Honor Overboard

By Alexia Boyarsky

One sunny day in March, my English class was working on a take-home essay in the library tech center. After reading a poem that referenced the term “lily white boy,” a classmate and I decided to Google search it to look up the potential cultural implications.

Unfortunately, the very first link happened to have a two line analysis of the poem directly underneath the link. Hands shaking from fear, we hastily closed the window and guiltily looked around to make sure that our teacher wasn’t watching.

In hindsight, I wonder why our reaction was so strong. We hadn’t done anything wrong; we hadn’t even thought of doing anything wrong. So why were we so scared that we were to be persecuted?

The answer is the Honor Board. Although valiantly trying to stamp out wrongdoing at the school, it has instead bred a culture of fear.

I think the theory behind the whole Board is that it would be easier and more soothing for students to be judged, at least in part, by a council of their peers, peers who know the situations we go through and can sympathize with us.

In practice, the vast majority of students are now so petrified of going in front of the Honor Board that every minor scenario that can potentially, somewhere within the realms of possibility, maybe be misconstrued as a wrongdoing is obsessively avoided.

Students have started lying—well, at least heavily withholding the truth. Worried that they may be implicated in situations that may go in front of the Honor Board, students simply don’t come forward with any stories that may result in consequences.

Instead, like Frankenstein hiding from the burning torches, we shell up within ourselves afraid not only of doing bad things, but of doing normal things that may be seen as bad things, or afraid of accidently doing something bad, or even of knowing something is wrong and being punished for the knowledge.

Is that really the type of school we want to go to? Personally, no.

I don’t want to feel as if my every move is scrutinized for the possibility of wrongdoing. I don’t want to feel like my peers are judging me harder than any teacher would.

We are trying to build a community here, or so every single prefect says in their candidate statements, but scaring the students out of their wits is not the way to go.

Some of the Prefect Council recommendations were downright laughable in how serious they make offenses sound. A student in February had “forgotten to properly cite the author of these particular quotations” in the words of the Prefect Council’s email, and they are put in front of the entire Board and given a zero on their paper? I’m not saying what he did was correct, but forgetting to cite one source?

I was going to claim at this point that I had never done such a thing in my life. Not only could that potentially be a lie, but just the fact that I wanted to protect myself in such a way proves my point. Even when I did nothing wrong, I feel the need to justify myself. That’s just weird.

The story that most clearly demonstrates the paranoia that now encompasses my life comes from just a few weeks ago. A good friend of mine had come over to my house to watch “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” While watching the stunts and tricks those kids pulled, the only thing that was going through my mind was exactly what the Honor Board would do with this case.

Would they expel him? Probably. I mean, the kid not only made up an excuse, but lied to the principal (multiple times, may I add), set up a fake answering machine pretending to be a mortuary, and blatantly ditched school. Sounds like an expulsion to me. Maybe even a recommendation to go to a wilderness camp for troubled children. Poor, poor Ferris.

Usually at the end of columns I like giving recommendations to the people I’m bashing, but one doesn’t really exist for this. I’m not entirely sure this is the Honor Board’s fault; it’s more likely just the fault of our society, but I can’t really change that. So I guess my recommendation will be to all of us: stop, look around once in a while, and try to live your life instead of only being afraid of the consequences.