Head Master Tim Bowden has urged incoming Year 12 students to stamp themselves as young men of character when facing ethical dilemmas, highlighting the story of a police drug raid to explain why they should look beyond “unthinking loyalty” to their peers.
He recalled the reflections of a rookie policeman once involved in a late-night raid where drug criminals were playing poker with large sums of cash.
It became clear his police colleagues were sweeping the wads of money into a bag for their own gain, letting the criminals off with the implicit message: “This is the way business is done here.”
The young policeman faced a choice between two good things.
“Upholding the law is a good thing, but so is loyalty. One way or another, he was going to have to prioritise one,” Mr. Bowden said.
After a sleepless night the rookie cop became a whistleblower, and his leadership ultimately benefited tens of thousands of people he would never meet.
“He said one thought stuck with him: ‘I did not become a copper to become a crook’.”
Mr. Bowden raised several scenarios where similar ethical tensions might play out for a Year 12 student:
> what should they do if their peers start chanting offensive lyrics in the school bus on their way to a sporting event?
> what should they do if one of their mates uses weed killer to write something abusive on the quad?
> what should they do if they know who is behind a “revolting and disgraceful” end-of-year scavenger hunt which will scar their school’s reputation for decades?
He said the implicit morality behind the saying “snitches get stitches” was that loyalty was the highest value, but wrongdoers were the winners.
“Loyalty is a good thing but it is not the guiding star by which we ought to steer our lives,” he said.
“I don’t know what dilemmas will come your way this year, but I do know I am looking to you, as members of our senior year, to be men who can look beyond unthinking loyalty to the people around you.
“The ability to sleep at night, to know what you have done is right, will be the seal on your character.”
The Head Master addressed student officers taking the century-old pledge to serve honestly and selflessly, and to honour Trinity’s traditions and values.
He told them: “Do not make your promise lightly.”