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Charm School Offers Eating Etiquette to Unpolished Collegiate Geniuses

Always remember to push in your barstool (Photo by Krista Simmons/LAist)
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A new class that would make Emily Post proud is teaching the brainiacs over at MIT and Cal Tech how to behave in social dining situations. And it has us thinking: Why is it that home ec and etiquette have been banished from most school programs? In the age of fast food and even faster technology, where families so rarely sit down for a meal without digital distractions, these elements of education are even more important to becoming thriving adult in the professional world.

Sure, budgets are tight, and math is important. But when it comes to business, those social graces are key. Both MIT and CalTech agree, and have instituted Charm School, a class that teaches everything from how/when to answer a business call during lunch to where to sit your utensils when you're done eating.

MIT's Charm School started in 1993 as a series of 20-minute sessions held over a four-hour period one day each winter term. CalTech offers Manners 101, "in preparation for the post-Caltech world of business receptions and dinner parties," according to the course description. The class is offered a few times each year and isn't given for credit, but students still sign up.

The LA Times illustrates some of the issues covered in the modern etiquette class at MIT:

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How does an observant Muslim navigate a business breakfast during the fasting month of Ramadan, for example? (Politely explain why you won't be eating but don't give a lecture on religion, skip the meeting or demand it be rescheduled.) Should a male employee hold the door for his female boss? (If you get to the door first, sure, and do it for your male colleagues as well — it's polite.) What to do if you're expecting an important call but don't want to keep the cellphone out during lunch with the boss? (If it's really that important, explain that you're expecting a crucial call, put the ringer on silent, and if the phone lights up during the meal, excuse yourself to answer it.)

As one final piece of social grace, the folks at MIT offer up one of our favorite personal touches: sending a hand written thank you note. That is, if you can remember how to hold a pen.