Volume 17 Number 3
Students on Their Honour
01 June 2004
‘It grew out of a concern for the climate and times we live in,’ says Upper School Head Todd Huebsch.
EDUCATION AT Pine Crest School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, means more than garnering good grades and landing a coveted spot at a highly-regarded college.
Each year, students ceremonially sign an honour code, ‘I will not lie, cheat or steal; I will respect myself and others.’ The code has evolved over the last 15 years, but the signing ceremony is a new development.
‘It grew out of a concern for the climate and times we live in,’ says Upper School Head Todd Huebsch. ‘We want our students to be their own role models.’
Research shows that such honour codes can curb cheating effectively. One study, based on surveys on 48 campuses in 1990, 1995, and 1999, found that ‘serious test cheating on campuses with honour codes is typically one third to one half lower than the level on campuses that do not have honour codes’ (www.academicintegrity.org).
Pine Crest’s code is backed up by a Commission for Honour and Integrity, composed of students and staff, which aims to create greater awareness of the importance of academic integrity and honesty, and of making good decisions.
‘Our discussions are lively and often passionate,’ says Barbara Grosz, chair of the commission and of the Upper School Science Department. ‘Everyone on the committee cares deeply about helping to create a culture of honesty in our school community. We do not view the issues of integrity, honesty and honour as “student problems”.’
The school also has an honour court, made up of seven students from different grades. They serve as guardians of the honour code—dealing with students who violate it—and as mentors. Their collective goal is education rather than adjudication.
The code is part of a programme of interactive courses which allow students to learn from each other as well as from their teachers, parents and others within the community about character, leadership, integrity, honesty and trust.
All sixth grade (age 11) students enrol in a values class taught by the school’s Chaplain, Ali McKee. As part of this course, they are given several assignments. One involves interviewing both of their parents about teenagers and morality. ‘This assignment sticks with both students and parents,’ says McKee. ‘I have had parents come up to me at graduation and thank me for having their child do that assignment.’
Serving others and the community is also part of the curriculum. To graduate, students must have done at least 50 hours of social service.
The school believes that what its students learn about values will determine the type of people they will be for the rest of their lives. ‘It’s not about how smart we are, but about the choices we make in life,’ says McKee.