Honesty is the Best Policy

By Gabby Lecca (Period 7)

We have all heard the cliché saying, “Honesty is the best policy”[1] from Benjamin Franklin. However, how many of us actually follow it? This saying was put to the test by a bagel businessman. Paul Feldman quit his previous job and decided to sell bagels at offices in a box with a cash jar nearby; therefore, he could bring them to many offices in one day without having to stay. Then, at the end of the day, he would record how much money he got compared to how many bagels were taken. He was delivering “8,400 bagels a week to 140 companies.”[2] According to this study, it was determined that the vast majority, at least in the workplace, do not cheat.[3] Based on his calculations, he leaves “seven thousand boxes and loses, one average, just one to theft” a year.[4] Because the majority were following Benjamin Franklin’s quote to heart, his bagel business earned him more money than working as a research analyst. Honesty not only seems to be the best policy, but also the best way to earn money!

The data discovered by Feldman is remarkable; however, how does honesty compare at Ursuline Academy of Dallas. In the handbook given to all students that they must sign, the code of conduct on page four clearly states that “In her commitment to Ursuline’s Core Values, the Ursuline Student demonstrates the following traits and meets the following expectations: excellent example of Integrity – completes all work with academic integrity, upholds Ursuline Honor Code, and is law-abiding.”[5] Then, page eleven further explains what “a breach of honor”[6] is – “Disruptions of this environment in the forms of lying, cheating, plagiarism, forgery, stealing, and vandalism violate the Honor Code.”[7] To remind the students of their pledge to be honorable, they must always write the word “honorbound” or sign their name next to the word “honorbound” on every test and assignment. However, has this monotonous detail just become another thing to put on one’s paper? Being a student at Ursuline myself, I believe that writing “honorbound” on a paper has become a meaningless thing. It now is just another line to fill on a test or an extra space to make a paper longer.

Feldman believes that in a small office community people are less likely to steal because of the peer pressure of everyone else in the office watching and the consequence of being shamed.[8] On the other hand, at Ursuline, a small community compared to other high schools, students are pressured to do the opposite. They are less likely to tell on a close friend in class in fear that the person would find out and hate them. Typically, most teenagers want everyone to like them, so when someone asks her about the test, she will trick herself into thinking that by giving the person hints, they like her more. Also, not being honorbound is common advice given by students to other students. Personally, I have heard it many times in my years at Ursuline Academy. For instance, if one forgot to have her parent sign a policy sheet that was due that day for an easy grade, students encourage others to forge their parent’s signature – a violation listed in the honor code. Students know that the teacher will not have time to double check every parent’s handwriting with a signature somewhere else recorded, so they are less afraid to break the rules and encourage others to do the same. When one has become wise to the ways of the school or anywhere else, one tends to know how to cheat the system without being caught. Here is an example outside of school. At work, you know that your boss never comes into the office until an hour after you have to be there, and you know that none of your co-workers would tell if you came in right before he or she did. So would you choose to go to work at the hour you are supposed to, or get an extra thirty minutes or more of sleep to help you recover from a late night out with friends or family?

One correlation that Feldman’s study has with Ursuline is the tendency of people higher up in the ranks to cheat.[9] Freshmen at Ursuline are excited and nervous to be in a new environment and are less likely to have the desire to break the rules than a senior suffering from the delusion that “I can do whatever I want!” Like I said before, also seniors now know how to make wiggle room in the rules and get away with it. The teachers play a big part in this mentality in both grades. Freshman teachers are stricter as they try to mold the fresh meat into the perfect Ursuline girl. Then, senior year hits. You lose all the skills they hammered into you, and the cycle of “I rule the school” begins.  I have noticed that the teachers in the higher classes reprimand less than a freshman teacher. Maybe it’s because they treat seniors like adults, or they trust them more to do the right thing. Also, seniors are more likely to take risks while freshmen do not know what is okay and not okay. Freshmen have the desire to impress the faculty and other students to prove that they are accepted; however, seniors many times do not care to impress others because they are trying to balance loads of school work in addition to applying for colleges.

Another point Feldman makes that can be applied to Ursuline is that “an office is more honest when the employees like their boss and their work.”[10] Some Ursuline students, however, do not like the school that their parents forced them to go to and others do not like certain teachers they have, making the temptation to cheat even greater in this school environment. At a job, one can always quit or move to a different branch if they hate it that much, but a student cannot easily change teachers or leave schools. Because they form a bad relationship with the school or their teacher, they do not feel bad taking easy ways out to make their already “awful” life bearable.

Students have forgotten that writing honorbound on their paper and living by it is helping them create a good habit. Honesty in school does not have detrimental consequences like in the real world. If one forges a legal document, he or she can go to jail. Or, if one steals another’s idea, one could go to court because he or she was sued. These life-changing consequences are nothing compared to the reprimanding at Ursuline Academy for not following the Honor Code. Therefore, writing the word “honorbound” is not a simple detail, but an important lesson that needs to be drilled into our minds before we go into the real world. When we all go into the job world, we, like Paul Feldman, want all people to be honest with us. Otherwise, their dishonesty could affect us negatively, and in Paul Feldman’s case, his job.

Now, you might be feeling like Ursuline is full of bad dishonest students, especially seniors, but we are all human and have moments of weakness. Most of us do not intentionally go into a situation wanting to break the Honor Code and be a bad person. Someone might ask about the test casually, and you accidently give a little too much information without thinking. If I am being honest, there are times that I might not have been living by the Honor Code fully, but I’ve learned from it. That is what all Ursuline students should do. When you realize that you might have been dishonorable, you just need to learn from the mistake and be better next time. Learn now how to live by the Benjamin Franklin quote when the stakes are not so serious. I believe the majority of Ursuline students will be honest, like in Paul Feldman’s experiment, once everyone realizes the importance and meaning behind writing “honorbound” on all their papers and assignments.

[11]

[1] “Benjamin Franklin Quotes,” Brainy Quotes, 2015, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/benjaminfr151625.html

[2] Freakonomics, ed. Bernardo Aparicio (Dallas: Ursuline Press, 2015).

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ursuline Handbook (Dallas: Ursuline Press, 2015), 4.

[6] Ibid., 11

[7] Ibid.

[8] Freakonomics

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] “Spongebob Rainbow,” MemeGenerator, 2015, http://memegenerator.net/instance/58499212.

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