Northampton Public Schools Superintendent Blog

What Does Integrity Look Like And How Does It Affect You?

Posted on: April 9, 2012

in·teg·ri·ty

Show Spelled[in-teg-ri-tee]

noun

1.  adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
2.  the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.
3.  a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship’s hull.

For the month of February students at Northampton High School along with Kollmorgen, Abba Motors and Pioneer Valley Landscaping  sponsored an Integrity contest.  NHS students were asked to submit an essay, poem, video or piece of art containing a clear and positive message about integrity.  The objective of the contest was to advocate the importance of integrity in our schools and society.  The 1st place prize was $400, 2nd place prize was $200 and 3rd place prize was $100.  A total of twenty entries were judged by a panel of student peers, faculty and local business members.  All entries were displayed at other Northampton schools to help advance the message and importance of integrity.  Students were encouraged to create, submit and win!!!

Please take a moment to view the winning entries and congratulate the advisory group students that crafted the contest and opened the door to engage in this discussion.

1st Place:  PARKER ZIEGLER

Centuries from now,

When my fibrous vitality has dissolved

Into this Earth or that,

What will people say of me?

What is it that,

Even on dark, secret nights,

With no ear to temper the words,

People will say of me?

Will it be that scathing insult,

That hateful love of a commodity we hold holier than life?

“Well, at least he died

A rich man.”

Will it be that indifferent shurg,

That bittersweet vibration of courtesy,

“Well,

At least he lived.”

Or will it be that most resounding of praise,

That homage reserved for a selected few,

That holds in it all the world’s wealth,

“He was a man of integrity.”

Every time I blink,

And traverse the path from this moment to my last,

Will my reflection stare back

At something it’s proud of?

Will it see honesty, morality,

Will it sense respect,

Will it be convinced of my fortitude,

Certain of my integrity?

Can I reconcile myself

With myself?

Can I be the impartial judge

Of myself?

This life is a long time for it to be meaningless,

And this struggle too wonderful for there

To be no guiding grace,

No beautiful ending.

Centuries from now,

When my fibrous vitality has dissolved

Into this Earth or that,

What will people say of me?

Only I can know that

For certain.

1st Place:  DELAINE WINN

Freidrich Nietzsche said, “It is easier to cope with a bad conscience than a bad reputation.” In my experience, he seems to be right on the money. Reading Nietzsche’s words, one particular time in my life comes to mind. It involves Robby, who was a new student in Mrs. Wayne’s fourth grade class at Leeds Elementary School. He’d just come from some town that I hadn’t heard of in Connecticut, and he didn’t really fit in.

So, Robby got teased. Not really about anything in particular: it was just the cruel and senseless playground world of fourth grade boys. I was one of them, fending for a spot in the top recess gang. But come on, in the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t that bad- the teasing, that is. And I wasn’t even one of the worst offenders, right? I really only laughed along with the horde, indulging the ringleaders’ supreme talent for humiliation. I don’t know if I ever said anything to him directly or if I only laughed along. I guess no one will really ever know; I’m sure neither Robby nor the rest of the kids were taking notes too carefully. But what I do know is that I continue to feel remorse to this very day for partaking in the shameless teasing of Robby, the new boy from who knows where, Connecticut. But I didn’t stick up for him, and that’s why I still remember it.

Why didn’t I stick up for him? Simple. At the time, I saw the choices in front of me. I could have either gone against the grain, telling my classmates to stop their nastiness, or I could play the easier card and remain as just another face in the mob. I chose the latter. In other words, I acted in a way that reflected on not my true character but rather what I though was more important: my reputation. If I’d done what I knew was right, my classmates probably would have teased me. I took the easy road, wanting to save my own neck at all costs.

But I knew it was wrong. I knew I was better than that, yet I still gave in to the beast of my worse nature- the one Nietzsche alludes. Even as a fourth grader, I knew it was wrong when I saw the sad look of shame in Robby’s eyes. It’s clear that that brief period of fourth grade was a formative and important event for me. Why else would I still remember it? Why else would I still feel such a sharp tinge of regret when I think about Robby turning his head down in embarrassment?

That lasting feeling of regret is something that I’ve worked to avoid ever since. Back in Mrs. Wayne’s class I didn’t demonstrate the character I was capable of showing. Since then I’ve stuck up for kids in a few similar situations, and each time, in the back of my mind, I think of Robby. I think about how I want to make it right to him. I can’t go back in time and give my fourth-grade self a shot of integrity, saying “alright, kiddo, this isn’t you. You can do better than this, and you know it.” No, instead I can only act in a way from now on that doesn’t succumb to that same pressure, the pressure everyone’s felt at one time or another.

That’s what integrity is all about. It’s about not forgetting those times when you know you didn’t show your backbone, and trying, with each new opportunity, to do better than that. It’s about not doing what’s easier, like Nietzsche said, but it’s about rising to meet the challenge to show your true character —that which is deep down within you— regardless of what Nietzsche says is easier. He may be correct, but that doesn’t make what he says right. You remember the ‘Robby’ moments, the times when you could have and should have done better, the times when you put your “reputation” before your true character. It’s about doing the right thing because you know what it feels like after all these years to do the wrong thing. None of us is a perfect person; we all make mistakes. Do I wish I could change what I did, or rather, didn’t do? Of course. But the only thing to do now is to keep living and making the right choices, the choices that make it up to not only Robby but to myself.

3rd Place:  Jared Murphy and Nate Ogulewicz

3rd Place

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