Slobs and Boors Signal Death of Civility

But Judd soon realized that dropping the honorifics made no difference in how the children treated their teachers.

"I concluded that in that environment, it didn't make a difference," she said. "It took a lot of getting used to, but now when I worry about their education and their future, and how they are growing up, this really pales."

Others complain about public swearing, road rage and rudeness. Civility-conscious parents worry that the in-your-face culture filters down to their children.

Thank-You Cards and Cell Phones

Holly Posner, who raised two daughters in Larchmont, N.Y., required them to routinely write thank-you notes, "the kind with ink, letters, stamps and an envelope."

That formality is fast becoming a "dying art," according to Posner, and today's casual disregard of manners shows society's "increasing narcissism."

While crossing the street during a parade in the city recently, Posner was repeatedly shoved with a woman's stroller. When she complained that her ankles "hurt," the stranger shouted back, "You need to walk faster!"

Blaring cell phones now dominate public life. Even presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani interrupted a televised speech to answer his wife's call.

"Answering every call you get on your cell phone means your time is more important than mine," said Posner. "Don't answer unless your mother-in-law is on fire or you are bidding on a Gauguin at Sotheby's."

Historically, "dressing up" was a way for families to mark special events — graduation, funerals and family holidays — but now even Posner admits she has given in. At Christmas, she no longer requires her family to put on their Sunday best.

"Civility being dead is probably not as shattering as Nietzsche's 'God is dead,' but it's certainly on the decline," she said.

But Martin, the "Miss Manners," columnist, said rumors of the death of civility have been exaggerated.

"We've been whining about it for 2,000 years," Martin told ABCNEWS.com. "It's cyclical and when manners get complicated people simplify them."

In a 2005 interview for Humanities magazine, Martin said American etiquette is always undergoing revolution.

She believes the true emphasis should be on how people relate to one another regardless of any accepted rules of etiquette. Martin receives thousands of letters from readers and the mainstay of her advice is, "If you want others to treat you well, behave well yourself."

Anna Post agrees.

"The values of the world are exactly the same since Emily Post wrote her book in 1922," she said. "Treat people with consideration, respect and honesty. And be benevolent at times. Not everyone needs to know they have a bad haircut."

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