A SPECIAL MESSAGE ON SOCIAL JUSTICE FROM THE HEAD OF SCHOOL:
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.
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.
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!