Its easy you find yourself reminiscing about how different things are from when you were a child and to then simply dismiss it as ‘getting older’, but if you use buses for travel, then I’m sure at some point or other you’ll have noticed how manners and recognised social protocols appear to have changed in recent years.
Certainly in my experience, and listening to the complaints of those a generation or so older than me, it starts with queuing at bus stops – or nowadays the distinct lack of it. We British are renowned for being great queuers and, as Kate Fox notes in Watching the English, any hint of queue jumping or barging is judged as a very real violation and causes distress, keenly felt and expressed often through…well, a bit of muttering and tutting.
The majority of young people in particular appear to defy this convention and no longer form a queue at the bus stop that is based on the sequence in which people arrived there. When the bus pulls up, they simply push forward, often with earphones in and eyes to the floor, and make sure they get on, regardless of anyone else.
And once on the bus, well, according to my rather outspoken older aunt, the list of poor social behaviour continues. Why play music so loud? Why talk so loud? Why put feet on seats? Why not give up a seat when someone who needs it more is standing?
I don’t think this is just a problem for my aunt and an older generation lamenting ‘the youth of today’, for we now have posters on the bus, reminding us about this once standard social etiquette. Is this because other passengers are scared to make eye contact, feel intimidated, and know that if they were to say something, the most likely reaction would be strong language, abuse or worse?
Our abdication to technology also plays a part in that isolation. Smart phones have us looking down at screens, not up at fellow passengers, as well as shutting out real time noise in favour of music, or podcasts. Even the Smart travel card we swipe as we get on the bus removes the need to look at, or say anything to the driver – who then spends a day effectively being ignored.
This is just one example of how we are losing our sense of community and in the process, our personal responsibility and necessary contribution to that community, as we cocoon and separate ourselves in our own world. Its not the community most of us really want but it’s a good example of how things can slip slowly away from the acceptable.
If it was a work or school environment we’d see the imperative for addressing the situation and making changes for the better, under the mantle of respect and ‘best practice’. For those of us living and working daily with younger people this is a real example of why we need to be helping them to develop a positive self connection and self awareness, as well as an awareness of the others around them.
So when you’re practicing inclusive groupwork, random grouping, even taking turns and encouraging eye contact, you’re not only creating confident independent learners and holding your pupils accountable, also remember that way ahead in the future you’re helping to make a group of bus passengers and a driver have a much nicer day.