Chivalry Lives! Arizona Teacher Requires Boys to Have Old-Fashioned Manners in Class

Frustrated by lack of respect, teacher instills old-fashioned manners in class.

BySarah Netter
February 24, 2010, 4:12 PM

Feb. 25, 2010— -- When Elise Rierson walks into Latin class, the door is held open for her. When she arrives at her desk, her chair is pulled out for her.

It's not the kind of treatment most 14-year-old freshman expect. But Elise and the rest of her female classmates have gotten used to the chivalrous gestures -- and rather enjoy it.

They've been treated with the utmost respect in their Latin classes ever since teacher Cord Ivanyi tired of watching what he has said were boys disrespecting their female classmates. So he made an eye-brow raising announcement at the beginning of the year -- all of the boys in class would be expected to act like gentlemen around the girls.

At first, Elise said, the boys "weren't really sure about it."

Neither were the girls.

Elise's mother, Polly Beauchamp, said she was surprised to hear about the classroom etiquette lessons. Elise told her everyone was a bit embarrassed at first.

Now, Elise said, "I see it sometimes outside of class," in the hallways or school cafeteria.

Among Ivanyi's other rules, boys are not allowed to sit at their desks until the girls have been seated first. And if a girl should stand in the middle of class, the boys must stand with her to show respect.

Ivanyi told that he had been encouraging the boys to treat the girls a little better on and off for the past two years.

"This year after watching a mass of boys literally push through a line of girls who were waiting to get food for a class party, I was bothered by the lack of respect either sex seemed to have for the other," he said. "The next day, I sat down with them at the beginning of the class and asked them if they considered what decency was."

Ivanyi said that he discussed the idea thoroughly with his students and some of his classes haven't showed much interest, but at least the students have shown each other more kindness. Other classes, he said, really took to the whole idea of overt etiquette.

"In those classes, the door is always held, girls are often asked if they would like to be seated, backpacks are set down for people by others," he said, "and the boys have taken to standing when a girl enters the room."

Beauchamp admitted she wasn't sure what to think about the new policy at first.

"I was a little torn to begin with as a child of the 1970s and growing up with women's lib and women's rights," she said.

But now, she said, it's almost like a "lost art form" seen only in old movies.

"If my daughter's dating boys who are polite in that way and show respect in that way," she said, "then I have no problem with it."

For their part, the girls only need to say "thank you."

NOW Unsure of High School Etiquette Lessons

But Erin Matson, acting vice president of the National Organization for Women, said she wonders if singling out the boys for good manners is the way to go, even though she called the idea of old-fashioned manners "adorable."

"We see it as teaching kids to treat people differently because they're girls," Matson said, though quickly adding. "I don't want to seem like an angry raging feminist."

"I'm sure some of the boys and teachers in the school wouldn't mind the door being held open for them too," she said, calling for "etiquette for all, just across the board."

Ivanyi said that some of his female students in one class have taken to reversing the roles.

"Several instances have occurred in which the girls hold the door for the boys and offer to seat them," he said. "This can get a bit interesting, as the boys do not generally enjoy being treated in such a way."

Cindy Post Senning, co-director of the Emily Post Institute and great-granddaughter of the etiquette guru, said she admired the thought behind Ivanyi's plan, but questioned whether his rules on manners were a bit outdated.

"I wouldn't teach the same manners that Emily wrote about in 1922, but I'd definitely teach the same principles," she said.

The roles between men and women, she said, are constantly evolving. Back in the 1960s, as more women were entering the workforce, it was common for women to remain seated when a man introduced himself. Now, she said, it's considered not only good manners, but a show of equality, for the woman to stand.

For girls to accept that their chairs always be pulled out and that the boys will stand when they do has the potential to "disempower" the girls, Senning said.

"Sometimes, I hope, the woman would be in postiion to hold the door for the guy, perhaps when he's carrying her heavy bookbag," she said. And she suggested Ivanyi nix the rule about the boys standing when girls stand.

"That would make me terribly uncomfortable as a woman," she said. "Terribly uncomfortable."

But she applauded Ivanyi for trying to instill manners in his students, even if they might need a bit of updating.

"I think this guy's motives are great motives," she said.

Elise said it was a bit uncomfortable for everyone at the beginning, but now it just seems normal.

And outside the classroom? Elise said that she doesn't necessarily expect future boyfriends to adhere to the rule of Ivanyi's classroom, but "it would be nice if they did."

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events