Mrs P forbade the reading (in and out of school) of a well-known children's author Enid Blyton. She gave 2 reasons: her pupils were far too intelligent to waste time with such simplistic drivel; Enid Blyton only ever used one adjective and this was 'nice'.
'Nice' was a word Mrs P. would not allow her pupils to use. She considered this lazy because, as she told us, her pupils were capable of finding adjectives that more precisely and creatively said what we meant. I can only imagine how she might have responded to the American phrase, 'have a nice day' - she would have challenged this this with some edgy questions.
We couldn't say 'nice' at school. At the same time there was a clearly understood code of conduct that we "gels" were expected to "be nice". Not that the forbidden word 'nice' was ever said. What was expected was courtesy, kindness, consideration and respect for others and so on. Nothing wrong with that - the world needs more of those qualities. But there is a 'but'. Problems arise when the need to "be nice" overcomes the imperative for truth to be spoken, bullies challenged, hard questions to be asked of people in power.
Some years ago a journalist published her research about what the Church of England was like, based on visits to churches and personal interviews. (I've forgotten who this was. Perhaps someone can remind me.) She decided that a distinguishing characteristic of the Church of England was its "niceness". I think she found this slightly endearing, but - what a condemnation. How has it happened that so many people think that to be a Christian is the same as being "a nice person"?
Thanks to Stuart James' of eChurch Blog for directing me to Elizabeth Scalia's post The Shushing Tyranny of "Be Nice"! She has insightful comments on the question 'Does Christianity demand niceness?' Here's a snippet:
Jesus, it seemed, preferred someone who would speak a slightly edgy truth over someone who would be “nice,” but dishonest. Being himself All Truth, dishonesty in the guise of niceness could not serve him.
In fact, Jesus said many things that probably make our modern niceniks squirm in the pews: “Let the dead bury the dead!” (But Jesus, how dismissive!); “I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother. . .” (You’re so divisive!); “Shake the dust from your feet as a testimony against them!” (Hater!); “Get thee behind me, Satan,” (Jesus! Peter was just trying to be nice!).
Image (Creative Commons): 'Have a Nice Day' by Leo Reynolds