Saturday, April 19, 2014

Reality is not real

A memorable moment from this article about honor codes:
Ms. Liddell shares a similar sentiment: “The honor code is a nice idea and we don’t really need it.” So I asked her, “Isn’t that the opposite of what you tell people when you work as a tour guide — isn’t the honor code a critical sell?” She paused. “I do tell that to tours. But what is reality if not stories we tell ourselves? Stories about how the honor code means something, stories about the value of education that got you to Middlebury — all of that are just stories. It’s all important, but none of that has to be true or real.


  1. i first encountered an actual honor code when i taught at a private school with one, and i was expected not to be in the room during tests. which seems preposterous! i certainly felt that the test results meant less than they would have if i were there. my sense was that there was a culture of looking the other way. the sort of flip side of the official culture there, which from the outside seemed more like a mythology than anything, especially coming, as i did, from only state schools. (i also happened to catch at least three plagiarists that year, which didn't inspire confidence.)

    1. I'm sure some single sanction honor codes result in people looking the other way because dismissal seems too severe a punishment for most "dishonorable" conduct. It's also troubling that plagiarism counts as an honor violation but rape doesn't. The honor code at VMI is a very big deal, which I think helps make it work relatively well. Enough people take it seriously enough that there isn't that culture of looking the other way. Which is not to say it's always perfect, of course.