That is the motto of Winchester College and New College, Oxford and it was written by William of Wykeham more than 700 years ago.

But what is the state of manners in this country today?


A new film, directed by Shane Meadows, has opened this week showing what it was like in 1983.

How does 2007 compare? Are Britons getting ruder and ruder?

The Independent recently sent one of their reporters on the streets to look for polite society. This is what he found:

He's going to hit me. The bearded, beery bloke in the suit lurches forward, chest thrust out and fists clenched, slurring: "Wassyer problem?" Nothing mate. Sorry, I say, but he keeps on coming, eyes gleaming and fists flailing, so I step backwards, sensing the air changing behind me. The train is arriving at the platform, thank God.

Five minutes into this experiment - an attempt to be as civil as possible - and I'm already dodging blows.

The man in the suit hated me bending down to pick up his plastic pint glass and saying, "Excuse me, I think you've dropped something." Of course he did: he had dropped the glass deliberately, after draining the last drop of his Friday afternoon post-work beer. He wasn't drunk, just hot and thoughtless, letting it fall with a clatter on to the platform at South Quay station in London. When challenged, politely, he exploded.

Then there was he boy of 16 or so picking at the trim of a seat on the Central Line train with a small blade. Excuse me, I say again, perhaps foolishly, but his earphones are rattling and he doesn't hear. His woolly hat is pulled down over his eyes, so I don't know if he sees. I do know that he is slowly letting spit fall from his lips to form a pool on the floor. Wanting to move away, I offer my seat to a perspiring woman with shopping bags hooked into the crooks of her elbows.

"Nah," she says. Is she sure? "Look, what d'you want?" She glares at me as if I'm a pervert and turns so her backside is right in my face. This is not going well. Being civil is just provoking violence and fear.

Outside the George pub on the corner of Liverpool Street, where English manners mean braying about your pay, I move aside to let a woman with a tray of cider bottles pass. She steams through, as if deference is my duty. Nobody says thank you any more, do they?

At Primark in Hackney a friend saw the summer's most sought-after floral print dress and charged for it. Straight through a gaggle of teenagers. "Oi!" one shouted. "You could say fucking excuse me you know, you rude bitch!"

It was a fair cop. Shopping gets you like that. So do buses. Waiting for the last out of Finsbury Park station at one in the morning, my mate Dan tells me how his nose got broken. "This guy was standing by the driver, so nobody else could get on. I asked him to step back a bit." After the headbutt there was blood everywhere.

That's the kind of behaviour shown in the new Shane Meadows film.

Now the Government says it is going to do something about it and good manners are going to be taught in schools.

Will it work?

A teacher is attacked every day in Britain. One teenage boy in 10 has been suspended for bad behaviour. A third of girls have been in a fight in the past year. Nearly a quarter of young people have been guilty of anti-social behaviour - defined by the Home Office as "graffiti, rudeness motivated by race or religion, being noisy or rude in public, causing people to complain or others to get in trouble with the police".

Now children in secondary schools are to be taught "emotional intelligence" as part of the national curriculum in an attempt to combat the growing tide of rudeness, violence and lack of respect. Ministers are planning to roll out "social and emotional" intelligence classes to help children to cope with anger and frustration without resorting to violence or swearing.

The programme will be integrated into the curriculum, and will teach pupils about fair play and dealing with adversity.

From September children will learn basic values and "golden rules" such as: "We are gentle, we are kind, we work hard, we look after property, we listen to people, we are honest, we do not hurt anybody."

Jim Knight, the schools minister, is to announce the plans to introduce the "Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning Classes " (Seal) in secondary schools after pilots found that it had a dramatic effect on improving behaviour in primary schools, including on attendance records and marks.

But isn't this another example of the nanny state? Surely the Government should leave it to parents to drum into their children moral values?

Or don't they care?