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What Does Integrity Mean?

When news hit that some overly eager parents helped smooth the ride for their children’s entrée to college by paying bribes, I was disappointed.

Disappointed that the system seems to have served folks who can grease the wheels so their kids can get into college while other kids wait on the sidelines.

The story speaks to so many issues that resonate today: integrity, grit, persistence and shared values.

Like so much news today, the story sparked when celebrities were caught red-handed, forking over dough to have their kids cut ahead in the admissions line.

They bribed test-proctors, athletic coaches and middle-weight college officials.

We pay attention because Hollywood’s lights are shining.

The irony is that, as the news broke, a Hollywood film was winning awards for a story about a writer who sold letters from famous authors for cash.

Problem is: the writer invented the letters.

She passed them off as originals and pocketed the dollars.

Like the college-entrance scandal, the film, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, forces you to consider the meaning of integrity.

The film’s protagonist, Lee Israel, forges letters from such notables as Franny Brice, Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker and Noël Coward.

Israel comforts herself saying she was “offering something better than the original: ‘It was better Coward than Coward. Coward didn’t have to be Coward. I had to be Coward and a half,’ according to Kathryn Hughes of The Guardian.

Parents who helped their children into colleges also made their share of forgeries.

In one instance, a test-taker “corrected” an applicant’s answers on her entrance exams, and, in another example, an applicant submitted photographs that had been faked to show the applicant’s head on the body of a competitive athlete.

Each example shares two common elements: a lack of authenticity and a lack of integrity.

Our culture purports to admire the authentic, but, truth is, we think our real selves bland compared to our avatars.

So we disguise ourselves with the hope that camouflage will make us more appealing.

The disguise is tied to your integrity.

In Lee Israel’s case, she cashed in on a faked letter that wasn’t true, and twisted the memory of a dead writer unable to set the record straight.

In the college entrance scandal, someone faked an application that granted her admission but another soul lost her place in line.

Both examples show how we lose our integrity when we harm others.


26 April 2019
















About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in fake, forgery, integrity, nativescience. Bookmark the permalink.

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