The Instigator
Pro (for)
7 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
6 Points

formal instruction on dining etiquette should be mandatory in all US public schools

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 6/21/2011 Category: Education
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,383 times Debate No: 17162
Debate Rounds (2)
Comments (4)
Votes (3)




In her book Domestic Manners of the Americans published in 1832 [1], the English writer Frances Trollope observed: "The total want of all the usual courtesies of the table, the voracious rapidity with which the viands were seized and devoured, the strange uncouth phrases and pronunciation; the loathsome spitting...the frightful manner of feeding with their knives...soon forced us to feel that...the dinner hour was to be anything other than an hour of enjoyment." Americans, she concluded, had a "universal deficiency in good manners and graceful demeanor."

Of course, that was written a long time ago. These days, the typical American dining experience is a far less civilised affair with many meals being purchased from mass catering establishments such as McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut: which are consumed without the benefit of cutlery, with the food being conveyed from its container (as crockery is not usually provided) by the means of the diners' hands, in the manner of a savage or an ape.

Now, I am not suggesting for a moment that American cuisine itself is inferior to that of any other, to do so as an Englishman would be to tread on very thin ice indeed: after all, McDonald's sell hamburgers to Hamburgers and French fries to the French, whereas traditional British favourites such as steak and kidney pudding, brawn, haslett, black pudding, tripe, mushy peas, f#ggots* and haggis are more-or-less unknown beyond these shores.

Furthermore, the curious American habit of grasping a fork as one might a gardening tool rather than a pen, and using it with the prongs pointing upwards rather than downwards, is the fault of the British who failed to introduce the fork into America until the 18th Century, and then when we did send them some we neglected to include instructions. This lack of familiarity with forksmay also explain why many Americans, even to this day, will hold their fork in the left hand while using the knife in their right hand to cut their food up before putting their knife down and transferring the fork to their right hand in order to convey their food to their mouths.

So, in order to remedy the Americans' relative lack of appreciation of table manners, that we British were partly responsible for, I suggest that formal instruction on dining etiquette should be mandatory in all of the United States' public schools and that proper eating habits should be observed in all school dining halls and refectories.

Thank you.

* Why is that word considered a profanity? Watch the embedded YouTube clip and tell me what's offensive about f#ggots.



I will present a counterplan that will minimize the affirmative case.

Since the American education system is absolutely flawed, I negate. My sole contention that the money that would be spent on promoting dining education under his plan would be better spent improving the math and science education of American students.

First, dining etiquette is completely outdated. In modern society, the masses enjoy eating in fast-food restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King, as he explicitly mentions in his case. Since these foods were designed to be eaten without the use of silverware, and the vast majority of the public does not enjoy food that needs to be eaten in a pompous fashion, there is no reason that to spend resources teaching American children how to eat in public, since they wouldn't be able to use their skills anyways. This means that he has absolutely no solvency in this round. If American students will not be able to use the skills that they learn in the classroom in their daily lives, then they will continue to eat the way they did previously despite their education, which means that the money is essentially being tossed away.

Second, even if you do not buy the first solvency turn, look to the fact that popular culture will continue to promote the use of hands and not silverware. Children are more likely to follow popular culture than the material they learn in the classroom as a guide to everyday life, meaning that even if the children did have an opportunity to use the silverware properly, they would probably ignore the instruction they received in the classroom anyways. This further means that he cannot solve the problem because even those students with the opportunity to improve their manners would be less likely to do so.

Third, given that the parents' children would continue to consume fast food and would not receive the instruction, the vast majority of Americans would continue to consume food in an "uncouth" manner, meaning that even if the first two points fall, he still only achieves partial solvency, which is not enough to affirm.

Fourth, the massive resources that would be spent on dining instruction for the hiring of professors, the purchase of silverware and expensive dishes, and for a proper classroom setting for the instruction would better be spent promoting math and science education. The United States has fallen behind in math and science education in the last century through its focus on instruction through social norms rather than on pure math and science. The money that could potentially be spent on the dining education could be used to created research programs at public high schools that would provide every student the opportunity to advance his prowess in math and science.

The impact of the fourth point also solves the affirmative case because as students become more academically skilled, the culture of the nation as a whole gradually improves, and the people of the United States would eventually learn to eat using silverware so that they could properly interact with members of other societies on an academic level.

As a side note, do not allow the affirmative to perm the counterplan because he would have to spend even more resources than he is already doing, which is extremely detrimental and counterproductive.

