Thursday, October 8, 2009

Honesty: The First Step

"Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom."

- Thomas Jefferson

Our Honor Code states in part, "we will be honest with ourselves and others." Jefferson has answered why we want to be honest very clearly and succinctly. We do it because it is the first step to wisdom. Well, what is wisdom? I'm going to go to go back to my dictionary for a definition:

wisdom: n. knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action

Obviously, middle schoolers will not be wise. In fact, their developmental timeline dictates that they will be anything but. They may have knowledge of what is true or right, but may miss wildly on just judgment as to action, or vice versa. A typical manifestation of this is the art of excuse-making.

However, as with all education, we must begin somewhere and as Jefferson has told us, we should start with honesty. Honesty is a core component of the Honor Code at Calvert and the reason we included the phrase "ourselves and others" is so we remember honesty begins within ourselves and is projected outward. Once we accept the path of honesty, excuses fall away and wisdom can start to grow. As Spencer Johnson said, "Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people."

We want our students to be honest with themselves and others about their assignments - Is my work my own? Will my work be completed on time if I watch this show or play this video game? or Will I own up to missing work?

We want our students to be honest with themselves and others about their relationships in school - Should I really say that mean thing? Should I turn a student away from a "saved" seat? Or should I really speak to my teachers/parents/siblings/friends in a way that will hurt them or disrespect them?

We want our students to be honest with themselves and others about their responsibility as members of the Calvert community - Should I be in the side stairwells when I know we are not allowed? Should I sneak past the head of school to avoid shaking hands? Should I decide not to sign into study hall?

Often in middle school, the natural inclination is to create excuses to answer these questions, but the honest answers are small notations in the first chapter of wisdom. Taken together they build the habit of honesty (perhaps another definition of Integrity). A habit of accepting and owning what is right and true. Once they make honesty a habit, the next step of just judgment as to action can be taken:

My work is my own. I'll do my work, and record that show for later. I missed the assignment and will complete it as soon as possible.

I will defend my friend. I will offer that seat to my peer. I will speak with respect to my teacher/parents/siblings/friends.

I will take the center stairwell. I will shake the head of school's hand. I will sign into study hall.

No excuses, no stories. Just being Honest with ourselves and others.

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