BK Primer #1

The arrival of 25+- new international students at Bath this week for orientation signals summer’s twilight.  The Hyde culture can be especially hard for new students to grasp and Brother’s Keeper (BK) is probably the most challenging component of all.  Perhaps a few words on the front end will prove helpful to all.  In my experience, BK can never be explained enough.

There’s over four decades of history to BK.  I was a student in the earliest days, back before they even called it BK.  (It was initially called the Honor Code.)  We would turn kids in for lying, cheating, and stealing, because we genuinely thought those things were wrong…. BUT we were reluctant to do so for alcohol, tobacco, and drugs because we saw those things as “the school’s rules” and not inherently wrong.  Not only do today’s kids not want to turn their peers in for anything, I’ve encountered more than a few parents who would rather have their children stealing than smoking pot.

“Back in the day” it all came to a head in 1970 (my sophomore year) during an event known in Hyde lore as “The Student Bust.” Up to that point, kids were expelled for breaking ethics.  The Bust uncovered the ugly fact that 100 of Hyde’s 120 students were guilty of something.  Faced with choosing between steadfast adherence to precedent (and thereby closing the school!) OR looking at things differently, the faculty chose the latter, and BK was born.

At the outset, it’s important to differentiate between BK, the universal concept (“We help others achieve their best.”) and BK, the disciplinary process as practiced at Hyde.  The ultimate goal is to graduate kids who will grow into adults who recognize that they will never achieve their best without the help of others and that they should not expect that help if they are unwilling to offer it to others.  (It’s a 2-way street.)  The rest is just details.

Much of the early disdain for BK is due to the fact that a student’s initial association with it tends to be negative. Typically, a boy or girl has committed a violation of school ethics and does not want to accept accountability for it at the hands of a “brother” or “sister.”  However, it can be equally trying when a boy or girl has witnessed another student committing a violation and is loath to get involved in the ugly social repercussions of acting as a brother’s or sister’s “keeper.”  It’s common for some students to adopt a mode of operation where they toe the line themselves but keep the blinders on relative to their peers.

However, later on, after a student begins to perform well academically, scores a few goals out on the soccer field, or sings a solo in a school production, the student realizes that he or she might never have accomplished these things without the positive peer pressure of BK.  Last spring, I had the pleasure of watching my daughter’s Hyde-Bath lacrosse team win the league championship after trailing by three goals with less than 10 minutes to play.  Although I didn’t ask them as they were hoisting the championship trophy at the end, my guess is that they thought BK was pretty cool at the time.  After such experiences, the veteran student generally regards BK in a positive light – but I acknowledge that it’s often not until then.

Onward,  Malcolm Gauld