Wait, An Honor Code that Actually Works?!?

Summary:

This is the final article, and it is about cheating, and a school in Massachusetts which has taken a rather original approach to controlling it:  They make the students promise to not cheat, and report anyone who does, and trust them to do so.

Analysis:

At face value, it seems like a ludicrous notion.  The whole problem with cheating is that it involves lying, which is a breach of trust, so how can a system that operates solely on trust be a deterrent to cheating?  And yet at William’s College in Massachusetts, this appears to be exactly what has happened.  It involves an honor code which all students are required to agree to before entering, where they promise to not cheat, and to report if they see it happens.  Anything reported goes to a council made up of students, even if a professor was the one who found it, and they figure out if cheating actually happened, and what to penalize if it did.

This is a wonderful system, and demonstrates the remarkable capacity of a group of people to self-regulate based on a shared sense of duty.  In my own life I would make an analogy to the community of the video game “League of Legends”.  League of Legends, or LoL, as it is called, was once considered the defacto holder of the “Most Caustic and Unhelpfully Mean and Spiteful Internet Community” award.  In an effort to combat this Riot Ltd., the maker of LoL, introduced the Summoner’s Code and Tribunal, which works very similarly to the honor code at William’s.  Players are expected to play in accordance to the Summoner’s code, and to report anyone who breaks it, and these reports are processed by the Tribunal, which is made up of the players themselves.

The reason I think that these two systems work is based almost exclusively on the fact that the ones being punished are a part of the group which is delivering the punishment.  They are equals.  Proverbs 27:27 says that “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  A person who is being judged by the student council or the Tribunal cannot rebel against the judgment in good faith, for the judgment is one that he himself would pass down if put in the same position, a position he could be in if he so desired.  The judgment is not of clay to break on his tough hide, nor of steel to dull his conscience and bring rebellion.  It is of iron, enough to hurt and sharpen, in essence leaving him no one to fight against except himself.  That is why these types of systems are so effective.

Conclusion:

Can people be trusted?  Yes, they can, but only under certain circumstances.  They need to have roadblocks which keep them from being dishonest, road blocks which they cannot fight against.  The only such roadblocks are the only which come from themselves, or form their own friends and peer group.  They must be made to self-regulate, because if they do not someone else will  have to, which means they don’t have to, which means they can be dishonest if they can get away with it.

 

 

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