David Eckardt '03 responds to science teacher David Hinden

Athletic competitions thrive on the support of the fan base. The cheering is what fuels the team being supported … this goes without saying.

Additionally, distracting noises directed toward the opposing team (such as a constant yell from the crowd during an audible in football or a free throw in basketball) are what make home field court advantage just that, an advantage.

This part is obvious, and I realize it is understood by the administration… it is inherent in athletics. However, it seems that the student body is shifting away from the “support” side of cheering and is traveling into the “demeaning” side of inappropriate and uncalled for behavior.

In the spirit of the game, this line can easily, and unknowingly, be crossed. It would be naive to say we didn’t have any of the inappropriate cheers at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.

They existed, but were dealt with appropriately, and you typically didn’t hear them again. You are correct when you said the Academies have their pre-game pranks, or “recon missions” as we called them … though some were pretty creative, especially the ones leading up to the Army-Navy game, they all were in support of Navy athletics. 

The way the Navy dealt with these chants is the same way Harvard-Westlake can solve this problem, and this is where I see the Academy and Harvard-Westlake as being similar institutions…

There is no question that Harvard-Westlake is the premier high school in Los Angeles, is renowned in the state of California and even has recognition nationwide. This prestige does not come at an easy price … the expectation of students’ academic, athletic and extra-curricular achievements are extremely high. The students have talent.

However, how a student handles him or herself in a college interview, or even after finally getting to their college of choice, can change that impression or level of respect in a heartbeat. We were being trained at an elite institution, a collegiate Harvard-Westlake, and it was our responsibility to uphold its name and what it stood for.

Our jobs upon graduation not only require us to stand in high moral stature, but the men and women who put their lives in our hands expect us to work at that level of integrity.

If we do not live up to this level of expectation, our reputation is flawed, and being “an Academy grad” no longer carries the same weight. Why are Harvard-Westlake students admitted? They have drive, they have talent, they are brighter than their peers.

All it takes is an inappropriate cheer, a bad attitude in an interview or inappropriate behavior on a college campus to take away the prestige of being “a Harvard-Westlake alum.” Remind them why they are there, and remind them that their presence as a Harvard-Westlake student is a privilege.

Many would sacrifice a lot to even have a shot at attending the school that trains the elite. This level of training and ethical development starts when they’re young high school students.

The Harvard-Westlake name will help them get to a college that will bring them to these life-changing careers, but it is their responsibility to respect what “Harvard-Westlake” has to offer. When I was a student at Harvard-Westlake, my impression was that students saw the Honor Code as the “don’t cheat or you’ll get in trouble policy.”

The Harvard-Westlake name will help them get to a college that will bring them to these life-changing careers, but it is their responsibility to respect what “Harvard-Westlake” has to offer. When I was a student at Harvard-Westlake, my impression was that students saw the Honor Code as the “don’t cheat or you’ll get in trouble policy.”

However, an Honor Code is more than that. An Honor Code is designed to shape a student’s mind and mentality toward academic and behavioral excellence. It imbues a sense of integrity, honor, self-respect and even sportsmanship among students. The first time I learned about the Academy’s Honor Concept was Induction Day, and to say they made their stance on upholding the Honor Concept clear is an understatement.

We had to memorize it. Word for word. It’s all about culture – if Harvard-Westlake can instill the importance of honor, ethics, integrity and respect, hopefully situations such as the inappropriate cheers will be the exception rather than the norm. This will not happen overnight, and it cannot only be taught in a classroom. It is a state of mind that must be embraced by students. Please understand that I realize your concern does not branch from every student. That would be naive.

However, one misbehaving student is easy to pick out in a sea of otherwise successful students. That is the unfortunate reality in all cases … we saw it at Navy, we saw it at UCLA. Those hundreds of well behaved ethical students will do their duty and carry on the Harvard-Westlake name appropriately well into the future. You’d be surprised how effective self-policing can be when one student cares about something strong enough.

—David Eckardt ’03
U.S. Naval Academy ’07

 

 

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