Upholding the Ephebic Oath as the year comes to an end

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“I, both alone and with my many comrades, shall fight for the ideals and sacred things of the city.”

This sentence rings in the ears of every Townsend Harris High School student as part of the Ephebic Oath when they first enter the school, when they graduate the school, and for countless times in their four years here. Harrisites are taught to stand their ground against injustices and fight for their beliefs. This spirit within instilled within us is one of the many things that represents what the school is today and is a testimony to how we uphold the oath.

However, there are also parts of the Oath that we overlook on occasion.

“I shall willingly pay heed to whoever renders judgment with wisdom and shall obey both the laws already established and whatever laws the people in their wisdom shall establish.”

Townsend Harris fosters free thinking and individualism but with this opportunity also comes responsibility. And just as every student is aware of the Ephebic Oath is every student aware of the demerit system; these rules are the “laws already established.”

The demerit system has long been established to show that the school we live in is not lawless and no matter where we go from here, there are expectations and consequences. It prepares us for the regulations of a work life. The consequences we may face from breaking dress code or using our cell phones are minute compared to consequences we will face once we leave Townsend.

As the end of the year approaches, let us not use the turning of the seasons or the Regents testing schedule as excuses to forget what we promised in the Ephebic Oath. This should never subtract from the proper respect due to those in positions of authority, particularly Dean Figelman. Through my years here, I have seen her act justly and fairly towards all students. I have never once thought the opposite, even when I was on the receiving end of those demerits.

And finally the part of the Oath that I know none of us shall soon forget: “I shall not leave my city any less but rather greater than I found it.” To leave the school with a legacy of respect for the rules in place is certainly to leave the “city” greater than we found it. It is telling the generations of students after us that we recognize that actions have consequences and we deserve to be treated as adults with that in mind.

Our understanding of authority is just as essential as changing the world around us for the better while upholding the Ephebic Oath. If this Oath is the biggest promise we make to the school and ourselves, then we should respect the demerit system. Sometimes, it takes the notion of consequences for us to really understand our place in the world and the candor of the fact that this is a time of learning for us.

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