Investigating ethics on campus

By Eli Haims

 ”As students get older, it seems they become less and less supportive of the Honor Board,” Austin Block ’11, who did a Senior Independent Study on the condition of ethics at Harvard-Westlake, said. “Eighty one percent of sophomores, approximately, were in support of how the Honor Board does its job, whereas only 59 percent of seniors were.”

After taking humanities teacher Martha Wheelock’s ethics class as a junior, Block decided that he wanted to continue his study of ethics but was unsure of what exactly he wanted to look into. One idea that he had was to research current issues with moral implications, such as abortion and the death penalty, and the other was to look at ethics at Harvard-Westlake, which he eventually chose.

While Block said that he thought that the project on current issues would have been interesting, he said “there was no concept of expanding [his] personal horizons.”

To do the research required for the paper, which he is required to produce for the class, Block interviewed numerous teachers and a few students, and he also asked English teachers to give their students a survey.

“I really think the most valuable components of the paper are the interviews,” he said. “There were a lot of really brilliant people who care and have some great insights into what we can do the improve the ethical climate in our community, what is it now, and where we could most use improvement.”

Block’s paper consisted of four sections. One defines ethics and the ideal Harvard-Westlake community, the second describes the Honor Board, the Honor Code and academic dishonesty, the third discusses community service and social responsibility and the fourth gives an idea of a school community.

“I’ve realized that the main service that my paper can provide is not revolutionary ideas of my own: A because I don’t have any, B because I don’t think revolutionary ideas are a lot of time the best ones,” he said. “I think that the main service that this paper provides is that it brings together the ideas and the views and the insights of a lot of really bright people who really care.”