Protocol…A Unique Westminster Tradition

At Westminster Academy, we have high expectations for our students, both academically and socially. One of the ways the school supports that expectation is through the Upper School protocol program. As part of the curriculum, students take classes where they learn dinner etiquette, dancing, and basic manners. They are given the opportunity to put these lessons into practice on the evening of the Protocol Ball. One of the goals of the evening is to truly have an experience that is both enjoyable and applicable to future life settings. Senior Addison Furst notes “[It is] one of my favorite traditions that we have here at Westminster. I love to tell others about it because there are no other school dances that are anything like Protocol.”

“I strongly believe this is the most counter-cultural thing we do at the school,” said Mrs. Perry. “To teach young men how to properly escort a date, to teach manners, social etiquette, how to write a thank you note…these are skills that matter in society and are lost on most of this generation.”

Having a protocol program was always something the founders of Westminster wanted to incorporate in the curriculum. “When we first started out, we saw other classical schools teaching manners and etiquette, and we saw that as a take-a-way that we wanted here,” explained Mrs. Perry. “But it wasn’t until a few years later, when the Upper School had full enough classes, that the school officially turned it into an evening event with dinner and dancing.”

In preparation for the evening, Mr. Kinney sits down with the young men of the Upper School to discuss manners, expectations, dress, and dates. “Our students live in a culture that believes it has the right to redefine anything it chooses, and manners are no exception,” he explains. “There are few things as enjoyable as a good meal, well-served, and appropriately enjoyed.”

After months of preparation, from etiquette classes to dance lessons, the students gather, well-dressed and photo-ready, to enjoy an evening together in a beautiful setting. There is good food, good conversation, and great dancing. Each student is issued a dance card, which they fill out with various partners for the dance portion of the evening. And the take-away is priceless, as Mr. Kinney explains. ”Very few things in current culture reinforce good manners. Manners exist to make others feel more comfortable and put them at ease. [They are] an extension of our desire for beauty and excellence, and it honors our hosts by preserving the beauty of the evening and demonstrating appreciation of his/her efforts on our behalf. The [protocol ball] is always an unqualified success and everyone has fun because they all know the dances, they know how to hold a fork, and the dance card keeps them from being trapped. Our students will do this for three years and by the time they get to college and beyond, they will feel more comfortable in social situations, and will do it well.”