Let’s Earn Our Trust

“Honesty is the basic value on which our community rests,” reads page six of the Blue Book, and yet honesty continues to be among our biggest problems. Although major cheating scandals may be rare, minor lies occur many times per day. From fibbing on sign-in cheats and exaggerating the need for extensions, to using Sparknotes and Cliffnotes for ideas, pettier forms of dishonesty are very common. According to an article in the Washington Post on February 19, 2007, studies show that people tell roughly two lies every 10 minutes, some telling as many as a 12 in that time. Different solutions to this problem are often debated; however, there is no perfect one, for some people will always lie and cheat. Andover, however, ought not be satisfied with this unfortunate truth. Something needs to be done to mitigate this obvious dilemma. At School Congress two weeks ago, students and faculty met to discuss honesty, or the lack thereof, at our school. My room had a particularly engaging discussion, much of which concerned whether or not the implementation of a signed pledge of honesty before every test, in other words, an honor code, would be effective. While, at first, this idea seemed intriguing, I began to realize that the student body generally disapproves of an honor code, because the creation of one would imply that the administration does not trust students. Some honor codes have proved to be ineffective and actually have the opposite effect. As a teacher in my room mentioned, military schools have an honor code, yet one still hears of frequent cheating scandals in these schools. Harsh rules and mistrustful honor codes seem to create a gap of resentment between students and administration. Andover students continually reject any change by the administration that involves a tightening of rules, yet so many of us view honesty as the most important facet of one’s character. Therefore, we students should take the initiative and create an honor society, comprised of and lead by students.With the honor society, we could make our own honor code, one that would be similar to an administrative honor code but one in which the commitment is to ourselves rather than the administration. The creation of a student-run honor code would have all the benefits of an administrative honor code but without the implied hostility and authoritarian manner. While it would be a difficult endeavor, if run correctly, the benefits of such a system for us and the school would be extraordinary. A student-run honor code would certainly reduce acts of dishonesty. It is idealistic to say that honesty is first on students’ minds all the time, but signing this vow would remind us almost daily of the importance of honesty. We would naturally think of this value more often, and, therefore, would generally think twice before committing an act of dishonesty. The greater authority herein would be that of example and integrity amongst peers rather than the threat of administrative wrath. We would be honest due to our own initiative, not to avoid probation. Some say the reason for one’s honesty is irrelevant as long as one is honest. This was one point of view discussed during School Congress. This reasoning may seem logical at Andover, but there are not always disciplinary punishments for dishonesty. As an adult, one often has to make the choice between telling the truth or lying, and there may not be apparent, negative consequences for the latter option. In fact, it might appear that one actually benefits from dishonesty in “the real world.” However, success by any means necessary is not what one should pride oneself on; good character is much more admirable, and, with the new honor society, all of us can learn this at an early age. Moreover, a successful implementation of this honor system would garner the student body considerable trust from the administration. Given evidence that dishonesty is becoming increasingly common, the faculty and administration have begun to realize the problem. More rules, such as an involuntary breathalyzer and drug tests, which demonstrate perhaps rightful distrust, are being put into place. Students condemn these infringing rules but fail to convince the administration that we deserve their trust. If, through this honor system, there is a decrease in cheating and lying, we stand a better chance at getting these infringing rules revoked. Right now, we complain about the stress on honesty by the school; we complain about the new, stricter rules, and we complain about our lack of freedom. However, with our constant dishonesty, what have we done to deserve more freedom? Why should the administration trust us? We need to prove we are responsible and worthy of this freedom before the administration will ever consider giving it to us. Our own enjoyment at this school may fall more into our own hands than we think.