Plato, famously recognized as the famous student of Socrates once outlined that: “This city is what it is because the citizens are what they are.” A community, a school, and even the globe are defined by the occupants. The National Honor Society (NHS) is a community of students aiming for the highest achievements in areas of leadership, service, character, and scholarship. The four areas act as principles to students, towards the nurturing of responsible citizens. The more than one million students participating in the program are guided by the NHS motto which is: “Noblesse Oblige” which translates to, a person who considers themselves noble should act like a noble. In more simple terms it means that a person is judged by their deeds. The NHS, therefore, trains students to apply the principles of leadership, service, character, and service in all the activities they undertake.
Martin Luther King once said that: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can.” Negative peer influence and lack of role models have been cited amongst the causes of vices such as drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, and crime in society. These vices cannot be tackled by dispersed actions, but by a single movement with the ability to change the character of young people. NHS acts as a light in the society aimed at encouraging students to engage in healthy activities and aimed at building their character and experience. Education offers a great opportunity for students in developing their leadership skills, nurturing character, and enlightening them on the values of service. Therefore academic excellence is a key emphasis of the NHS. It has always been a misconception that the major reason for pursuing education is so that one can make a lot of money in the future. However, Henry David Thoreau a famous poet once said that:
“Books are the carriers of civilization and without books, history is silent literature is dumb, science crippled, thoughts and speculations at a standstill, I think that there is nothing, not even crime more opposed to poetry, to philosophy to life itself than this incessant business.”
Education helps people to learn from the past and avoid making the same mistakes. Education also encourages expression through literature, which offers means by which the society can criticize and evaluate. Finally, education encourages invention and innovation towards the establishment of a comfortable world, through technology. It is for this reason that Thoreau refers to books as carriers of civilization.
National Honor society’s principles are geared towards the fulfillment of responsibility. As citizens of society, we are endowed with responsibilities towards ourselves and towards society. National Honor society encourages students to engage in service towards the community. The community has provided students with many social and physical amenities that have ensured comfortable survival and the students owe it to the community. The community also has various shortcomings for instance diseases, dysfunctional and ineffective institutions, and vices that need to be addressed. Therefore the society has entrusted the students with the opportunity to learn so that perhaps, they can come up with ways to tackle the challenges. Therefore students who get the opportunity to learn should be objective towards adding quality to society, and this is the essence of academic excellence when perceived as a responsibility.
National Honor Society also nurtures character. Character ensures discipline, consistency, and integrity. Apart from these virtues being invaluable towards academic excellence, they are also pre-requisites towards the development of cohesion in a society.
Character, leadership, and service are not virtues that are attained spontaneously, but require step by step learning approach. Furthermore, it is not just important to teach these virtues and not practice them. National Honor Society is an institution within which these virtues are taught and practiced. Furthermore, through the participation of various community service initiatives, members can gain leadership skills. Successful community service requires the identification of an area of need, organization, and strategic execution. These steps require adequate planning and mobilization of both manpower and equipment. Community service also gives students the chance to gain a sense of responsibility towards the community, which can be extrapolated to academics and lead to academic excellence.
The National Honor Society has various chapters, which can be adopted according to the needs of a particular community; therefore it gives members the chance to customize their activities in a manner that is beneficial to a particular community. National Honor Society offers an opportunity for members to learn and practice responsibility, in various perspectives that are both important academically and in life in general. A society is defined by its occupants and NHS is also defined by its members who conform to the motto, “Noblesse Oblige,” under the guiding principles of leadership, service, character, and scholarship.