Character Education

Honor Code

As a member of the Harvard-Westlake school community:

I will let my conscience be my guide in my everyday actions and endeavors at Harvard-Westlake.

I will neither give nor receive unauthorized aid, as defined by my teacher both explicitly and implicitly, from any source on exams, homework, quizzes, papers, or any other academic endeavor.

I will not steal or violate others’ property, either academic or material.

I will not violate the person of others or the person of the school.

I will pledge my honesty to the school community, and I expect others to be responsible and to do the same.

On all my work, my name affirms my honor.

Origins of the Honor Code

The honor code was initiated and written by students in 1999. During the first semester, seventh grade students sign the honor code in a special ceremony during their class meeting.  Teachers attend the ceremony to support the students as they recite the honor code in unison and individually come forward to sign their names in the Honor Code ledger. The Honor Code ledger is kept on display in the library, and students' signatures remain permanently in the ledger, even after they graduate, as a testament to their oath.  Students new to Harvard-Westlake in other grades also sign the honor code in a similar ceremony during their class meetings.

HW Character Committee

The HW Character Committee, housed at the middle school, seeks to find ways to incorporate character into students' daily lives at Harvard-Westlake. This year's motto, "Pay it Forward," emphasizes the fourth characteristic noted in the school's mission statement: "purpose beyond ourselves." Click here for more information.

Honor Code Motto 2013-2014

At the beginning of each school year, Head of Harvard-Westlake Jeanne Huybrechts unveils her Honor Code Motto of the year. This year's motto is "From Caring Comes Courage." Here, in Dr. Huybrecht's words, is the history behind this slogan.

I suggest that if there is a single quality you will need to lead a good life – not necessarily an easy life, but a good life – it is courage .  Courage to say yes, as in “yes, I can” or “yes, I’ll try” – and courage to say no, as in “no, this isn’t right – not now, not ever.” 

Acting courageously in times of moral crisis or in the face of danger is indeed heroic.  As important, though, is courage on a smaller scale – displays of courage in our everyday actions when we are called upon to abandon self-interest and choose the hard right over the easy wrong. Such instances might include standing up for someone who has been ridiculed or embarrassed, getting involved with someone who needs a little – or a lot – of help, or digging into our resources to support a good cause.

Courage is linked to resilience, another quality you will want to cultivate.  Resilient people bounce back and they bounce forward, and the bouncing forward part, in particular, takes courage.

To lead a good life, you will need courage. The great thing about courage is that, unlike innate talent or good looks or athletic ability, there is no limit on how much you can have. Courage can be developed.  It is a renewable resource. If you didn’t have courage the last time you needed it, you can still get some before you will need it again. 

Where does courage come from?  The word itself comes from the Latin word for heart.  Nearly three thousand years ago, the Chinese philosopher and poet, Lao Tzu, expressed that link in a single sentence – four words that will now serve as this year’s character motto: From Caring Comes Courage. In the act of going outside ourselves and genuinely and deeply caring about some person or some idea, we naturally build up a reservoir of courage which we can tap into when needed. When you need courage, look for it in your heart.