Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The BIG Question

This morning we launched the BIG Question during our morning meeting time. This program has three goals:

  1. Create a forum for the whole division to meet,
  2. Introduce BIG ideas, current events, and/or school issues that warrant a common context for discussion, and
  3. Provide an opportunity for common reflection during our Middle School Chapel one week later. 
Today our topic was values and ethics, as we are in the midst of reviewing our Honor Code in anticipation of our Honor Chapel. During this service we all place our signed agreement sheets upon the altar in Phillips Chapel and agree to uphold the Honor Code in letter and in spirit. 

We began by meeting in the lobby of Armfield Hall, where I presented data from the the Josephson Institute of Ethics’ Report Card on American Youth’s Values and Actions which surveyed 43,000 High School Students in Public and Private Schools in 2009-2010. Here are the numbers I presented:
  • 89% believe it is more important to be good than to be rich.
  • 33% boys/25% girls admitted stealing from a store
  • 21% admitted stealing from from a parent
  • 18% admitted stealing from a friend
  • 48% boys/35% girls said they lied to save money
  • 80+% said they lied to their parents about something significant
  • 59% admitted to cheating on a test in the last year
  • 34% admitted to cheating on more than two tests in the last year
  • 33% admitted to using the Internet to plagiarize
  • 92% of students were satisfied with their personal ethics
I asked that the students return to their advisories and, using these numbers as a context, to discuss why it is that we have an Honor Code at Canterbury. What can it do for us as a community? What can it do for them as students? How do they feel about these numbers? 

When they returned to their advisories, they had the opportunity to read an analysis of the data (from the survey when it was taken in 2008) from a parent perspective in the NY Times column called Motherlode: Adventures in Parenting. The title of the column....Your Lying, Cheating, Stealing Teens

Advisors then guided a discussion on their reactions to the data and the parent perspective as outlined in this article. The ultimate goal was to bring the conversation back to the students' perspective on the purpose and need for an Honor Code. 

On Wednesday, September 28 Fr. Finnin will give a sermon on this topic in order to provide some resolution to this particular conversation, but the discourse will continue. I invite you to pick up this conversation with your child at home. I think you will be very impressed with the insight they will bring. 

While our Canterbury students may not have taken the survey, they will be working with the people who did in high school, college, and in the workforce. Our students, and those who took the survey, will be our congressmen and women, our senators, our business and community leaders, our mayors, our doctors, and our lawyers, our mechanics and plumbers, our financial advisors and bankers. They will build our country. 

It is our job to empower them to espouse the values of honesty, integrity, responsibility, and service. The BIG Question is one forum which we believe will allow them to hone their arguments in favor of these values and the Honor Code is the means to act it out. 

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