Press "Enter" to skip to content

Distance Learning Challenges Faith in the Honor Code

Graphic by Mira ’20

Honor. Given that you probably have some relation to Marlborough if you are reading this, you have certainly heard the term. In fact, you have probably heard of it with such frequency that the prospect of reading an article on the subject induces a tinge of nausea. You have sat through a plethora of ASMs with roughly edited iMovies and scrawled the honor code frantically as the end of your DBQ impends. However, the usual drone of honor-related truisms has recently gone absolutely radio silent. Now of course I am not referring to honor-related ASMs and advisories, which have obviously ceased for logistical reasons, but rather the school-wide faith in the honor code, and in particular, how it relates to at-home testing. 

During typical school sessions, faith in the honor code abounds, at least perceptually. People drop their Lululemon lunch bags anywhere with impunity, keys are left in unlocked cars, and perhaps most significantly, students are left unsupervised during tests or allowed to use the restroom. All of these things are often cited as examples of broad institutional faith in the honor code, however, in the midst of distance learning this faith appears to have dried up. 

“As soon as students are presented with a significant opportunity to demonstrate individual integrity, teachers across the school have taken preemptive action on the assumption that there would be dishonesty during at-home testing. If we as a school are truly committed to the Honor Principle, shouldn’t those things still stand even during disruptive times where students can no longer be policed?”

Recently, as we transition to online classes, I have found myself practically buried under a sudden deluge of online assessments. Yet, many of these assessments have been switched to open note tests and essays, although they were originally intended to be closed note. Although I have retained some tests which are intended to be done without consulting outside sources, many have been shifted to open note in an attempt to prevent dishonesty and nefarious behavior. This shift to open note assessments is indicative of a widespread lack of trust and faith in the honor code. As soon as students are presented with a significant opportunity to demonstrate individual integrity, teachers across the school have taken preemptive action on the assumption that there would be dishonesty during at-home testing. If we as a school are truly committed to the Honor Principle, shouldn’t those things still stand even during disruptive times where students can no longer be policed?

Quarantine and the shift to distance learning appears to be the perfect instance for teachers and the administration to demonstrate faith in the honor code by entrusting students to assess at home as they would at school. However, at this crucial moment, we are seeing a remarkable absence of aforementioned confidence. Given the pageantry surrounding honor throughout the regular school year, one would expect complete trust from faculty members in the integrity of students when taking at-home assessments. To cite the honor principle in the student handbook, we must have “trust throughout our School community.” This sudden shift to open note testing is indicative of an absence of deeper trust and respect which extends beyond surface demonstrations of the principle when it is convenient. Being a community which truly places value in trust and honor means not only upholding and placing value in the principles when it is easy, but also when things are chaotic and difficult to oversee. It appears that when stripped of its purple-doused fanfare, faith and commitment to the honor code remains remarkably shallow. 

“To cite the honor principle in the student handbook, we must have “trust throughout our School community.” This sudden shift to open note testing is indicative of an absence of deeper trust and respect which extends beyond surface demonstrations of the principle when it is convenient. “

It is easy to purport a commitment to the honor code under normal circumstances, when big-brother-esque surveillance watches one’s every move. Allowing someone to use the restroom during an exam does not necessarily mean we have a widespread expectation of integrity. This is especially true if when students’ sense of honor is being tested there appears a striking absence of faith in that same principle. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love an open note assessment just as much as the next student with no frantic, last-minute Quizlet reviewing and rote memorization. It is also important to consider that some tests were switched to open note in the first couple of days to ease the burden on students during the transition. However, this immediate shift to open note testing requires a closer examination of its subterranean connotations as it pertains to the honor code. As an institution, Marlborough claims to place enormous faith in the honor code, and does so with lots of aesthetically pleasing spectacle, but opportunities such as this one where the honor code could play a vastly expanded role in our everyday academic activity allow for a deeper examination of our commitment and belief in these principles. I truly believe the honor code is an incredibly important tenet of what makes the culture of Marlborough so unique. In this crisis we are surrounded by so much uncertainty and so many hollow statements from global figures, so let’s take this opportunity to validate our commitment to the honor code and prevent it from falling into the category of empty maxims. 

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.