If you noticed by now, the boys have been on campus for just under a month since the August book sale, and already a good number of them experienced either a demerit, a Homework Detention, the assignment of any number of Rules of Civility, possibly even an Honor Code violation. It's a new school for all of the 103 seventh graders, 4 new eighth graders, so we expect some friction. It's a good thing.
Asking one of these new eighth graders today after assembly how this, his new school, compared to his former school, the boy said, "Well, it's more laid back here."
How about that? All this Community Creed stuff, rules and regulations, daily accountability about homework...and what do we get but a "it's more laid back here."
Well, we figure that this student must be relatively happy in our environment. Middle schoolers happy with such unstructured structure, if you will, since we're all "laid back" and all...what's going on with this picture?
A recent Harvard Business Review article came to mind that may explain.
In How Unethical Behavior Becomes Habit, the authors discuss their research about self-monitored ethical behaviors, or lack thereof, in the workplace. Spoiler alert: MUS believes that by promoting our Honor Code, the Community Creed, and the daily accountability for completed assignments, reinforced by reasonable penalties for noncompliance, the boys rise to a greater self expectation resulting in a more ethical school environment, one more "laid back."
Here are some worthy chunks of their quotations as a teaser before you read and review the article for yourself:
When moral standards are unclear or unenforced, it’s easy for employees to feel emboldened to engage in questionable behaviors that are readily rationalized. Environments that nudge employees in the right direction, and managers who immediately identify and address problems, can stop ethical breaches before they spiral out of control.
The safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts,” wrote C.S. Lewis. Our research backs up both Lewis’s intuition and the anecdotal evidence: People often start their misconduct with small transgressions and then slide down a slippery slope.
Yet approaches to warding off the slippery-slope problem need not to be drastic. In their book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein illustrate how a small and unobtrusive nudge in the right direction can lead people to eat better, save more for retirement, and conserve energy.
Our research similarly indicates that ethical nudges can help people avoid the types of indiscretions that might start them down the slippery slope. For example, in a Kellog School of Management study conducted with a major U.S. insurance company, Francesca and colleagues found that customers who signed the statement “I promise that the information I am providing is true” prior to reporting their annual mileage — that is, at the top of the page — were significantly more honest in their reporting compared to those who reported first and signed at the bottom of the page.
Maybe MUS students should write their Honor Code pledge at the beginning of each exercise instead of at the end? An environment promoting codes and creeds and demerits does not insure Utopia, and we have daily stats to support the fallibility of both our students and our staff. However, the conscious effort to humble ourselves under the high standards does nudge us in the right direction, a path toward choosing the better angels of our fallen nature, one where good character promotes good citizenship...and folks can be a bit laid back as a result.