Two Tests

Character is higher than intellect.  Ralph Waldo Emerson

It was right before the first test I would give my students and I stood before the class to pass along my expectations. I told them that they were about to receive two tests: One in math, the other in honesty. I hoped that they would pass both but if they could pass only one, I wanted it to be the one in honesty. Now, this method was nothing that originated with me as I had heard of this idea years ago. It made a deep impression when I first heard it, and I wanted it to make a similar impression on the young people that I had been entrusted with.

I added to this concept in two ways: The first was to teach the kids exactly what I wanted them to learn and then provide a test without any tricky or deceptive questions. The second, and equally important in my mind, was the promise of certain punishment should anyone be caught cheating - they would fail the test and leave my class. The second might seem a bit severe, but it was intentionally designed to be that way. I believe it was accepted because I had a high regard for these kids and tried to let them see that love and respect in the way that I treated them.

It seemed to work for not only did I not have a single student that I even suspected of cheating, I also had feedback of a nature that I did not expect. After the test, one of the students came up and said it was the first test that he could remember taking that he had not cheated on in some way.

The point of all this is not to claim that I am a great teacher (I've heard myself teach and, frankly, I'm not all that brilliant). The point is that integrity can not only be taught, it can be insisted upon as a bare minimum standard. While there will always be those who find a way to bend the rules, there will also be some who will discover the high satisfaction of accomplishment through an honest job, well done.

I learned one other thing from my brief teaching venture that I believe is vital for all parents to learn: If a child is taught integrity in the home and in the church, he will not have to learn it at school.

The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.

Proverbs 10:9, NIV