Magazine article Momentum

On My Honor: How a Founder's Charism and Student Leadership Changed a School's Culture

Magazine article Momentum

On My Honor: How a Founder's Charism and Student Leadership Changed a School's Culture

Article excerpt

Seeking honest feedback, I recently asked Siri, my trusted Apple assistant, "Hey Siri, what's my problem?" After a very brief moment of polite procrastination, she responded, "Now look here, Brian. You're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it, people like you!" (She really did say that.) With that kind of delicate avoidance | of reality, I am thankful Siri was not around to | assist my school when we faced a real concern about academic dishonesty that was shared by both faculty and students. Despite her failure to compliment me on my uncanny resemblance to Adam Levine, I sincerely appreciate Siri's ability to ignore the flaws and focus on my positives. But perhaps that is not what we always need. Instead, maybe we should recognize that we have flaws that need to be examined. Maybe we should address our weaknesses and learn to grow. Despite the temptation to relish in many accomplishments and affirming the honors bestowed upon it, my high school went through an impromptu self-examination that would have led Stuart Smalley to question his calling.

While I was a student in 19%, a group of administrators and faculty members at Catholic High School in Baton Rouge met to discuss a growing concern of academic dishonesty among the student body. Unbeknownst to the adults, a group of student leaders (including myself) began discussing steps we could take to address the normal temptation faced by every student to commit academic dishonesty. One of my classmates had recently returned from a college visit where he witnessed a student body that was self-governed by an Honor Code and regulated by a student-led honor board. We met with the classmate and thought perhaps Catholic High School was ready for such a transformation. We approached the administration and pitched the idea. We were met with a willingness to talk, but not a carte blanche willingness to implement new policy and thus redirect part of the school's culture.

Our principal at the time, Dr. Gregory Brandao, expressed concern over the source of the perceived problem and whether a policy change was needed. Recently, Brandao shared his reflections on that moment. "Before you and your classmates approached the administrators, I was wondering if the problems of academic dishonesty were more the responsibility of the adults rather than the students. I was concerned that we as faculty and staff members were not doing enough ourselves to promote academic honesty among our students. When you guys got involved, I began to understand the need for student leadership to be a major component of any efforts to enhance academic honesty at Catholic High. It had to be a team effort, and students could lead the charge." Brandao relates the spirit of the Honor Code back to a document published by the founder of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, Father Andre Coindre. In 1818, in an effort to solicit funds to start a school in Lyon, France, Father Coindre described an essential element of his charism: "Guilty at an age when boys tend to be reckless rather than wicked, impetuous rather than incorrigible, hope for their transformation must never be lost. They must be surrounded with every possible help in order to form them to good habits." Brandao says the last statement best captures "the heart" behind the Honor Code at Catholic High School and its importance as a major component of surrounding students with another form of assistance to form them to good habits. …

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