Doing the Right Thing When No One Is Looking
Former FBI director Louis Freeh addresses the VMI Corps of Cadets and Leadership Conference registrants. -- VMI Photo by John Robertson.
The 500-seat Gillis Theater on the VMI post was filled to capacity with high school and college students and teachers from across the nation as VMI’s second biennial Leadership Conference, “Cheating, Lying and Honor in America’s High Schools, Colleges and Universities,” opened today. The conference will continue tomorrow when the current generation of students takes the lead in discussing and presenting strategies for encouraging academic and personal integrity.
Former FBI Director Addresses Conference
LEXINGTON, Va., March 5, 2012 – The entire VMI Corps of Cadets, along with about 500 participants from colleges and high schools around the nation, gathered in Cameron Hall to hear Louis J. Freeh speak on the nature of cheating and dishonesty in America. Freeh served as director of the FBI from 1993 to 2001 and is currently CEO of Freeh Group International, a global consulting enterprise.
“The issue is cheating, but the issue is obviously much larger than that,” said Freeh. “It’s a seminar about honor and integrity, the values that are core and have been core here since 1839 and which will serve you all and the country very well whether you become military officers or go into our corporate suites.”
Freeh spoke from his long experience in both the public and private sectors, drawing from his knowledge of crime in America as well as his experience working with corporate America.
“His private sector experience has given him a unique perspective into corporate ethics, government relations, risk, and global security that is crucial to corporate practice in the 21st century,” said Gen. J.H. Binford Peay III ’62, VMI superintendent, in introducing Freeh. “This experience has also given him a unique insight into what’s happening in America.”
Freeh advocated changing the way Americans think about cheating, from an isolated situation in schools and colleges to a problem pervading all aspects of American society.
“Part of the disservice that we do in talking about college cheating or high school cheating or SAT cheating in a vacuum is that it doesn’t occur in a vacuum,” said Freeh. “It’s part of a much larger problem with our society and a much larger problem with human nature, which is the problem of being honest: the problem of doing the right thing when no one is looking.”
Freeh used examples of dishonesty in the areas of government, business, journalism, and science to illustrate the fact that the problem is not limited to educational institutions.
In offering a solution, Freeh suggested that the problem cannot be solved by simply instituting harsher punitive measures or trying to make cheating impossible. Instead, Freeh advocated focusing on educating in a way that emphasizes mastering course material rather than depending on rote memorization.
“It’s really an inexpensive and practical solution. It’s focusing on the learning rather than the test taking, ” said Freeh.
Freeh emphasized the importance of learning and owning knowledge rather than stealing that knowledge through cheating.
“That knowledge is going to be your key to success and influence and leadership. If it’s just 11th-hour stolen and transient knowledge, it’s not going to have any value to you,” said Freeh. “Earn it: that’s the key to leadership. It’s the key to a lot of things in life.”–John Robertson IV