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Is the Honor Pledge Worthy? 1

An honor pledge would be a drop in the bucket of the effort needed to decrease the newly elevated levels of plagiarism at Deerfield.

After many of the Academic Honor Committee cases last year, Academic Dean Peter Warsaw approached students being disciplined and asked if they thought that, given a moment before cheating where they were asked to reflect upon their personal values, they would have proceeded to break the school’s academic honor code. Students asked replied that they believed that such a moment of reflection might have altered their actions—they might never have cheated in the first place.

This seems to indicate the positive effects of an honor statement. In this sense, I support the addition of a mandatory pledge, to be completed with every major assignment. If the honor statement prevents a single student from cheating, then it has a clear benefit.

There aren’t, however, many among us brave enough to tell Mr. Warsaw to his face that we would have cheated, no matter what we were required to sign. The students’ words lose their value when one considers the context in which they were delivered.

In addition, many cases of cheating are conscious decisions on the part of a student: a student feels he has to cheat in order to make a due date, or pass a test. The student knows he is cheating—knows it is against the honor code—yet proceeds to cheat regardless of the consequences. In these cases, the honor pledge will serve as only another place to sign your name.

Though the honor pledge may not have a huge positive effect, there doesn’t seem to be any harm in instituting it. The only real negative effect it could have is if the Academy treats it as the miracle cure for academic dishonesty. We must be prepared to receive high numbers of AHC cases. While the honor pledge is a step in the right direction, it is still only a step. I’d like Deerfield to continue devising ways to inspire honesty.

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