In a seemingly never-ending stream of cheating and academic dishonesty, English II teacher Chuck Doyle has taken a different approach to combat the crime. Early in the year, Doyle introduces students to an honesty contract to reinforce the principle of integrity in school.
We take and grade quizzes and tests accurately and honestly because our integrity is worth infinitely more than any academic task we will ever face.
Throughout the year, students recite the pledge before working and grading. Doyle introduced the pledge in a classroom several years ago on the spot. Just as the pledge grew from unassuming start to a daily regime, Doyle hopes that the circumstantial principles it reinforces will transform from a string of words to a life-long commitment.
“Initially, I encourage the students to simply memorize the pledge,” Doyle said. “But in the long term, I hope that they realize the truth in the statement and apply it to their lives.”
The chorus of students’ voices has caught the interest of other teachers down the hall.
“I wasn’t aware of Mr. Doyle’s policy until students wrote about it in their occasional papers,” English III teacher Shelley Bramlett said. “Almost all could repeat it word for word. There is a simple, powerful, effective value in maintaining the wholeness of integrity.”
With such a drastically different approach to cheating, some have questioned whether or not the pledge does enough to put an end to cheating.
“I’m not naïve,” Doyle said. “I know cheating goes on in the classroom, and traditions that are well established in this country don’t do a thing to discourage it.”
The practice of changing an “E” to an “F” on a multiple choice quiz is an age-old practice, but cell phones have added a new aspect to the approach. “Google” has become a verb; there is no lack of available information.
“Beyond school, our culture has lost the art of thinking,” Bramlett said. “The change has to start with self-examination and relearning the way of thinking.”
English III teacher Virginia Rose is concerned less with students’ academic integrity and more with their intellectual ability.
“My hope is to empower students, not punish them,” Rose said. “There is a distinction between morality and ability. If students knew how to adequately complete a task, there would be no need for cheating.”
However, despite the push for learning morals and material in school, cheating does occur on a daily basis. For Doyle, the consequences of cheating go further than office referrals and failing grades.
“Cheating truly damages the teacher-student relationship,” Doyle said. “I know a student has grown when they make an effort to rebuild and relearn.”
With themes of rebuilding, relearning, and reinforcing honesty in the classroom, perhaps Doyle’s approach is the right measure to cause students to pause and reconsider the long-term effects of academic dishonesty.