affairs ( weddings, receptions, luncheons, etc.). The penchant for free food, expressed maniacally by some I have known is a clear indication you did not have enough food when you were young. I once had a colleague who would ask for a styrofoam container to take food home no matter how posh the event. This man made a six figure salary, but could not leave the ragged boy he had been behind when it came to leftover chicken wings. Free food was more precious to him than his dignity evidently.
  • One does not rsvp that you are attending an event and then not show up. That is truly classless
  • One does not name one’s children things that sound amazingly like aliens or exotic plants or food dishes. This includes virtually anything that begins with Da or De or La and anything that ends in ikwa,nanay or bazz. My maiden name was Mann,if I had kept my maiden name I would have resisted the temptation to name my child Da or Milk, or Post or Spider.
  • One does not thank God for things like winning football games or copping that last copy of the Tyler Perry DVD. The idea of a deity who takes sides in a sporting event or wants you to watch drivel is not congruent with my concept of the Almighty.
  • One does not watch Tyler Perry anything
  • One does not use words one knows neither the correct pronunciation nor the definition of. One of my former colleagues, who holds a PhD, once told a candidate we were interviewing for a position that we were going to leave the room and give her some time to genuflect on the offer. Since said offer was in a file on his desk I was reluctant to leave the room, curious to see if she would do it.

Okay, I think you get the picture. I know I am a dinosaur. I do use place cards for dinner parties, actually give dinner parties, attend the theater, cringe when someone tells me they “seen” something and send both thank you notes and Christmas cards..heck sometimes I send Easter cards and Halloween cards and Valentine’s Cards and Thanksgiving cards, it just depends on the mood. I love the internet, but getting an email Christmas card is not the same as something you can put on the mantel.

The list of dos and don’ts above is certainly not exhaustive. There are all kinds of things one can do that make people think you have drifted from your class moorings. But, it is a good starting list. Add your own dos and don’ts, perhaps we can turn this listing ship of society back on course.


Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Uncategorized


3 responses to “The Invisible Curriculum: What middle class and or decent people do and don’t do!

  1. Mark Henriques

    December 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    I love your thoughts and your gentle yet pointed means of presentation. I wish the citizens that call my place of work followed 1/3 of your messages. Maybe I am old fashioned as well. I may not recall the cooling of the Earth ( lol ) but I do recall the ( ongoing ) degradation of basic values.

  2. dlb

    December 13, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    That is most excellent!

  3. Elizabeth J (@ElizabethM_J)

    December 14, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    These are priceless and laugh out loud funny. But, what’s not funny is how far we have slipped out of what is just “right” (thank you cards, showing up when you RSVP, etc.) into this totally lazy society of “whatever”, where everything and anything seems to go. Thanks for trying to right this ship.


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