Service of Unmasking the Honor System: Do I Trust My Fellow Citizens?

May 20th, 2021

Categories: Honesty, Honor Code, Medical Care, Medicine, Pandemic, Trust

Image by Spencer Davis from Pixabay

The business of removing face masks indoors in public, permitted in most states if you’ve had both vaccines, got me to thinking about the honor system. Do I trust my fellow New Yorkers to cover up if they’ve chosen to pass? Can they be trusted to be true-blue and wear a mask until they change their minds? It’s small comfort to hear, “don’t worry about getting sick if you’ve had both vaccines–you won’t be hospitalized and you won’t die, most likely.”

In a New York Times opinion piece “Just How Dishonest are Most Students,” Wake Forest professor Christian B. Miller claimed that honor codes are “surprisingly effective” in curbing cheating. “But many schools and programs, from elementary to graduate level, take their honor codes seriously. And for good reason. Empirical research has repeatedly found that schools that are committed to honor codes have significantly reduced cheating rates compared with schools that are not.”

The operative words are “significantly reduced.” Is that enough where health is concerned?

Image by Juraj Varga from Pixabay

Professor Miller wrote: “Donald McCabe at Rutgers Business School and Linda TreviƱo at the Smeal College of Business at Penn State found a 23 percent rate of helping someone with answers on a test at colleges without an honor code, versus only 11 percent at schools with an honor code. They reported impressive differences as well for plagiarism (20 percent versus 10 percent), unauthorized crib notes (17 percent versus 11 percent) and unpermitted collaboration (49 percent versus 27 percent), among other forms of cheating.”

Cheating in Academic Institutions: A Decade of Research,” the study to which Professor Miller refers, begins “This article reviews 1 decade of research on cheating in academic institutions. This research demonstrates that cheating is prevalent and that some forms of cheating have increased dramatically in the last 30 years.” The article was published in January, 2010.

There is no honor code for society at large. The percentages of cheaters in the study above for 2000 to 2010–49, 23, 20 and 17–if anywhere near what happens with the public in general, give me goosebumps. This is a city with $215 million worth of fare-jumpers [in 2018] according to Jay Willis in an article in, not that sneaking in bus or subway for free means that you’ll take off your mask when you shouldn’t.

Do you think that vaccinations for any killer virus should be required for entrance in public venues? Vaccines are already required in some instances. According to the New York Department of Health, “Children attending day care and pre-K through 12thgrade in New York State must receive all required doses of vaccines on the recommended schedule in order to attend or remain in school. This is true unless they have a valid medical exemption to immunization. This includes all public, private, and religious schools.”

Do people brought up in schools with honor codes remain honorable or do they need honor code booster shots after graduation? Will you trust that the man or woman near you at a store, a wedding, in a theater or religious institution has been vaccinated because they aren’t wearing a mask? Do you plan on wearing one indoors at least until 70 percent of the population in your city or state are vaccinated?

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7 Responses to “Service of Unmasking the Honor System: Do I Trust My Fellow Citizens?”

  1. DB Said:

    DB sent an email with a copy of a New Yorker cartoon by Roz Chast, “What you can do now that you’ve been vaccinated.” One character’s tee shirt says “I’ve Been Vaccinated,” and the same message is on another one’s tote bag. The messages over each are “wear this tee shirt!” and “carry this tote bag,” respectively. The third is collapsed in an armchair and he says “Done.” The message above him is “Don’t have to think about getting vaccinated anymore.”

  2. BC Said:

    It is a crap shoot. One can get a variety of infectious diseases with or without a mask.

    Tuberculosis is one good example. Folks with AIDS often have a drug resistant form of tuberculosis (bacteria), and spread it easily.

    Unless one wears a double or triple mask, not sure one layer does the trick, because the virus particles are so small. Keeping a distance from others is good, though fomites from the lung can travel at least 20 feet when one coughs or sneezes.

    Common sense must prevail. Do not get on an elevator which is packed.

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I’ve heard that cases of flu last season were down and according to what you wrote it might be the distance we’ve kept from one another that is responsible when, for example, we shopped indoors. We’ve not been allowed to assemble in crowds or go to concerts and movies. I wonder what will happen now that we can gather as before the pandemic at the movies, in stores, spas and sports clubs and starting in fall in Broadway theaters. We are nowhere near 70% vaccinated in these parts.

    Will mask shaming become a “thing,” where those who keep wearing theirs are made fun of and taunted? Even if they aren’t effective, at least they symbolize “keep your distance, please.”

  4. Lucrezia Said:

    I have as much faith in an honor system as I do in quicksand. The planet teams with those who show no regard for public safety, either by adhering to politically based screed or slavishly following the dictates of various Ooga Boogas, whose wisdom may be heard echoing in halls of Congress.

    It shouldn’t surprise anyone, since things were pretty much the same in the past. Perhaps less prevalent, but every bit as ugly.

    This is not to say good doesn’t exist, but right now it’s just a bit harder to find.

  5. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I wish I could disagree.

    Just now I planned to take a bus to deliver a large bag of clothes to Goodwill Industries. (They no longer pick up and haven’t for years.) The bus, when it finally came, was jammed. I wouldn’t enter even though we still must wear masks in public transport. It will be a while before I’m comfortable squeezing myself into any crowded public situation, something I’ve done all my life in NYC. It was my fault for leaving later than I should have–when people were beginning to return home from work.

  6. Deb Wright Said:

    What an interesting question! I like the results of that study. But, as you pointed out, how do you apply a code of ethical behavior to a society like ours? I personally feel that vaccines should be mandatory for all. I know there are people who cannot have them for health reasons. But when I think of tuberculosis and polio and other deadly diseases, people just had to get immunized. This idea of personal liberty to choose is so selfish. My niece, Donna, asked her father to get vaccinated as a patriotic duty. He is a Navy veteran and is an honorable man who would never cheat or lie. He drank the Trump-ade and is convinced it is all engineered in China and he believes the conspiracy theories. Making it a requirement of citizens is not fascism!

    I also think there is a terrible ignorance of human history. That ignorance breaks my heart. In Illinois, there is also a requirement for children to have their immunizations. Religion has been used to dodge this for the anti-vaccine folks, but that is a way to cheat. A neighbor said that her children are not vaccinated. I asked how did they get to be enrolled? She said that she wrote the school board and quoted a passage from the Bible that supported her beliefs. Now, she is genuinely religious and somehow thinks vaccines are not necessary if one has faith. And, she added that they are gluten-free! And, this is a young woman who has a master’s degree in political science! I wonder if the human race is going to survive.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:


    On its website reported “Thanks to the success of vaccination, the last natural outbreak of smallpox in the United States occurred in 1949. In 1980, the World Health Assembly declared smallpox eradicated (eliminated), and no cases of naturally occurring smallpox have happened since.”

    So I agree with you re. vaccinations being mandatory for fatal diseases.

    I have no solution for effective antidotes to the rumors that anti-vaccers spread. I heard only once on local radio news Friday a disturbing item that needles made in China are breaking and shouldn’t be used. While the information should be shared with the medical community, it doesn’t help the initiatives to get everyone vaccinated to mention it to the public. I wonder if the station was asked not to repeat it for fear of alarming the suspicious.

    As long as my belief doesn’t impact a soul other than mine, I say “go for it.” However, when it does–as in impeding attempts to strangle an ugly virus–an individual should not be able to do so. As you wrote, the only excuse should be if health or allergies contraindicate taking a vaccine.

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