With all this talk of courtesy and etiquette going the rounds today, and classes on the subject organized voluntarily by pupils of our schools, I do wish some one would start a fad for courtesy in the public lecture room. We need it here in Decatur.
I’m prompted to this comment by the wriggling, banging of seats. scraping of feet twisting. whispering, and flipping of note book leaves in the auditorium last week when Dr. Pitirim Sorokine was speaking.
The audience composed of about equal proportions of townspeople and students, had difficulty in understanding his broken speech, so it gave up trying and wriggled, banged. and so on, until those who could understand were not permitted to hear.
Part of the fault may have lain with those who introduced the speaker. I think it would have stimulated personal interest if, instead of trying to explain his message, that had been left to him and explanation given instead about the man himself.
Who even in that noisy audience would not have sat quietly, for instance, if they had known that this man came out of Europe unable to speak a single word of English, and in one month was lecturing all over America in the language?
Instead of blaming him for his broken speech. and punishing him cruelly with noise. I think he would have been listened to with admiration and respect. None but would have given him just due for the accomplishment of a difficult feat–if they had known of it.
Dr. Sorokine had long been a student of English and could read and write it with ease. But to read and write, and to speak, are quite different things. as those of us who can struggle through a page of French. only to fall flat before pronunciation, can relate to our sorrow.
And in just one month he had conquered his ignorance of spoken English to such an extent that be spoke it in lectures before that most critical of all audiences in the world, students in a lecture room.
If any person in that audience, with two years gruelling drill in French, had been set before a Parisian audience to deliver a lecture on any subject, do you suppose they could have done it? And if the audience had been noisy, and then heaped the last insult by rising one by one and clumping out.
The Assistant Woman’s Editor.
— Let’s Talk It Over,” Decatur Herald (Decatur, IL), Tuesday, March 25, 1924, pg. 10
EDITORIAL COMMENT: Let’s hear it for empathy.
— posted by Roger W. Smith