Opinion: Readjusting Our Moral Compass

“As members of the St. Luke’s community, we will maintain and encourage integrity at all times. We will be honest in what we say and write, and we will show respect for ourselves, each other, and all property. We will treat everyone with kindness, and we will accept responsibility for our actions.”

Whether this was the first time you actually read that statement or not, you are morally bound to each word. By signing your name to this statement at the beginning of every year, you are taking the pledge that you will follow these agreements to their utmost extent. However, the harsh reality is that this fifty-two word statement – that is, the very mission this school is based upon – could probably not even be recited by the majority of our community. From this, we are forced to ask just how effective the Honor Code actually is.

Back in 2002, the Honor Code was written by a group of SLS students in an attempt to outline the main tenets of the school’s philosophy of character education. Ever since its creation, it has remained a set of standards that, as members of this community, we are expected to uphold. The Code recognizes integrity, honesty, respect, and kindness as the four pillars that are supposed to bind this school together are also the ones that should be helping us grow.

Every year, SLS students pledge to live by the tenets of our Honor Code -- but how many of them actually do so?

Every year, SLS students pledge to live by the tenets of our Honor Code — but how many of them actually do so?

Most importantly, the Honor Code ends with the idea of responsibility: taking accountability for our actions, being leaders in the face of adversity, and not giving in when things start getting tough. Though the code may have been built on fantastic intentions, how often do we students find ourselves slipping off the expected path?

Take the simple example that many advisories discussed during their first meeting- you’re late to a math test and you don’t have your calculator. You see one sitting on a cafeteria table, no name on it. You have four options: take the calculator and go to math, go to your locker and arrive for your test even later, take the calculator (with the intention of returning it), or go to your teacher and as for a loaner calculator.

It was the first choice, which goes completely against the Honor Code, that received the majority of the student body’s support. Why is it that from a community that preaches such honesty and respect, most students seem focused on their own personal success than on the values that this school’s community is based on?

Looking beyond the simplicity of this scenario, there are much more pernicious situations that the steady devaluing of the Honor Code has created. For instance, if you heard someone make a rude comment about someone else, would you stand up for them? If your best friend needed last minute help on his or her homework, would you let them copy yours? If you overheard your classmates sharing information about a test, what would you do? These are tough ethical questions, but if our entire school’s moral compass is meant to be based on the Honor Code, shouldn’t the answers be obvious?

This is not to say that our Honor Code is at all unnecessary. In fact, it is this outline of values that has defined our school and made it what it is today. The core of the issue is that while we may acknowledge these ideals, how many of us actually make a point to practice and enforce them in our daily lives?  Sure, the Honor Code may be the deciding factor in a student’s career at St. Luke’s after they break its agreements, but its lack of presence prior to the infractions is the heart of the problem. Though we may recognize the effectiveness of the Honor Code after we make our mistakes, why do the majority of us fail to save ourselves by internalizing its meaning before we screw up?

It’s a steep challenge to shift how an entire community thinks about certain values, but if we do it together, it shouldn’t be so hard of a task. In the frenzy of academics, clubs, and athletics, we have a tendency to forget what is actually important in life. In twenty years, that A on an English paper will mean nothing compared to how you treated the people around you. Though it may be difficult to think in that mindset in the midst of the chaos, it’s something that we as a community must grow to do, or else we will never be able to grow at all.

If in the past, we have been able to identify what values this school is built on, then I have complete faith that we can come home to that foundation. Let’s treat each other with kindness, be honest about what we do, respect those around us, maintain our integrity, and most importantly, accept full responsibility for our actions. It can start with something simple, like actually clearing you lunch plate or picking up the trash that falls out of your locker, and from that can stem an tide of change that will make our school the absolute best it can be.

As members of the St. Luke’s community, we can grow together and make this a home to be proud of. Our memories of the hilltop will be that much sweeter and we will be able to carry those values we held so dear to our hearts on to further generations.

The Sentinel’s motto – the former motto of the entire School – is Respice—Adspice—Prospice, or “Look to the Past, to the Present, to the Future.” If we look to our history, understand who we are today, and prepare to grow in the future, our community will become what it is truly meant to be.

Enter to learn, go forth to serve. We know what we need to do – now let’s begin our journey.

— Monika Gabriele, Staff Writer 

Posted by on September 19, 2013. Filed under Op-Ed. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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