Fifth, the affirmative case presumes that not eating with silverware is "savage" and "animal-like." Insofar as he is trying to promote the use of silverware to improve American culture, I would contend that the tacit promotion of Western Culture through dining education is counterproductive to his ultimate goal. Modern culture recognizes the importance of the various global traditions, which include dining with one's hands, chopsticks, etc. Since he is promoting Eurocentrism through dining education, which is no longer acceptable in modern culture because it disrespects the traditions of others, the dining education would actually make the United States less cultured and would thus cause us to drift away from his end goal.

Finally, as an extension of the previous argument, I would contend that his "garden-tool" analysis of American dining is flawed because it has become a part of American tradition, so to promote culture, Americans must continue to use their forks in an anti-European manner.

Thus I strongly urge a negation of today's resolution.
Debate Round No. 1


With many thanks to my opponent for accepting this debate I shall first respond to his "sole contention", then to the further five objections he made.

Con's "sole" argument is that teaching kids decent manners would divert scarce resources from science and mathematics but, important though these subjects undoubtedly are, it is the schools' responsibility to provide children with a broad-based education that will equip them for adult life. That's why subjects such as domestic science and skills for living are on the curriculum at most schools and instruction on dining etiquette could be included in one of these subjects at no extra cost.

Next, I shall address Con's ‘first' argument that dining etiquette is "outdated". I hope this house will agree that good manners are of fundamental importance to a cohesive society and that common courtesy and consideration of others will never be obsolete in America or any other civilised country. Furthermore, the idea that this instruction would be wasted as "the vast majority" of kids will never have the opportunity to dine in restaurants that serve food on plates and provide cutlery to eat it with seems a rather bleak and unrealistically pessimistic forecast given that the United States is the richest country in the world.

Con's ‘second' argument is that children are likely to follow popular culture rather than follow what they are taught at school. I admit, this argument does have some currency: children in school are taught not to engage in many of the activities that are promoted by popular "gangster" rap artists such as Mr Iced Tea, Mr. L. L. Cool-Jay, The Beastly Boys, Mr Snoopy Dog, Mr Fifty Cents (or Mr Thirty-One Point Nine Three Pence as he's known when touring in Britain), M&M and Mr J. Zed, which include violence, profanity, promiscuity, homophobia, racism, theft, substance abuse, misogyny, gun crimes and vandalism, yet some children do engage in some or all of these activities and continue to do so as adults, but the majaority of children do hede their teachers advice and grow up to become responsible, law-abiding citizens, and the same principle would apply to dining etiquette.

My opponent's ‘third' argument was that the children's parents would continue to eat like savages even if the children didn't, but this is to underestimate the influence kids have on their parents. If their parents are planning a family day out the kids might well petition them to visit an amusement park rather than, say, spending the day at The Lace Museum [1] or at an ornamental flower garden, or at some dreary old relative's house, and petition them with success. Similarly, children are able to persuade their parents not to embarrass them by making them wear old-fashioned, unfashionable clothes and will similarly be able to shame their parents into eating their food in the correct manner, especially when they are in the company of their friends.

Con's ‘fourth' argument relates to cost and I politely refer you to my response to his "sole contention" which addresses this issue.

My opponent's ‘fifth' and final argument relates to the "Europeanization" of American culture. This, I have to say, beggars belief: American culture has swamped Europe to the extent that American-style suburban shopping malls have decimated the traditional town centre shops such as butchers, bakers and greengrocers; Hollywood movies entirely dominate cinema and television schedules; and American fast food restaurants such as McDonald's, Burger King and KFC have put countless traditional cafes out of business, caused the streets to be littered with junk food wrappers and containers and the rates of obesity to soar. Now, I'm not saying I don't ever shop at supermarkets, watch the occasional blockbuster movie or consume a hamburger every now and then, but I do lament the devastating effect the mass import of American culture has had on Europe and its people so I think that a little culture travelling in the opposite direction across the Atlantic would be more than appropriate.

Thank you.



Through the rejection of the affirmative contentions, I will prove to you that you should vote negative.

Let's go this his response to my fourth point/sole contention, which explains that we should divert our resources to math and science instead of dining etiquette. He claims that since it is the school's responsibility to provide children with enough education to survive in the adult world, the school must provide dining education. The problem is that he completely ignores two important analyses. First, that it is impossible for the nation to provide both because it would be extremely expensive (remember that I explained this in the last speech.) Insofar as this is true, he cannot solve both my plan and his plan due to resources.

More importantly, however, he drops the impact of the fourth point, namely that improving science and math skills solve the affirmative case because I can improve American culture and dining etiquette as a result. Remember that I explained that as American science and math improve, interactions on a global scale increase due to improved cooperation, meaning that scientists and the public will feel pressure to learn how to dine properly in order to better connect with the international community. This means that I solve the affirmative case at no additional cost while also improving science and math education. Even if you assume that he improves dining education, you still vote negative off of this impact because I outweigh his impacts on magnitude.

