Integrity is one element of good character. It crosses the full socio-political spectrum, for without it all other views and values remain useless Stephen Carter calls integrity a pre-political virtue. It comes first in the list of human virtues because it gives meaning to all the rest of what we say and believe (Integrity/Harper Collins/1996/xl).
Social integrity results from individuals of integrity. Following such social viruses as the Enron scandal, educational centers began examining the issues of ethics and values. This revealed a problem that Associated Press called “ubiquity.” Cheating was everywhere, launching red hot dialogue for educators.
Duke University expelled 9 MBA students and gave out lesser punishments to 37 others--one of the nation’s largest cheating ever. The US Air Force Academy expelled 18 students for cheating. Ohio University reported "rampant and flagrant plagiarism” by graduate Engineering students. An MIT Dean of Admissions fabricated her resume thirty years ago, to obtain her job.
A Rutgers study of 32 universities revealed widespread cheating: 56% of MBA students; 54% of graduate students in engineering; and 45% of law students. Undergraduates in these schools proved even worse: business students, 74%, with 68% of students in other fields admitting to cheating (AP/5-19-07/IvyJungle.org).
Combating cheating proves difficult and costly, it loses tuition dollars, cretes bad publicity, and finds lawsuits defensive to defend. Dave Hardin, an ordinary guy from Kentucky. He teaches school during the week and preaches on weekends. I’ve never met him face to face, but recently he wrote something that caught my breath.
“Our country has rid itself of all principals and standards,” Hardin declared, “everything is evaluated according to its ‘situation. ‘” I have no reason to discount Dave. Nor, do I find him jaded and cynical. The prevalence of cheating gives all of us reason to discount our futures. Why?
Hardin looks at our kids, my grandkids and yours, and sees the future of America. Is it too much to suggest that the the shortest distance between happy homes, trusting neighbors, secure jobs, and homeland security is intentional honesty?
Avoid the very appearance of evil. Be what you appear to be. Deception and dishonesty create untrusting communities and unsafe environments in our global communities. A glance at the daily news suggests the obvious: the average individual places little value on integrity, ignoring the truth that cheating builds distrust and destroys our foundations.
Trust remains foundational to a healthy society. It requires a “bottom line.” Without integrity, there can be no trust. What future can we anticipate, if deception contaminates business, politics, and government, from the classroom to the White House?
If dishonest cheaters flood the mainstream of our society, why do we wonder that broken relationships and scandalous debacles flood the airwaves? A successful society begins with good relationships. Otherwise, we build on shifting sand and irrelavant truth.
One of the Ten Commandments declares “thou shalt not lie.” Yet, every Madison Avenue spin doctor knows how to detour around that. Meantime, “truth in advertising” remains a radar gun (a law on the statute books) we use our fuzz busters to avoid.
There is a cure, but it requires a fundamental change in the human heart. A society that values façades and appearances more than factual truth finds integrity too high a price to pay. Truth that is merely relative and contextual, challenges few people to find their “bottom line” for living.
Treating our neighbors (others) as we treat ourselves offers a good place to begin, taught Jesus (the founder of our faith. This single teaching would improve the quality of life on planet earth dramatically. Treating our neighbor’s like we treat ourselves will go a long way in helping us rediscover individual integrity.