Politeness Theory and College Education

Politeness Theory and College Education

Politeness Theory states that we determine our identities through the use of politeness strategies. These identities are present in the individual personas that we create, such as work, school, and personal personas. It is impossible to avoid creating these personas, which makes it of vital importance to observe how politeness theory plays into these identities, specifically in an education setting.

When it comes to learning, it is the responsibility of the individual to take ownership for his or her education. In order to learn, an individual must be motivated to gain an understanding. No teacher or professor is responsible for learning on the behalf of an individual. When analyzing education from this perspective, it can be easy to denounce politeness theory as inapplicable. If it is the sole responsibility of the individual to learn, it can be easy to question why someone would need to “preserve face”.

However, education as a whole is consistently collaborative. In the education system, individuals are charged with effectively communicating with their professors, team members, and peers. These are the relationships that will enhance an individual’s ability to learn and give him or her a broader perspective on potential issues. In order to preserve and foster these relationships, the individual must implement politeness theory in some capacity. If the politeness theory is not applied to these relationships, the individual’s education opportunities suffer. It can also be extremely difficult to receive assistance when presented with a problem. Even if an individual is talented or intelligent, their abilities are limited and can only be increased by asking for help. If the politeness theory has not been applied, it may be difficult for that individual to find the help necessary for succeeding.

While politeness theory is not the sole contributing factor to a person’s education, it is of high importance. It is possible to learn logistics, procedures, and methods individually, but in order to effectively apply those methods in real-world situations, an individual needs to have an effective method for managing relationships. The politeness theory is that effective method.

– Lauren Donahue


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