Photo by Jackie ’17

The following comes from the Understanding: “The School feels strongly that self-discipline is more valuable than imposed discipline and expects good conduct and behavior from every member of the School community.”

Additionally, the Honor Principle states: “Our School believes in the utmost importance of honesty and integrity.” There is a conversation amongst the teachers in the humanities departments about using a service called turnitin.com in the second semester, although no conclusion has been reached yet. This is a website where teachers can run your paper against a database to check for plagiarism.

I was shocked when I heard this. The first time every class meets, the teacher talks about how important it is to be honorable. At the beginning of each school year, we are read aloud parts of the Understanding and the Honor Principle. We have an All-School Meeting about honor every single year, so if you attend from Grades 7 through 12, you’ve been to six assemblies about honor. I sign an honor code on every single assessment I take. If these two founding principles are as important as they’re made to seem, then why can’t we be trusted to write a paper without borrowing ideas from other people? What is the point of even having the Honor Code? The mutual trust and respect between all the people on campus is the premise of the School. We all believe in and adhere to the Honor Code: this is like saying “we trust you, but not really” to the whole student body.

Leaving aside the mixed messages, I don’t believe using this would even be an accurate assessment. For example, last year, I thought I turned in a great essay on Hamlet. I’m sure that at least one literary critic in the 400 years people have been reading Shakespeare has had the same thesis or a similar analysis of a passage, especially because my examples were from the most famous parts of the play. There are only so many ways to phrase similar interpretations of textual evidence, especially when we read such popular works of literature. Does this mean I plagiarized it from a JSTOR article?

Students here don’t cheat because everyone believes that they will do the honorable thing. What will happen when you revoke that trust?