Wednesday, December 09, 2009

It's the code....of the West.

I first saw this over at Joanne Jacobs'.

A teacher is trying to get his students to be more ethical - to, I would say, be more manly - by using a series of ten "ethical commandments" that a man named Jim Owen came up with. Supposedly this is a Cowboy Ethics Code (let us set aside any quibbles about historical accuracy. If students want to follow this code partly because of the "cowboy" tag, all well and good):

1. Live Each Day with Courage
2. Take Pride in Your Work
3. Always Finish What you Start
4. Do What Has to Be Done
5. Be Tough, But Fair
6. When You Make a Promise, Keep It
7. Ride for the Brand
8. Talk Less and Say More
9. Remember That Some Things Are Not For Sale
10. Know Where to Draw the Line

These were developed by a person interested in teaching ethics, particularly to Wall Street types.

But I think the codes fit pretty much anyone.

Live each day with courage = no whining. (And yeah, I admit it, I whine sometimes. But usually not to my students or colleagues).

Take pride in your work: by golly, what a nice place this world would be if everyone took pride in stuff. Especially if they did for the "just little" stuff. I have some students who are like this - who take pride in their work and strive to make even the low-stakes assignments good. And they learn a lot. And they are the ones who go off and get exciting jobs or good grad-school places.

Always finish what you start - that kind of goes without saying. Or, perhaps another way of saying it: don't start something you are unwilling to finish. Or, perhaps more crudely: don't write a check with your mouth that your ass can't cash.

Do what has to be done - sometimes you don't LIKE doing something. Sometimes it should not have to be your job. But sometimes it has to be done.

Be tough, be fair - I think all good teachers exemplify this. I probably haven't been tough enough this semester. But that can change with next semester. (The challenge is that there are people who believe that no matter how fair you are in reality, that if you are at all tough, you are being "unfair" because you are not cutting special slack for them).

When you make a promise, keep it. On one of the Internet boards I "socialize" on, people use the word "THIS" in all caps to indicate, "I strongly and heartily agree with the above statement." So for this one, I will just say, "THIS."

Ride for the brand: I take this to mean, "don't run down your place of work publicly, even if there are problems or things wrong there." Don't air the dirty laundry of work (or home) to people who don't need to know about it. Even when there have been problems at my campus, I have, when people have asked me questions, either said that everything was fine from my perspective, or I have worked to deflect the question.

Talk less and say more: Good advice for writing as well as speech. I do mark students down when they get too wordy in what seems like an attempt to pad lesser work. I think also in life - I am actually not a very talkative person in real life, I prefer to listen and then to say something only when it seems necessary. But there are an awful lot of people who seem to need to talk, like it's a nervous habit, and not only does it wreck others' solitude (I guess some people don't care for solitude any more?), but sometimes people wind up revealing things they probably are better off not revealing.

Remember that some things are not for sale: I've had students ask me to severely bend rules for them. I've never been out-and-out bribed but I've had people offer to do things like wash my car or take me out to lunch. And I ask them: do you think I am that cheap? They are often a little taken aback. But yeah. Once you compromise certain things in your ethics, it is a slippery slope, where if you compromise for X you might as well do it for Y and Z...and then, over time, your word comes to stand for less and less.

Know where to draw the line: I need to work on this, at least in the interpretation of "sometimes you need to say 'no' to taking on more tasks and responsibilities." And also on listening to student sob stories. And other various things.

I think this is a pretty good code. Maybe not the Ten Commandments, but in the pluralistic society we live in now, if we can at least get people to follow the Cowboy Code, that would be an improvement.


nightfly said...

When I hear "Cowboy Code" I always think of this. I thought it was Roy Rogers, but nope, it was Gene.

Roy did have his Ten Rules for Riders, also pretty good.

Funny how the cowboy has come to represent manly virtue and self-reliance. It wasn't always so; in some areas during the late 19th century "cow-boy" was synonymous with rustler and outlaw. Somewhere along the way the other viewpoint took root and completely effaced the negative connotation, and then Gene, Roy, Gary Cooper, John Wayne, et als came along, and that was it.

The Fifth String said...

I'll be darned. The name sounded familiar, so I googled the name and lo and behold, it WAS familiar, from my family's stomping grounds in Tehama County (though the website there doesn't specically mention it's Jim Owens).

But it turns out it's not the same Jim Owens (or Owen, for the actual author).

I find that really amusing.