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Charm School at MIT

Charm School Teaches Social Graces to the Tech Savvy

We're happy to present this article from our partner site Yahoo! Shine:

Tech-savvy students, faculty, and staff members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology may be superadvanced when it comes to science, but a campus-only charm school — where megaminds get to hone their social skills — is one of the most popular things on campus right now.

Forget high-end etiquette like whether Americans need to curtsey to queens (they don't). In the MIT program, students who usually spend their lives in the labs learn about social niceties like how to shake hands properly, how to make small talk, and the basic dos and don'ts of table manners.

Read on to find out more about this geek-chic charm school.

Related: 25 Manners Every Kid Should Know by Age 9

"The classes we teach are designed for everyone, and we feel that we all have something to learn about etiquette, manners, communication, and personal skills," the school explains on its website. "The nerd stereotype is not only misleading; it does not begin to capture the diverse, dynamic community that we have here at MIT. The bottom line is that not everyone receives this kind of instruction, either at home or in school, so we feel they are important life skills for us to pass on to the community."


MIT's charm school was founded in 1993 by literature professor Travis Merritt. Students who attend at least six classes earn a charm school bachelor's degree, eight classes gets them a master's, and after 10 classes they've earned a doctorate in charm.

Last week's classes included a panel on international communication, a dating etiquette workshop, and the charm school's annual semiformal Etiquette Dinner, where students (most of them female) learned not to twirl their spaghetti on their spoons or put their smartphones on the table.

Guests also learned that they should hold white wine glasses by the stem and red wine glasses by the bowl, butter their bread one bite at a time, order alcohol only if others are too, and that they should fold their napkins in half and place them on their chairs when they get up from the table.

"Of course, the person in front of you always takes precedence over any technology," etiquette instructor Dawn Bryan, the 78-year-old author of The Art and Etiquette of Gift Giving, told people at the dinner. "We know that, don't we?"

— Lylah M. Alphonse

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