Term Paper: Ethics Honesty

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Honesty in Athletics and the Classroom

Definition of the Quality

Honesty is the bedrock of my value system. Honesty is the first and most important value of any moral system. But what is honesty? There are many cliches attached to the ideal of honesty, like 'honest as the day is long' and 'Honest Abe,' but what does the word mean? As a starting point, the modern Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of "honesty" is "fairness and straightforwardness of conduct, coupled with "adherence to the facts."

Principles of the Quality

This definition suggests that the principles of honesty are those of plain dealing, selflessness, openness, and objectivity. A person who is honest does not treat other people differently, based upon prejudice or self-interest. An honest person does not conceal potentially unflattering information. Honesty means obeying the rules and laws of common decency. It means not taking advantage of being in a position of trust, and seeking the truth. Being honest is not always easy, especially when society is encouraging you to lie or to be dishonest. Upholding moral principles is more important than ruffling some feathers, or securing a comfortable life.

What does current research say about the importance of this quality?

It is difficult for modern research in the social sciences to quantify honesty because the definition of the value can vary widely, depending on the person's upbringing and context. For example, I believe that the fight for civil rights in the 1960s was an honest fight, even if it meant disobeying the law through acts of civil disobedience. The laws people were disobeying were unjust, and conflicted with a humane interpretation of the Constitution. I believe that all people should be treated equally, regardless of race and it would be dishonest to obey such laws. A Southerner of the era, of course, would simply insist that the law should be obeyed, plain and simple.

But for a researcher, sometimes studying something very simple and clear-cut can provide an interesting study about as complex a value like honesty. One interesting recent study of honesty was conducted by an out-of-work scientist, who sold bagels to local offices to support himself. He delivered bagels to the offices, and collected payment from a box at the end of the day. People were asked to pay for their bagels, and to take change from the payment box. Gradually, the man began to notice something interesting, and he recorded his findings, because he found them so interesting. He noted that in the offices were he knew most of the people personally, a higher percentage of individuals paid for their bagels. Also, his data showed that smaller offices were more honest than larger companies, by as much as 3 to 5 per cent. This suggested that when people knew they were being observed, they were more honest (Levitt 2005).

When the economy was strong in the late 1990s, the payment rate actually dropped, from an initial 90% to 87 per cent (Levitt 2005). "But immediately after 9/11, the rate spiked a full 2 per cent" (Levitt 2005). Few people cheat on patriotic holidays like the 4th of July and Memorial Day but the "week of Christmas produces a 2 per cent drop in payment rates -- again, a 15 per cent increase in theft, an effect of the same magnitude, in reverse, as that of 9/11. Thanksgiving is nearly as bad; as is the week of Valentine's Day" (Levitt 2005). Personal mood and convenience seemed to affect individual's willingness to be honest. Good weather, where people might be more apt to go to their car to get money or to feel better about others, inspired higher rates of payment, and bad weather resulted in higher levels of theft (Levitt 2005).

In other words, people are more apt to be honest because of social pressures, when they feel they are being watched by people whose opinions they care about. When they are feeling bad, or are wrapped up in their own lives, like around Christmastime, they are less likely to be honest, but they are more honest when they are filled with awareness about higher principles like patriotism. And also people are more apt to be honest when it is convenient. It is easy to be honest when you have money, or if it is nice enough to run to your car to get change. It is harder to be honest when you are tired and hungry, have no money, feel that the world 'owes you something' because your day has been so bad, or if you have to walk across a freezing, rainy parking lot for your wallet.

However, if enough people at a particular office stopped paying, the entire office would be penalized, as the bagel service would be withdrawn. The bagel seller could tolerate a loss of 10%, meaning that some thieves could get away with their crime, and enjoy a free bagel because of the scrupulous payment of other employees. But if the numbers of bagel stealers grew too great, everyone would suffer. This is a metaphor for honesty on a much greater level -- when one person lies, it makes it more socially acceptable for others to lie, and eventually a state of mistrust is created. When more and more people are dishonest, eventually no one trusts anyone, and the rights and privileges we enjoy will be taken away, because we cannot be entrusted to govern ourselves.

Is it lacking in our society?

Honesty is lacking because we have lost a sense of commitment and belief in the need for a larger value structure that is bigger than the individual. The rules exist to be subverted, and people are seen as clever if they get something 'for free,' or get away with the 'perfect crime.' Diversity can make society strong, but it can also make the array of moral choices open to people confusingly large. Also, when politicians, sports figures, and entrepreneurs seek to avoid the law and lie, this suggests that success requires a very fluid sense of ethics, and that to be honest results in no reward.

Why is it important to teach to young people?

On a very practical level, for a teacher or a coach it is essential that a student does not cheat on a test, failing to learn anything but immorality. Plus, a cheating student not only fails to learn but throws off the curve for the students who did study honestly, thus unfairly penalizing honest efforts! Likewise, a coach must ensure that players do not foul opposing players so the team's reputation for fair play is upheld. Also, for the integrity of a sport, it is essential that every game be played fairly and honestly.

Similarly, a classroom must be run upon the principles of justice, to create a fair learning environment, where everyone is judged by the same standards of grades and behavior. A dishonest pupil or a teacher who plays favorites creates a hostile atmosphere, just as a dishonest citizen or employee erodes the hope of honest people that their good conduct will be rewarded.

How does this quality or lack of it affect people/students in our world today? (Emotionally, physically, academically, spiritually)

Honesty means playing by the rules, and not believing that the rules only apply to other people. For example, an athlete who takes steroids because he or she believes that laws against illegal drugs only apply to lesser mortals, the non-professional athlete, or the person on the street, is dishonest to his or her sport and to the principle of honesty in general. Many people were emotionally devastated to hear that their favorite baseball players had been taking steroids -- how could they trust their idol's records hadn't been found at the bottom of a jar of pills. Other athletes may feel cheated as well, and be tempted to injure their own bodies by taking steroids, if the offenders are not punished. Adherence to the facts requires an official to make a call during a critical moment of the game that is truthful, and does not accord with personal biases or the desire of the fans in the stadium or the sponsors of the event to have the best-known or most beloved team win. Likewise, a teacher must demonstrate that academically all students are held to the same standard. Honest students like honest athletes, feel spiritually fulfilled in success and failure, that their efforts are measured against a common standard, and honestly won.

Why is this quality important to you?

As a player, it is important for me to know that my victories are the result of fair play, and my defeats are measured against people playing by the same rules. I believe everyone is entitled to a level playing field.

Are there specific pedagogical strategies that will help teach this quality?

Simply encouraging students to talk about honesty can be useful. I hope to have a discussion with my students early in the year, to create an honor code of respect… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Ethics Honesty.  (2008, January 21).  Retrieved July 15, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/ethics-honesty/75825

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