Next look to the first point, namely that dining etiquette is outdated. He first asserts that good dining manners are important to a cohesive society. Perhaps this is true for Victorian society, but the United States no longer adopts Victorian values, and modern culture no longer touts the importance of dining etiquette, meaning that the education that he wants people to receive currently has no practical importance in the real world. The impact of this is that even if children learn to dine properly, they will never be able to exercise their skills (assuming they belong to the middle class or lower class and not to the upper class; i.e. the vast majority of children), so it is a waste of time to pursue this option.

He finally claims that the U.S. is the richest nation in the world, so my first sovlency turn will not stand. The problem is that the vast majority of the people in the United States do not have the opportunity to use these skills because the wealth is concentrated in the upper classes. This argument only means that the richest people in the United States are the richest in the world. Although they may have the opportunity to use dining skills, most children in the middle class and lower class do not because they do not attend such formal gatherings.

In my second point, I explained that he does not achieve solvency because children are more likely to be influenced by popular culture than their teachers. He responds by saying that most children become law-abiding citizens rather than gangsters. The problem with this analysis is that 1) he assumes that popular culture has degraded to a level that includes violence, but in reality it has not (since the majority of people do not engage in it) and 2) people do not engage in these activities because they are prohibited by law from doing so, not because their teacher told them not to. Dining etiquette, however, is not mandated by law because not following it is absolutely harmless, meaning that students can safely ignore their teachers because not eating with a fork will not cause harm to another person. This means that you can extend the second point and mitigate his solvency.

On the third point, he claims that children can shame parents into eating food properly. The problem with this analysis is that most parents do not listen to their children, so they will continue to engage in "improper" dining habits. Having a child convince a parent to not attend a meeting at a museum is different from having the parent change his or her eating habits because the parent is trying to help the child in the first case (meaning that the parent is convinced to switch out of love rather than out of shame), while in the second case, the parent is being rebuked by the child, which most parents will not find acceptable.

He completely mishandles my fifth point, which explained that because he wants to improve American culture by having dining etiquette, and modern culture recognizes the importance of all cultural traditions, including those "savage" backgrounds that promote eating with hands, chopsticks, etc., that learning European dining etiquette will actually reduce American culture because it will promote Eurocentrism, which is outdated. He only responds to this by saying that culture should travel in the opposite direction, but that does not respond to my point because modern culture has assimilated the dining traditions of many nations across the globe. This means that even if you ignore everything else I have said, you should still vote negative because his end goal is circumvented if you adopt his plan.

Thus, I strongly urge a negation of today's resolution.

Thank you.
Debate Round No. 2
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Ninja_Tru 7 years ago
Hey Con, I voted Pro on presumption but you could have easily won as well. I saw your arguments as CP and lots of case neg. If you had done a CP net benefit (like "math and science build shiny rockets") then a Con vote would be appropriate. You also could have just gone P v Status Quo. Your case neg wouldn't be any different, and presumption is Status Quo>Plan which would favor you instead of Plan>CP.

I actually like this proposal. I wish I had more occasions to tap champagne glasses with smiling old people...
Posted by TheNerd 7 years ago
Americans take our eating habits Very Seriously:
Posted by lddebater540 7 years ago
Yes it is.
Posted by brian_eggleston 7 years ago
Just to make it clear, this is not a totally serious debate.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Cliff.Stamp 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:43 
Reasons for voting decision: There is no contest that Con argued successfully, but on balance I would give it 4:3 to Brian because Con lacked any humor at all and Brian was able to respond in kind with his first rebuttal so it would be 2:3 on argument and then 2 to brian for entertainment.
Vote Placed by Ninja_Tru 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: This debate was very clean! Thanks! Okay, this was mostly a CX debate, so I will describe my vote accordingly. The Con wins that the P and CP are mutually exclusive, no perm, CP solves, and I didn't see Status Quo as an option. 1. Con wins that middle and low class might not use. 2. Con wins that pop culture will dominate. 3. Pro wins that kids can convince parents. 4. See CP. 5. Pro wins that just a little culture flow is okay. Its 2v2 and PvCP... I vote Pro on presumption, sorry.
Vote Placed by TheNerd 7 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Point well made that current American dining habits are well-established culture with no need for "reform". In fact, to dine in the European fashion in the midst of Americans is to create an awkward situation where there otherwise would have been none. The spirit of etiquette is to create a level social ground where everyone is put at ease by following the same rules together (Emily Post herself says so). When in Rome, dine as Romans dine.