Tony Blair's great new crusade to restore "respect" to society in general and our schools in particular has a hollow ring to it, for it does nothing to address the very basis of disrespect - the way we speak to others.
For the sole species to have developed language, we're doing pretty badly in confirming us as civilised creatures in the way we talk to one another.
In my youth, brought up as I was on a council estate, I was used to "bad language".
"Bugger," "sod" and "bloody" were common currency, but there was a firm taboo against using such language in company with women and children.
It was a mark of respect to the vulnerable in society. Only inarticulate boneheads, illbred lowlifes, trying to prove their manhood by using " shocking" language descended to the level of the gutter in their speech, using four letter words everywhere and to everybody.
Now, of course, it is different: writers of films and TV dramas seem to vie with each other to produce scripts consisting of streams of four letter words, strung together by conjunctions.
"Gritty realism" they call it; lazy, sloppy, careless writing we know it to be. What they are saying to the viewer is this: "Anything's good enough for you lot. Just think of it as the modern way."
We deserve no more respect than that.
Time was when we'd never dream of inviting into our homes people whose only idea of conversation consisted of effing and blinding all the time. Now, on TV, every interview, be it with an actor, film critic, comedian or "celebrity" is perforce littered with four letter words.
Nowadays, they don't know any better. This language is tossed in our faces carelessly and arrogantly, and jumpedup nobodies like Vanessa Feltz even have the cheek to tell us: "To be appalled by the F-word in 2005 is like wanting to pay the doctor a guinea. It's an anachronistic affectation best snapped out of."
This sneering at all those people to whom the constant battering ram of foul language is wearying and degrading is an insult to those who don't share Ms Feltz's degenerate standards and inflated ego.
Is it any wonder, with such deplorable examples ever before them, telling children that such language is both normal and natural, that young people now reel drunkenly down Broad Street at night, semi-clad, puking in gutters and with mouths like open sewers? Respect? They have none, either for others or for themselves.
Then, come Monday, they stagger into school, hung over, to assault both teachers and fellow pupils with barrages of four letter words, battering staff with the blunt instrument of foul language. Even children scarce out of nappies are allowed to think that to tell their teacher to "F... off" is acceptable.
From violence of the tongue it is but a short step to physical violence and the ultimate in total disregard for others, with photographing the pain of others for entertainment.
Other people start as verbal punch-bags and, inevitably, end up being physical punch-bags.
Respect begins with what consideration we show to others in the way that we speak to them. No wonder life in the streets is so disagreeable and life in our schools is rapidly becoming unbearable.