Educationist William Damon, in his article, “The death of Honesty,” seeks to explain the embarrassing situation that society is in, where honesty seems to have been thrown out of the window and its garment tumbled on. Damon’s purpose is to convey to the population why the seed of honesty is important in society not for the benefit of an individual but the whole society in general. He has adopted the authoritative tone of an educator, who has a knowhow on what happens in our schools in regard to student and teacher dishonesty. He maintains that upholding honesty as a virtue in all aspects of life goes a long way into instilling good morals in everyone who cares, be it students, teachers and all concerned parties.
Damon begins his address of reasons why some people find it okay to cheat or be dishonest. This could be geared towards justifying the fact that dishonesty is at times inevitable because it sugar coats the realities making them appealing to the listeners. Being dishonest does not mean that one does not have the interests of other people at heart but rather because one seeks to cushion the other party from sad realities (Hoover.org Para 1). For instance it will be considered morally acceptable for a politician to be dishonest to the electorate or a lawyer to a client in order not to harm them in one way or another.
Damon goes on to quote another writer, George Orwell who seems to promote dishonesty in some quarters of life especially when it comes to politicians. They are people known to hide the realities of life to suit themselves, not because this is acceptable but because society has resigned itself to their rhetoric (Hoover.org Para 3). This leads to ordinary people always speculating on what could be going on because they cannot bring themselves to believing what the politician says because many a time, whatever they say could be having a different meaning all together. This alludes to the fact that society has accommodated dishonesty at the expense of honesty which in the long run erodes society of good morals.
Society since time immemorial has upheld honesty and Damon goes on to state that different civilizations since long time ago have embraced it, ranging from Romans to Confucius and even different personalities in history like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Honesty indeed brings about trust among all the people in different settings including family ties, friendships and even among employers and employees in a work setting (Hoover.org Para 5 & 6). This is so because the trust that is normally built warrants a person is considered trustworthy therefore being believed whenever they say or do something. It therefore goes without saying that a person who is dishonest will drive people away and can never be taken by his or her word as no one will believe them.
In the same breath, Damon goes on to acknowledge the fact that humanity has seriously deviated from the truthful norm to perpetually telling lies and it seems to be okay. Honesty is now viewed by many as “loser’s” way of doing things and this has given room to lies to take centre stage and be considered morally acceptable (Hoover.org Para 7). The world societies have reached its peak and because of this, trust in governance and normal functioning of society seems to be disappearing into thin air. He asserts that it is getting to a point where whether you lie or not, life goes on as if nothing is wrong (Hoover.org Para 8).
Shortly after looking at the wider society and how dishonesty affects it, Damon goes on to highlight how the media and other professional circles have gone further to misrepresent facts. This he goes further to explain in such a way that the media is seen as a means of painting what suits the situation and not the truth as it is therefore giving room to manipulation of news. This at the end of the day serves to satisfy the interests of the concerned parties at a given time and so not looking at the bigger picture on how society is affected. The public ends up being duped which apparently seems to be the order of the day.
It does not just end in social circles because Damon explores how areas designated for the education of young people have been corrupted and are now propagating dishonesty. Instead of schools cultivating acceptable virtues that shape society through these young people, it is ironical that vices such as dishonesty are cultivated at these very centers of learning. Cheating in schools has been propagated by the very people who should be shunning it, that is, teachers and students alike (Hoover.org Para 13). One is left to conclude that this vice will be carried on to other stages of life like at the family level and even at work places.
Damon again brings out the role of teachers and school administrations in the planting of the seed of dishonesty. Apart from aiding the students in cheating and being dishonest, Damon says that the teachers have acknowledged the fact that they are not honest themselves when it comes to reporting the student’s test scores. In such a situation one is left to wonder whether our education systems can be trusted anymore because so much seems to happen behind the curtain. If teachers can really do this, then how credible is our education systems because much is compromised.
Academic integrity has been compromised as stated by Damon to such an extent that the school authorities lack the moral authority to counsel and talk to their students about moral values such as honesty. It has even become as a culture shock that learners do not get moral lessons from the texts they use because they are purely academic. Damon therefore puts into the limelight how dishonesty is now becoming a threat to society and even to the democracy we are coveted for. It is common to find that moral language is assumed at the expense of good virtues which should go hand in hand with the education of our children (Hoover.org Para 20).
More importantly, Damon seeks to awaken the society and remind it that honesty should not be left to die. Its death might lead society to quarters that it may never want to be in. it should therefore begin with young people because they are the future generations. This means that if they will be honest enough, then we can be sure the generations to come will embrace this virtue that seems to diminish by the day.
Damon, William. “The Death of Honesty.” Hoover.org 12th Jan, 2012. Retrieved on 17th April, 2012, http://www.hoover.org/publications/defining-ideas/article/104721