Apparently adults are allowed to lie but kids are not

If you have been watching the American news over the past couple of months, you may have witnessed the election of the U.S. Representative for New York’s 3rd Congressional District. It seems shocking that he was elected in spite of lying about his education, work experience and heritage – and even his legal name. As if it couldn’t get worse, he even fabricated the story of his mother’s cause of death. You would think this would all be more than enough to either pressure him to resign or to be disqualified from serving in public office. But, to date, that has not happened.

Meanwhile back at Trinity College School…

Here is what our Life at Trinity: A Handbook for Senior School Families states with respect to academic dishonesty: “Cheating, plagiarism…incur consequences ranging from red gating to expulsion.”

Shouldn’t there be a Life in the Senate: A Handbook for Anyone Running for Public Office document?

If I were a kid, it would seem to me like adults can lie and cheat, but kids can’t. To use the above example, adults can lie their way to the top, but a teenager could damage their future by failing to quote a source on an essay.

And, what happened to personal integrity? TCS has an Honour Code that each student and family agrees to when they join the School. Within the opening sentences, the Honour Code reads, “personal integrity is the foundation upon which students can thrive and develop. It is the cornerstone of one’s character.”

Again, shouldn’t there be a Senate Honour Code?

Watch the news and read the papers and it appears that many adults in leadership positions have adopted one, if not all, of the following strategies: the “deny, deny” approach; the “try to prove it!” approach; and/or the “if it’s not on video, it didn’t happen” approach. I fear that if we are not careful, this strategy will percolate down to the next generation.

As educators and parents, how do we reconcile what appears to be two sets of rules? Or rather, what might appear to be one set of rules for kids and seemingly no rules for adults?

I have a few responses to this…

First and foremost, the vast majority of people believe that the falsifying of information (and your personal history) is wrong and should have consequences. So, just because someone “gets away with it” doesn’t mean it is right. Consequences need to be applied.

Second, I do believe in karma. Or, in “what goes around, comes around.” I appreciate the sentiment captured in “live by the sword, die by the sword” and “cheaters never prosper.” I choose to believe that somehow, someway, sometime, people who cheat will be held accountable and pay a price – including those working in the U.S. Senate.

Third, within the TCS community, and communities around the world, I know that the vast majority of people believe that character still counts. And that good people end up surrounded, by and large, by other good people. And while we tend to hear and characterize a confluence of bad things as a vicious cycle, there are virtuous circles, too. I think TCS is a host to hundreds of virtuous circles that make for a very special community.

The key for all of us, parents and educators most importantly, is to continue to place high value on character and integrity. Your kids, our communities, and future generations will be the beneficiaries. If not immediately, ultimately.

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