- The Washington Times - Monday, April 8, 2002

ANNAPOLIS (AP) With the help of "Miss Manners," recruits at the Naval Academy will learn how to be both officers and gentlepersons.
Syndicated columnist Judith Martin, also known as "Miss Manners," will help refine academy freshmen starting today. She'll teach them why they need to know how to waltz, write thank-you notes and attack a salad with the right fork.
"She's a recognized expert in the field, so why not go right for the top?" asked Bill Spann, Naval Academy spokesman.
Sundays already are set aside for etiquette classes at the academy. The school began its "officership program," for freshman last year and hopes to expand it to all four classes.
Miss Martin, who spoke at the academy once in the mid-1980s, said etiquette is particularly important for the military.
"In professions dealing with high-stakes conflicts, etiquette must be much stricter than is necessary in the society at large," she said. "The respective rules of dress, gesture, language, recognition of hierarchy, ritualized procedure and such are strongly enforced for the reason that, otherwise, mayhem would ensue."
Academy officials like etiquette training because they say it breeds a well-rounded officer.
"Part of being an officer and a gentleman means knowing how to act in high-level social events," Mr. Spann said. "This is an aspect of our nation's education system that they don't come to as having already learned."
Joseph Heyne, a freshman at the academy, said the emphasis on manners has taught him about image.
"You can send a negative image without even knowing it," he said. "We reflect on the whole military."
He has only one beef about the ballroom dancing classes: Not enough girls. "We've been trying to get some to come from other colleges, but it's hard with the tightened security."
The military has always emphasized order, with rules for everything from how to display a flag to how to arrange seats at a formal dinner.
"One reason this engagement particularly interests me is that military people understand and accept the use of extralegal rules of behavior, symbolism and ritual," Miss Martin said.
But, she has said, some of the rules are outdated.
In a recent column she criticized a traditional military toast offered to the female companions of male Navy officers which began, "To our charming ladies."
Miss Martin said the proper toast in the age of a coed military should be "to our charming guests."

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