DEAR MISS MANNERS: I teach at a very small school in a relatively close-knit society. As a result, most teachers go together and buy a gift for each of our graduates.
This year we are purchasing each of our 24 graduates a voice-activated iPod shuffle, which is going to cost each of us around $50 — a little more than we have contributed in years past due to the size of this particular graduating class.
In addition, I receive a graduation invitation from each of my students, whose receptions I dutifully attend, even if for only five minutes before heading to the next one.
My issue is with one invitation I received that included a gift list “for ideas for a graduation gift.” Most invitations I receive have gracious notes that say something to the effect of, “Your presence and friendship is the gift we treasure most, so no gifts, please.”
I know these people to be kind and well-meaning, but I was appalled at what I perceive to be a distinct lack of class and manners. I am interested in your opinion and advice in handling this.
GENTLE READER: You teachers give the graduates expensive presents? Didn’t you just give them an education?
Miss Manners will not say that this led to a sense of entitlement, because that is now rampant everywhere. But it does not seem, at least in this case, to discourage panhandling for more, or even sparing those who give without prompting.
It may be too late for you to generalize this and turn it into a lesson for the graduates. But Miss Manners hopes that the lesson that generosity is not always the best way to teach character will not be lost on you kindhearted teachers.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: Eulogies have recently been the topic of discussion in our family — especially who is responsible for writing and/or actually giving the eulogy. I personally do not see the need for them. A funeral is a very difficult place for public speaking, especially when you are close to the deceased (i.e., mother or father).
GENTLE READER: Yes, it is, and therefore it is not the immediate survivors who are expected to deliver eulogies, unless they have volunteered to do so. Their task is to invite others, such as friends and colleagues, who can speak well of different aspects of the deceased’s life.
It was not always thus. The “celebration of life” funeral developed when it was no longer common for the deceased to have been well-known enough to the presiding clergy for the eulogy to be left in professional hands.
The newer form is not without hazards. Miss Manners has sat through painful funerals at which the speakers made tasteless jokes or droned on pointlessly, or told self-serving stories to illustrate how highly the person who died had admired them.
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