We recently heard a Bible talk that touched on honesty. It included exhortation to students to avoid looking at someone else’s paper during tests.
My high school (attended 1957-1961) prided itself on what it called the “honor system,” something they began to prepare us for as early as seventh grade. Students were trusted not to cheat and were required to monitor each other. It was not unusual for a teacher to leave the room with instructions for students to leave their papers face down on the desk when the bell rang, and then not return.
The way it worked: at the top of every test I ever took at that school we were obliged to write the words: “I pledge my word of honor that I know of no cheating on this test.” Then we would sign it. Our way of reporting cheating was to cross out the signature, which invariably led to some sort of clandestine follow-through.
In those days it worked well. During the four years I was a student there it came up in my classes only a couple of times. I never once saw anyone else cheat, nor was I ever remotely tempted to do so myself, even if I wasn’t doing well, preferring the consequences of a bad grade to the humiliation and loss of self-respect that cheating and/or getting caught at it would inevitably bring. The code was strongly inculcated in school culture. I certainly knew no one in my own circle of friends who would have ever cheated on a test. It was never even a topic of conversation among us.
Times have changed. Today schools need armed professional security guards and metal detectors.
“We trust we have an honest conscience, as we wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things. — Hebrews 13:18
“Honesty is such a lonely word” — Billy Joel