Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Sixth Grade Dance”

As I thought it would, today’s ethics quiz about the 6th grade dance with the “must accept” policy has sparked some excellent reflections and flashbacks. Taking off from Bryan’s comment—

When my son was in sixth grade cotillion class, the instructor prefaced dances with “in this class, and only in this class, if someone asks ‘may I have this dance?’ the answer is ‘yes, thank you.’ “ They also switched off having boys ask girls and girls ask boys. The whole point of the class was to learn polite interaction at an age when they’re so confused and might otherwise act weird. I thought it was a lovely compromise. This was in about 2005, so it was not so long ago, yet not inflicted with today’s outrageous thinking.

Pennagain authored this  Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Quiz: The Sixth Grade Dance”:

My experience was the same as Bryan’s – about a half-century prior. The class was once a week, part of the gym program as well as a “social” activity, I believe, and emphasizing a similar “buddy” system – you partnered with everyone at one time or another.

Ours was a smallish class so we got around to everyone else at least twice. We learned ethnic circle dances in lower classes, then box step, fox trot, waltz, and some others, ending the 8th grade (preparing for our first “formal”) with a singularly unsensual rumba. One of my classmates had hyperhydrosis, aka, a surfeit of sweat, and holding her hand was a chore for her partner and an agony for her. It got so we would safety-pin a pair of socks – not necessarily clean ones – under the shirt’s left shoulder to take care of half the problem and then, with her eager cooperation, each would try to touch each other’s palms with as little pressure as possible.

It was in fact in sixth grade that a teacher came up with a solution. She went out and bought plain, thin cotton gloves for everyone in the class and said we were all going to wear them the way grownups did, to church, to the theater, and so on — and showed magazine illustrations of (I think) Victorian regimental and Southern coming-out balls. By the time kids in other classes had noticed and started to tease, most of the moms and a gran or two had gone out and bought gloves for their daughters and in some cases, sons (most of whom had a dad or older brother who had worn a uniform not long before) so the teacher’s second brilliant idea was to announce that no one had to wear gloves anymore but anyone who wanted to could wear them whenever they felt like it.

I never liked wearing one stitch more than I had to, but about half the girls continued – including the one who had suffered years of pre-glove time (and who turned out to be an excellent dancer) – and the boys did for special occasions. Several of us found out that gloves were de rigueur for military funerals. No more gloves (or hats) these days, but I still think of that kind, smart teacher … whose name I just remembered: Miss Pitsinos … and how she always seemed to settle a fight, solve a problem or teach a simple lesson for every one of her charges at the same time. Now, that’s the real meaning of “no child left behind.”

7 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Sixth Grade Dance”

  1. As do you, Jack, I remember my 6th grade fondly. Ms Parson was one of those exceptional teachers you describe as “always seemed to settle a fight, solve a problem or teach a simple lesson for every one of her charges at the same time.” She always had the respect of her students — I know there must still be such teachers today. Too bad we don’t hear about them. We complain about the lack of respect from students, but often that’s learned at home from parents who do not respect teachers. Social skills were once a big part of schooling — we wanted a culture with shared values and principles that would hold the fabric of society together. I guess that’s too old fashioned.

  2. Thanks, Jack. I am at an age when long-ago memory surfaces more frequently in flashback than linearly, often arriving at an acute angle or in opposition to a present situation. Your posts and those of other responders are some of my most unexpected and enjoyable triggers.

  3. Despite all that I hear about the declining value of teachers and other education professionals, we count ourselves as very fortunate here in Enfield, CT, where so far, we’ve been nothing short of very happy with the the ones teaching our kids. I think it goes both ways, though. We’ve been told that we’re much more involved with our kids and their education, compared to what they’re used to. I find that very troubling, and it begs the question; who’s raising my kids’ friends?

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