As much as I took the honor code for granted back at my high school, I now realize just how great it was. We were trusted to abide by the honor code and therefore had greater freedoms in and outside the classroom. Teachers didn't have to patrol around our desks while giving a test. They could leave the room, go sit at their desks and come back 40 minutes later.
I never thought to cheat. Maybe that whole honor code was working. Maybe it's because I had Dan Kasten, honor council chair and the most honest person on the planet, as an English teacher as a sophomore. Before we graded our weekly Wordsmart quizzes, he's remind us to uphold the honor code and someone had the ability to make us feel guilty if we ever considered cheating.
Here at USC, and I suppose at universities across the country, things are different. Before exams, professors switch out bluebooks to assure you didn't already write something in yours before the test.
Other times, you may not even realizing you're doing something wrong:
Yesterday after completing my broadcast newswriting final, I left the classroom relieved that I had conquered another test. 'Just a few more to go,' I thought to myself. I got back to my apartment and started to make lunch.
My cell phone rang. I didn't recognize the number, so I picked up.
"Josh? This is John, your broadcast teacher."
"Uh, hi," I said. I was freaking out. I just took this guy's final exam. Now what does he want.
"You need to get back here immediately. You didn't turn your copies of the fact sheets."
We had to write broadcast news stories based on these fact sheets, and I forgot to turn my copies in after class. Oh, I turned in the final, but not the fact sheets - the heart of the test.
I sprinted back to Annenberg up to my classroom. My heart was racing. I got up the stairs and ran toward my classroom. There was my professor. I handed him the sheets of paper, all the while apologizing and gasping for breath.
"You know what I have to do now, right?" he asked me.
In my mind, I'm thinking he's about to fail me. I wouldn't have cared except I finally turned it around in his class. Everything I've done now ruined because I forgot to turn in a sheet of paper. My life is over.
"I have to take this," said my professor, "and put it through a machine to make sure you haven't copied it."
Oh, okay. Go for it. That's fine with me because I know I didn't copy it for anyone nor did I let anyone copy it.
I was surprised that kind of technology - the ability to detect if a sheet of paper has been through a copier - even existed.
But it was a good reminded that I am no long in the realm of the honor code.