The Best Policy

Dear Flint Hill Families,

There has been a tremendous focus on honesty in the news recently. Journalist Brian Williams was suspended from NBC Nightly News because of exaggerations regarding his coverage of the Iraq War and Hurricane Katrina. A Chicago Little League team was stripped of its World Series title after reports emerged that team officials had cheated in its recruitment of players. In both situations, what seemed to be harmless instances of stretching the truth quickly led to national headlines and lasting, far-reaching consequences beyond the individuals directly involved.

Sadly, there are countless examples of this kind of behavior in our everyday lives — from grand exaggerations to white lies. As these stories swirl in the news, we need to take them very seriously in our homes. For our students, honesty is a core value. It is a critical one, and one that will have an impact on the way in which they conduct their lives now and in the future.

When we were raising our boys, honesty was always one of the most important values in our home. We taught our sons that being honest about an issue from the very beginning would prevent negative long term complications. On occasion, I have had similar discussions with parents about putting honesty first.

When my oldest son was in high school, the day after borrowing my car, we discovered the axle was bent. He told us a tale about the car sliding in the mud and accidentally hitting a curb, but it didn’t make any sense. And as much as we pushed, that was the story we kept getting. It eventually became a family joke. For years, whenever we would get together, at some point I would say, “By the way Drew, are you ready to tell us about the car yet?” And after we all had a laugh, he would reply, “Dad, I told you what happened.” Finally, one Thanksgiving, when he was in his early 30’s, I mentioned the joke once again. This time, the truth came out. All of a sudden, he said, “Okay, fine! If you really want to know, this is what happened…”  And he told us what happened to the axle that night many years before. When he finished, I asked him if he felt better telling the truth after so much time had passed. He looked me in the eye and said, “Actually, I do. I’m sorry.”

As I share this, I am also reminded of a story about a math professor at Vanderbilt University in the early 1900s. He was famous for having this note at the top of the examinations he gave to his students:  “In a minute you will take two examinations, one is algebra and one is honesty. If you must fail one, fail algebra.”

That phrase always has stuck with me, and I hope it resonates with you. As you read and hear the news, use those tangible stories to support discussions at home about the importance of honesty and its role as one of our core values.

Best wishes to you!

Sincerely,

John M. Thomas
Headmaster

P.S.:  Hang in there on the weather front! As I shoveled my driveway yesterday, I swear I could hear spring birds chirping away in the bushes. They are coming back, and I take that to mean there is not much more of this ahead!