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Before I get into this week’s blog, I want to break a policy and discuss the national state of affairs: the police murder this week in Minneapolis was more than another a murder by a supposed defender of our laws. This was more than a policeman bringing suffering to a man, but a killing with an astonishing level of nonchalance, presumption of impunity, and entitlement. I hope that every day forward, for as many days as it takes, will be filled with peaceful protests, lawsuits, justice, and education until we are certain that a racist policeman cannot murder one of our citizens for the sole crime of being black. This police action was beyond dishonorable—it was horrifying. This week, however low we all are from this quarantine, our nation bore an action even lower: this was the most disgraceful thing I have ever seen, and one of the most upsetting. We cannot wait for change anymore—it has to be now. The Grauer School recommits at this time to the values of compassion, human dignity, and social justice. We join the national chorus of calls for action, and we pledge to take action.

Collage by Josie B. '21 honoring Civil Rights activist Stephen Shames, created for her "Voices of Social Justice" project in US History class - May 18, 2020

Our Honor Code

Honor codes go back to the dawn of civilization and, in fact, are approximately like a definition of “civilization.” The legendary Samurai Code, officially known as the “virtues of Bushido,” requires that the warrior embody and exhibit the qualities of righteousness, courage, benevolence, respect, honesty, honor, and loyalty. When breached, the noble warrior would perform a ritual of sepukku—I don’t want to go into that right now but look it up if you must—suffice it to say that the Samurai took honor extremely seriously.

Like any great community or civilization, a great school must have an honor code, either written or tacit. William & Mary College, the second-oldest U.S. college after Harvard, is widely credited with developing the first honor code, in the late 1700's. The tradition of academic honor codes is extremely important to us. Almost all colleges have a judicial system that is either student or faculty run. In most cases, once an honor code violation is reported, the accused student must go before a panel of their peers or faculty members. Violations receive almost famously different responses. Our nation’s military institutions are particularly literal in interpreting their codes, if not harsh. Some are descended from the strict, ancient warrior codes.

The Grauer School’s code, grounded more in our current understanding of adolescent development, is less strict, at least regarding first offences. We attempt to separate isolated “mistakes” from “patterns” that are forming. Hence, early infractions are often met with teaching, encouragement, conversation, relationship strengthening, and agreement. All the same, in those extremely rare cases where students have been expelled from our school, academic integrity issues and dishonesty have been the biggest culprits.

We want our students to know: You only have to live with one person, yourself. We cannot monitor every aspect of your life or watch your every move like a hawk. But we do think we can create a school where people assume trust is alive—all the greatest institutions have worked that way.

Artwork by Thalia M. '21 honoring Civil Rights activist Daisy Bates, created for her "Voices of Social Justice" project in US History class - May 18, 2020

The Grauer School has re-activated its honor code this season. The reason is that many students are having to take tests and create high integrity work while not being supervised. The teacher and student are bound across digital screens only by trust and honor. I hope this will be the start of a deeper and protracted consideration of what honor means at our school and to our students and teachers.

Here is our Honor Code, as discussed with students during review week:

  • I have not received, I have not given, nor will I give or receive, any assistance to another student taking this exam, including discussing the exam with students in another section of the course.
  • I will not use any non-instructor approved electronic device or app (like Google Translate) to assist me on an exam.
  • I will not plagiarize someone else’s work and turn it in as my own.
  • I will not copy, share, or discuss content of this exam now or at a later date without the express permission of the teacher.
  • I understand that acts of academic dishonesty may be penalized to the full extent allowed by the School, including receiving a failing grade for the exam. 
  • I recognize that the strength of my integrity is far more important than any score on this exam.

This honor code addresses only written work and yet an honor code must mean more than that.  

What is fascinating about honor codes is that they make you promise to abstain from some of the most time tested, effective, efficient learning known to man: collaboration. But I think we can all agree that there is time and cause to see how our students strike out on their own now and then, and this is something tests are good at doing.

When students take a test in school, they are being tested not only on subject matter, but on integrity and self-regulation. The scholastic environment is particularly well suited to do this kind of testing. According to most college websites discussing the Honor Code, the most frequent violations occur when a student submits another person’s work as his own, or when a student gives or receives unpermitted aid. Examples of these types of plagiary violations are anywhere from copying another student’s problem set or handing in a paper that was bought of the web.

Since we are writing from a quarantine in our own homes and our students are working without teacher direct supervision, we have the opportunity to revisit our honor code. If you have ideas about how to improve our honor code in the specific context of our core values, please send me those ideas.

Lucky for us, our students express a true reverence for teachers to whom they feel responsible—our students have stepped up to the challenges of distance learning—social, emotional, academic, physical and other as true role models. We could not be prouder of our students or more confident that they will be lifelong representatives of the honor we aim to instill in them—they are already instilling it in us.

Dr. Grauer wants to hear from his readers. Please click on the "Comments" drop-down box below to leave a comment about this column!

Photos for Dr. Grauer's Column

Collage by Josie B. '21 honoring Civil Rights activist Stephen Shames, created for her "Voices of Social Justice" project in US History class - May 18, 2020

Artwork by Thalia M. '21 honoring Civil Rights activist Daisy Bates, created for her "Voices of Social Justice" project in US History class - May 18, 2020

Fearless Teaching® Book
by Dr. Stuart Grauer

Fearless Teaching® is a stirring and audacious jaunt around the world that peeks—with the eyes of one of America’s most seasoned educators–into places you will surely never see on your own. Some are disappearing. It is a bit like playing hooky from school. You will travel to the Swiss Alps, Korea, Navajo, an abandoned factory in Missouri, the Holy Land, the Great Rift Valley, the schools of Cuba, the ocean waves, and the human subconscious—oh, and Disneyland.

There you will find colorful stories for the encouragement, inspiration, and courage needed by educators and parents. Fearless Teaching is not a fix-it book—it is more a way of seeing the world and the school so that you can stay in your work and focus on what matters most to you.

"Grauer’s writing reminds us that Great Teaching, singular, rare, unusual, is something that should be sought after and found. Thank you.”
Richard Dreyfuss, Actor, Oxford scholar, founder of The Dreyfuss Initiative

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Dr. Grauer's Column: Archive of Past Columns

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Dr. Grauer's Column - Sir Ken Robinson Has Died

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Dr. Grauer's Column - Outdoor Classrooms at The Grauer School

“Get Outdoors” is a well-known Grauer School mantra. The current pandemic crisis has highlighted the value of outside learning to achieve the benefits of space, fresh air, engaging learning opportunities, and the calming effect of connecting with nature.

Dr. Grauer's Column - Sacred Scenario Planning for Schools

In this contemplation dedicated to the new Senior class of 2021, Dr. Grauer illustrates how the human mind can create new meaning and educational vision in pandemic time when some of the old formulas and lifeways are not serving us as intended.