Johns Hopkins Magazine -- April 1998
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APRIL 1998

E D I T O R' S    N O T E

An Invitation to Unload

It's been quite some time since we've invited you, our readers, to participate in an editorial project for the Magazine. The last opportunity came back in September 1993, when we asked our older alumni to write and share their thoughts about aging, for a special issue on the topic. The response, as you may remember, was wonderful; the letters that poured in, most written with uncommon insight and candor, formed the backbone of the entire issue.

This time around we're issuing an invitation that's sure to strike a responsive chord with readers of all ages. Next issue senior writer Dale Keiger will be writing about the Johns Hopkins Civility Project, a yearlong research effort, headed by Professors Pier-Massimo Forni and Giulia Sissa, that's aimed at "assessing the relevance of notions of civility, politeness, and manners in America today." If you believe the polls, Americans feel we're a nation in serious--if not irreversible--decline when it comes to treating one another with respect. A 1996 survey in U.S. News & World Report found that 89 percent of Americans consider incivility a serious problem; 91 percent say civility's decline contributes to violence.

Forni, Sissa, and other Hopkins scholars are looking at the issue from every angle: They've spent time at a local prison, discussing codes of civility with inmates there; they've done field research within a Baltimore City high school, talking with students and teachers; and they've hosted colloquia at the Medical Institutions and Homewood, at which scholars and writers (ranging from Diane Ackerman to "Miss Manners") have explored historical, medical, and literary aspects of the subject.

Now here's where you come in. In our June article, we'd like to give you a forum for airing the '90s breaches of civility that infuriate you most. Peeved by the friend who repeatedly puts you on call waiting? Ticked off by the sales clerk who continues talking on the phone to her boyfriend while ringing up your transaction? Thoroughly annoyed by the language you hear on prime time sitcoms? We want to hear about it. Send your submissions to me via e-mail ( or by letter (Johns Hopkins Magazine, "Breaches of Civility," Suite 100, 3003 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218). Don't procrastinate: to be considered for publication, we need your entry by April 17. Happy fuming!

While you're making your editorial contribution to Johns Hopkins Magazine, please don't forget to make your financial contribution as well. By now you've received my letter, which outlines the financial challenges facing the Magazine (primarily rising paper and postage costs), and which underscores how important your support is to maintaining the Magazine's editorial health. We can't do it without you, folks, so please, make your donation and return it in the envelope we've provided.
Sue De Pasquale, Editor