Thursday, July 16, 2009

Honor Codes: Do They Result in Academic Honesty?

"A Cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate those who do." - United States Military Academy

"On my honor I have neither given nor received any unauthorized aid on this (exam, test, paper)." - Rice University

"I pledge my honor that I have neither given or received aid on this test or paper." - Charlotte Catholic High School

"As a Member of the William & Mary community I pledge, on my Honor, not to lie, cheat, or steal in either my academic or personal life. I understand that such acts violate the Honor Code and undermine the community of trust of which we are all stewards." - The College of William and Mary

Wikipedia defines "honor code or honor code system" as "a set of rules or principles governing a community based on a set of rules or ideals that define what constitutes honorable behavior within that community. The use of an honor code depends on the idea that people (at least within the community) can be trusted to act honorably. Those who are in violation of the honor code can be subject to various sanctions, including expulsion from the institution."

Are you currently using an honor code at your school or have you attended a college or university that used one? I have read about honor code systems that are either student enforced or enforced by administration. Do you have a preference in who enforces the code?

My thoughts are that competition is a wonderful yet complex issue. The competition between students may create enough pressure that a small number of students will cross that thin line between right and wrong. At the same time, that same competitive spirit will create a "policing" of actions by their own peers.

Is cheating a problem at any academic level.....YES! Will an honor code help? Check out what some students at Vanderbilt University think of cheating and their honor code:

I personally think an honor code and system is a worthwhile endeavor and it serves as a constant reminder of what we should demand from ourselves and those around us (maybe a few people in the financial markets could have benefited from an honor code???).

I'll leave you with a brief history of honor codes:

(from Wikipedia) "In America, the first student-policed honor system was instituted in 1779 at The College of William & Mary at the behest of Virginia's then-Governor Thomas Jefferson. [1] Jefferson, who graduated from William & Mary with honors in 1762, inked a basic honor system for his alma mater.

Jefferson later envisioned a similar honor system for his University of Virginia; it was at first based on strict laws limiting student behavior, but later based on student self-government. However, he never lived to see it in practice there.

UVA's early years were marked by contentious relations between students and the faculty, which culminated on November 12, 1840, when John Davis, a professor, was shot to death in an attempt to quell a disturbance on The Lawn. Davis refused to identify his assailant, stating that an honorable man would step forward on his own. On July 4, 1842, College of William and Mary alumnus Henry St. George Tucker, who had replaced Davis on the faculty, proposed that in the future, students sign examinations in the form "I, A.B., do hereby certify on my honor that I have derived no assistance during the time of this examination from any source whatsoever."[2] The idea succeeded with the students. The wording of the honor pledge has changed over time, and the definition of what constitutes an honor offense has evolved as well, at times including matters such as smoking, cheating at card games or insulting ladies.[3] As of 2006, an honor offense is defined as an act of lying, cheating, or stealing, performed intentionally, of sufficient gravity such that open toleration of the act would impair the community of trust sufficiently enough to warrant expulsion of the offender. Despite the evolution of the system over the years, UVA's Honor System is rare in that it is administered entirely by the University's students.[4] Princeton has also maintained an entirely student-run Honor Code since the beginning of their Code in 1893.

What did Thomas Jefferson NOT get involved in???

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