Demolishing the Demerits

There’s no doubt about it–the demerit system works. Whether you call them class cuts, black marks, or demerits, they keep us in check with our responsibilities. If the system didn’t work, no one would show up to sit-down, chapel, weekend religious requirements, or any other demerit-worthy event. And although attending them may sometimes be a pain, these events create an essential aspect of Groton’s community experience.

Groton is relatively unique when compared to other schools. We are here twenty-four hours of almost every day, and community is weaved into every aspect of our time here. This intensity means that there are more commitments at Groton than at most other schools, which in turn means more opportunities for demerits, and consequently more demerits are given to students.

Although it works, the demerit system isn’t perfect. In fact, many would say it’s far from it. Some advocate for harsher punishments and stricter rules, while others say the opposite. I side with the latter. Although demerits do keep people in line, something as relatively small as skipping chapel or work program a few times shouldn’t land anyone with a DC. Work crews, restrictions, and loss of privileges are fair punishments by my book, but the threat of a suspension simply for not attending minor commitments is a few steps too far.

DC is a serious punishment, one too serious for neglecting work program. Punishments need to be given if you’re forgetting about your community that frequently, or just don’t care enough to come to sit-down, but these punishments shouldn’t come in the form of a DC. If the demerits in question stem from class cuts and other major missed responsibilities, then a DC may be in order, but it’s a ridiculous punishment for such minor offences. An alternative method to Groton’s flawed one-track demerit approach is a two-track system.

Currently, the demerit system weighs all demerits equally, and although a minor equilibrium is reached by scaling the quantity of demerits awarded for each offence, no measure exists to weigh out the seriousness of the offence. This method is a one-track system. All demerits add up to the same punishments no matter what they are awarded for. The flaws within this system are obvious.

Now allow me to introduce the less flawed, yet equally, if not more, effective two-track system. Within this system there are two punishment tracks for demerits: one for major violations (which currently are awarded two or three demerits), and one for minor violations (which are awarded one demerit). Each offence still receives the same number of demerits as before, but now they just add up to different punishments. Collect enough demerits on the major track, and you get a week’s restriction and possibly a DC, but get enough on the minor track, and you get a work crew. If you eventually get enough minor-track demerits, you move on to the major track and the consequences get more serious.

This system also isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely better than what is currently in place. With a two-track approach, the seriousness of offence is offset rather than simply changing quantity of demerits given, allowing fairer and more effective punishments.

So far all the flaws the two-track method solves are for demerits accumulated purposefully. Absent-minded mistakes are still treated the same as purposeful offences. The solution to this problem is quite simple: install a pass system. With this approach each student has three demerit passes, one for every term. These passes would either fully or partially clear the demerits from a mistake or forgotten responsibility. Critics would argue that this lessens the effectiveness of demerits, and they’re absolutely right; however, we’re high school students, not grown adults, and mistakes are bound to happen.  For the time being, the current demerit system works. It’s efficient and fair, but it could definitely be tweaked closer to perfection. Patching up the way demerits are awarded probably won’t change any time soon, and for the most part that’s okay. But needless to say, the system still needs fixing.

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