JS Tip 129: From the Ethics Workshops: The Power of One Voice

One honest person can lead the way. A friend related this experience while her husband was attending medical school: 

Getting into medical school is pretty competitive, and the desire to do well and be successful puts a great deal of pressure on the new incoming freshmen. My husband had worked hard on his studies and went to attend his first examination. The honor system was expected behavior at the medical school.

The professor passed out the examination and left the room. Within a short time, students started to pull little cheat papers out from under their papers or from their pockets. My husband recalled his heart beginning to pound as he realized it is pretty hard to compete against cheaters.

About that time, a tall lanky student stood up in the back of the room and stated: “I left my home town and put my wife and three little babies in an upstairs apartment and worked very hard to get into medical school. And I’ll turn in the first one of you who cheats, and you better believe it!

They believed it. There were sheepish expressions and the cheat papers disappeared as fast as they’d appeared. He set a standard for the class which eventually graduated the largest group in the school’s history.

(The account comes from Janette Hales Beckham and retold by James E. Faust.)

One person led the way.

Next week: Precision in language: How many is “many”?