In All Honesty

It’s no lie; we need to take our values more seriously. Dishonesty, even in minor forms, is becoming too common at Phillips Academy, and we as a community need to take measures to create an atmosphere that better promotes honesty, knowledge and goodness. While students generally condemn egregious acts of dishonesty, we condone smaller lies and acts of cheating. It is these lesser acts, which are easier to get away with, that are becoming more and more commonplace. These include lying about sign-in, places of study and car permission, taking liberties with our calculator programs, copying homework, talking about tests and quizzes with other sections of the same class and reading Sparknotes in place of English readings. These acts, while not as flagrant as plagiarizing a paper or looking at someone else’s test, actually do more damage to one’s character. A camaraderie of cheating seems to have developed at Phillips Academy. Trading information about quizzes or copying answers from textbooks has almost become routine, a part of our everyday lives. These seemingly minute acts accumulate until they are shamelessly habitual, instead of just “moments of weakness.” These consistent actions will soon begin to define our characters. Has the idea that “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying” found its way into the Andover mentality? Some see cheating as the easy way out, a way to get by doing minimal work. But others see it as a potential edge, a way to get a better grade even if you’ve already put the work into the class. According to a Phillipian survey last month, most students believe that Phillips Academy emphasizes academic success more than honesty, so it almost no wonder that students feel pressure to succeed, even at the cost of their own integrity. Students continue to find ways to “work the system,” to do everything we can get away with. The best way to address this problem is not to fix the holes in the system; that would only require more supervision, rules and discipline. To really reverse this trend, students need to have a fundamental understanding of the importance of honesty – so that they won’t want to “work the system” in the first place. Phillips Academy’s Constitution charges the school to produce students of good character. The Blue Book further proclaims that “honesty is the basic value on which this community rests.” At a time when professional athletes stand trial for cheating or lying and business executives and politicians come under scrutiny for deceitful practices, it is imperative that the school ensure that its students graduate as honest members of society. So what do we do? First, students should lead by example. When students are entrusted with responsibility, many will rise to the occasion, and when students are responsible for one another, integrity becomes an expectation of one’s peers, not the school. Second, faculty should communicate more with students and form close relationships with them. When students feel that teachers trust them, this trust will foster high moral standards. Conversations after class, during conference period or even in Uncommons, will contribute to these relationships. And students are less likely to cheat in the class of a teacher with whom they have a relationship, whom they admire. Monday’s School Congress was an effective venue for ad-hoc dialogue between student leaders and faculty. The Phillipian hopes that opportunities like these will lead to more communication between students and teachers. Strengthened bonds between instructors and pupils outside of the classroom can have an impact unachievable within academic buildings. Already, many teachers, house counselors, coaches, and some advisers are great examples of adults who serious influence students’ characters. The Phillipian proposes that students and the administration work together in a cooperative effort to educate students about honor and integrity, to foster communication within the community and ultimately to create a shared value of honesty and trust. As students, we should not settle for a camaraderie of cheating, for “working the system,” cutting corners and taking the easy way out. We need to understand that our self-worth is not our GPA’s; it is our character. And at the end of our time at Andover, our sense of pride in our accomplishments and personal achievement can be unsullied by the taint of dishonesty.