By: Mr. Lu
It was a dull, grey, run-of-the-mill morning, and Mr. Anthony was on the hot seat. Perched on a stool, and looking out at a myriad of faces in my advisory, he patiently worked though my rapid fire questions. Are you scared of becoming head of school? What would you do if you found out I smoked marijuana on weekends? Are students here spoiled and entitled? In his usual deft, polished, and measured manner, he spoke eloquently and insightfully with a graceful tone we have come to know and expect. Above all, he was honest.
I think there are two forms of honesty. First and simply, there is telling the truth. Although never truly justifiable, there are some lies we come to accept. I pretty much lie every time I click a “I have read the terms of service” button. Or when a student asks me to enter a mark when I’m busy, and I flash a quick Lu guarantee I’ll do it. I’d lump in the students who copy from the back of the book, or check answers with each other on assignments here. Not honest, but understandable.
The other dishonesty is more insidious and damaging. It involves a lie to self, and a degradation of character. A sneak look at another test paper or a phone means more than just getting a better mark. It is telling the teacher you know something you don’t. The short term gain is a good test result, the long term loss is a misrepresentation of who you are. I’ve talked with Gavin, Basil, and Joy about this, and they feel cheating is unavoidable and inevitable. We discussed motivations, and better policing and assessment methods. I appreciate their conscientiousness and suggestions, but the discussion is disheartening to me. In a beautiful world, we can learn without marks and learn for love of learning so cheating is unnecessary and irrelevant. Honest learning is beautiful learning.
“Honesty is such a lonely word,” Billy Joel protested. “But mostly what I need from you.” I want my students to be honest with themselves. I want them to know grades don’t define them. I want them to never sell their character for a few lousy marks. I want them to be honest about their abilities, about their work habits, and about their fears when they don’t realize deep seated hopes. I want them to fight against a culture urging them to do more rather than to be more, against a culture teaching them to be desperate for high achievement, and against a culture that equates what university you get into with who you are.
Is this too much to ask? Maybe. But we can start with ourselves, and we can start the discussion.
And if you ever wonder what Mr. Anthony would do if he found out I smoked on weekends, you’ll just have to ask him. He’ll be honest with you.