Cotillions breed self-righteous arrogance, not needed empathy

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To the editor:
I was repulsed, if not surprised, to learn of the recent founding of the Lawrenceburg Junior Cotillion. The establishment of the Junior Cotillion presents a fine example of the perpetuation of archaic mentalities that have left the South falling behind the rest of the country for the past century.
The history of the cotillion is a nauseating one, marked most notably by the desire of the Southern elite to flaunt their wealth and by the tradition of objectifying women and teaching them how to “behave.”
That people in our community believe that these are the “Southern legacies” worth passing on to future generations demonstrates a serious disconnect from reality and the problems in the world.
Although the tradition of debutante balls and cotillions largely died out several generations ago, with good reason, the old money Southern elite in Lawrenceburg, like most Southern towns, find no shortage of stages on which to publicly display their wealth and importance. The last thing we need is the revival of formal organizations in which the rich further detach themselves from and place themselves on a pedestal above the rest of society.
Historically, cotillions have exclusively educated young people on how to interact with grace and etiquette among the wealthy and important for the purpose of upward social mobility. Teaching children etiquette is not, of course, inherently bad (when etiquette is not, as it often is, synonymous with the subordination of women); my point of contention with doing so in a cotillion environment is that it tends to foment an attitude of self-righteousness and arrogance.
With about 1 out of every 4 Kentucky children living in poverty and about 16 percent of Kentuckians without health insurance, it seems to me that there are more important skills we need to be instilling in our young people than how to flaunt their wealth and mingle with “important” people; there’s already an abundance of those things going on in Lawrenceburg, and it should come as a surprise to no one that these activities aren’t solving many of our problems.
Perhaps we’d be helping out our young people more by exposing them to the realities of the world and equipping them with a healthy dose of empathy with those who have fallen on hard times rather than training them in proper table settings and schmoozing.
For example, volunteering at the food pantry or teaching children how to coexist with others who are different from themselves might go a long way in providing future Lawrenceburg leaders with the tools and understanding they need to solve the appalling poverty problem in our region and our state. In short, maybe more etiquette isn’t what we need but, instead, more empathy.
Rachel Nethery