The Price of Good Manners

Katie Price brings a class issue to the table.

Cambridge Union Society etiquette Feminism hettie kelly Jordan Katie Price kieran corcoran manners meal polite respect The Sun The Union Union

‘One thing that sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom is the ability to eat with cutlery’. Not sure Darwin mentioned that in the Origin of Species.

But according to etiquette revivalists, and glamour girl Jordan, good table manners are on the verge of extinction. Even if you went to ‘posh school’.

Level 1

On the surface, Katie Price’s recent column is yet more bad press for Cambridge. Britain’s future leaders can’t hold a fork correctly?! How the education system is failing us!

But really we should thank Katie for her discerning judgement, for unwittingly she has given us a valuable insight into state of the class system.

Mealtimes are social minefields – just think of Borat. It is all too easy to make an etiquette faux pas, and immediately be judged for doing so. “Daaarling, you don’t know which knife to use? Maybe you should be serving us, not eating with us.”

Level 2

It’s great news that ‘posh schools’ are no longer emphasizing the etiquette of table manners. Contrary to what Katie suggests, we don’t occupy a world of Victorian chauvinists and chivalry or Mad Men stereotypes. Thank goodness eating habits aren’t the hallmark of an Etonian education, because in the 21st century there are more far more relevant lessons which need addressing. Like whether the only limit to female success is female ambition.

The new level 3?

Of course this does not mean there is no place for good manners. I am not advocating we throw away the serviettes, melt down the cutlery and tuck-in bare-fisted to a hunk of beef. Good manners are a mark of respect, and respect is a quality we should preserve in our society.

But teaching future generations this respect should be the role of parents, not schools. To her credit, this was the point that Katie was trying to illustrate. But by dragging in the schooling debate she raised an entirely different issue.

By expressing her shock that ‘posh school’ hadn’t taught us aristocratic ladies and gents basic manners, she reinforced a fading class stereotype. Unintentionally, she highlighted a praiseworthy point: table manners are no longer a mark of class, wealth, education, or estate acreage (although The Tattler would probably disagree).

Yes, manners matter. But perhaps Jordan would have fared better focusing on the conversation, rather than the cutlery.