Rare is a student’s opportunity to wake up early on a Saturday morning. With school pressure, afterschool activities, homework, and too many friendships to handle, it is no wonder teens are knocked out and snoozing as the dim lights announcing the weekend creep through their windows.
But this is not a sociology article, nor is this an article about students’ sleeping patterns. This is an article about a special brand of student. This is an article about the student who cares enough to skip the Saturday Z’s session to wake up and work on his/her future and that of his/her society as well. More specifically, this is an article about not only one, but over thirty students who took the time to make their way to the American University of Beirut’s Maamari Auditorium, on Saturday, February the 18th, for Bicharaf’s student workshop.
This workshop aimed at introducing the students to the Bicharaf concept, a notion of academic integrity and business ethics, and the organization’s aim toward an honest, cheat-free future. The workshop also brought up a relatively new aim of Bicharaf’s – a Bicharaf Club Committee in every attending school. This Club would take up the role of channeling Bicharaf into schools, and spreading its message, thus ensuring more honest generations to come. As Dr. Feghali stated as he elaborated this idea, “The aim of Bicharaf is to form ‘Good Leaders’.”
And so the workshop kick started. It was 9 a.m., and all seven attending schools were present. They began with an ice breaker, wherein the students were not allowed to pair up with their classmates, rather students from other schools, and with which they sat for the remaining part of the workshop. Soon after, Dr. Feghali gave a brief introduction on how and why Bicharaf came to be, and what it aimed for, explaining everything the organization has been working on to fulfill these goals. He claims there are 3 types of people: those who will not under any circumstance commit unethical actions, those who will in every situation commit unethical actions; together these two form 40%, and the remaining 60%, and those who stand in the middle ground, the ones Bicharaf is working on to make society a better place.
Dr. Feghali then gave the floor to Kinda, who initiated a debate between the students regarding a recent case where Zenon Yracheta accused Disney of stealing his film idea and developing it into Beverly Hills Chihuahua. This is where the students got to know the meaning of copyrights and patents.
Next, the students were given a break, after which they were told about the Bicharaf Club Committee. Kinda explained how a committee is generally organized between presidents, secretaries, treasurers, a marketing team, reporters, and social media representatives. The pupils were then requested to regroup and discuss their plan of action to open up such a club at their schools, a task to be completed by March 1st.
The students were then interviewed, thus concluding the workshop.
\It was a wrap that guaranteed the launch of ‘Operation: Spread Bicharaf in Schools’, and that of a series of other student workshops that would withhold a similar goal. The students returned home rather enthusiastically. As for the Bicharaf team, well, we await the Bicharaf Club Committee draft on March 1st. Until then, stay tuned!
Would you expect high school students to think that cheating is cheap method to get through a class? Their answers might surprise you:
Some say, “It’s so easy to cheat, and it doesn’t cost a thing.” Others respond, “It would probably take some time to do the cheating sheets, but definitely less time than it will take me to study.” And the most bold reply, “Of course cheating is cheap. Sometimes you cheat and get a good score to pass your finals instead of failing and having to repeat your grade. That would cost time and money.”
Beginning in January 2011 the Bicharaf team visited more than 40 public and private schools around Lebanon, in addition to the Dar Jana School in Jeddah, KSA. We met with students to hear their perspective on academic integrity, cheating, ethics, and related topics. Bicharaf’s presentations focus on real-life examples and cases so that students realize the severity of academic dishonesty and its long term effect. I believe the techniques we are using are quite effective, and we are aiming to reach middle school students as well.
In our presentations, we associate cheating with stealing physical items like cars or money. Students agree that that kind of stealing is wrong because there is a direct monetary value at stake. However, we realize that some students still don’t appreciate the value of information and knowledge, and therefore do not necessarily find that cheating is wrong. It is important for students to understand that in the long term, cheating could be very costly. If students cheat now, they receive credit for information that they don’t actually know. But in the future, students might need that very knowledge for which they deceitfully received credit.
Working with students gives the Bicharaf team a great opportunity to shape a more ethical society. However, working with students also poses a big challenge, as students try to justify their wrongdoings. As a member of the Bicharaf team for the past 4 years, I’ve learned a lot about how students think and what they expect. One of the most important things I have found is that the environment in which they are raised directly impacts how students think and act.
I personally believe that academic integrity awareness is imperative, especially for this generation that lives in a society in which cheating is often considered as simply “helping.” Making a change in the culture and in society requires the joint efforts of students, their parents, and their teachers. Many students we have met have expressed excitement about making this change, and already are making extra efforts in their schools to educate their peers about academic integrity and ethical living.
Bicharaf can’t change everyone’s point of view, and it certainly doesn’t aim to do so. Integrity and ethics are a way of living, and they’re not limited to the issues of cheating and stealing. At the end of the day, personal beliefs and values determine how a person behaves.
As Jim Stovall writes, “integrity is doing the right thing, even if nobody is watching,” and this is the message we hope students learn.
Three eager students from the Zahia Kaddoura Public School for Girls recently met with Lara Kerbaj, Assistant Director of Bicharaf, to share their progress on advancing academic integrity. Rasha Skayki, Rita Assaf, and Dani Abi Khouzam attended the Bicharaf Leadership Camp in February, and since the camp’s conclusion, these enthusiastic students are creating academic integrity awareness at their school. These students are actively helping their peers to become more familiar with the Bicharaf website and are encouraging their friends to take the Bicharaf Academic Student Survey.
Rasha offered a brief update on the first activity the students offered at their school. These students gave short presentations to the 7th and 8th grade students to discuss academic integrity and shared thoughts about the Bicharaf’s objectives. “The students got so excited after they heard about the camp we attended, and wished they could attend a Bicharaf Leadership Camp, too,” Rasha added. The girls agreed that the classroom presentations were very successful and the students didn’t mind missing their breaks.
Dani shared about the successful movie event they hosted, a screening of an episode from Adventures from the Book of Virtues for 8th grade students. The series features two friends, Zack and Annie. In each episode, one of the characters goes against that episode’s value, such as honesty, integrity, or loyalty. Because the character committed a wrongdoing, he or she suffers the consequences of his or her action. Dani and Ms. Loubbana, their advisor, explained that the students were really engaged in the screening and were interested to know more about integrity and good character. Dani recommends this series to other schools, and believes that it is a great way to reach the younger generation. After the screening, the Bicharaf students gave a presentation that introduced the Bicharaf initiative.
Bicharaf is incredibly proud of the initiative the Zahia Kaddoura students have been taking, and we encourage other schools to do the same. The students are using the tools they have learned from Bicharaf and are effectively implementing those tools at their school in order to make a change.
The right decision at the right time can make a world of difference.
Some of us prefer to have decisions made on our behalf.
Some of us prefer to make our own decisions.
Some of us lie somewhere in between.
Some of us know what is right.
Others believe that "right" is a relative term.
Others believe that might is right.
At Bicharaf, we encourage young adults to "choose right."
We believe that fulfilled young men and women have the right to choose; we believe that their choice will be the right one.
Bicharaf's school program works with schools, parents, and society at large to support young adults' ethical decision-making. Our first stage of activity is on academic integrity.
We believe that working on issues of academic integrity at school will build better citizens:
Citizens who will lead our respective societies more transparently.
Citizens who will make a choice.
Citizens who will make the right choice at the right time with a significant positive impact on society.
We invite you to join us. We have practical ways of getting there. We have done part of the thinking for you! Would you like to execute some of those plans? Would you like to contribute ideas? You choose!
Dr. Tony Feghali,