The Rotary Four-Way Test

The Rotary Club of Mechanicsburg NorthDistrict 7390
John F. M. Kocsis, Second Place
Grade 9, Cumberland Valley High School
Teacher:  Brian Martin

The Rotary Four-Way Test is one of the most important business ideals of the 20th century.  Since being established 75 years ago by Herbert Taylor during the Great Depression, the Four-Way Test has not only become an institution for Rotarians everywhere, but also for many successful businesses throughout the world.  Even though the Four-Way Test was created for use in the professional world, I personally feel that this evaluation can certainly be applied to my daily life.
When I first heard about the Four-Way Test, I immediately thought about my participation in one specific activity, and the process I went through deciding whether or not to join.  I am currently a member of the United Way Youth Allocation Panel which allows me to be very active in the community.  In this program, students from high schools across Central Pennsylvania raise money and subsequently decide which organizations will receive the funds and different grants.  I was very proud to be selected for this organization.  I was the first freshman and only member from Cumberland Valley on the panel this fall when it resumed for the year.  When approached and asked to join, I mentally went through a process similar to the Four-Way Test.

What exactly is the Four-Way Test?  It is quite straightforward, which is probably the most ingenious aspect of it.  The Four-Way Test is based off of four simple questions, all of which have meaning in the world today.  The first question asks, “is it the truth?”   I believe that in order for a business to be truly professional, it must not have any fraudulence.  In the business world, nothing is more important than whether or not information is fact.  Truth is also significant in the daily life of an individual.  Before answering a question or making an important choice in life, an individual must consider the truth.  Lying is unethical, regardless of the situation.  Subsequently, upon considering my participation of the United Way Youth Panel, I had to consider whether or not I believed in what they stood for – was it a truthful organization?   I researched it and found out that it was indeed what it claimed to be.
The second question asked by the Rotary’s test requires justice and equality.  It asks, “is it fair to all concerned?”   Like the previous question, this one is imperative to a professional community.  Businesses are generally considered to be cutthroat, something that may or may not be a stereotype.  Taylor’s second question helps prevent scandals, such as those prevalent in the depression era.  Fairness also has meaning to the average person.  When making a decision or forming an opinion, it is important to consider whether or not it is fair to all involved, especially in this age of awareness and tolerance.  What kind of place would this world become if no one thought of the good of mankind before acting?  If every man, woman and child was selfish, our planet could not survive.  We have to promote good will and fairness for all humanity, which was created to be equal.  Everyone deserves to have the opportunity for equality.  In the same vain, I had to consider whether or not I believed the United Way was an organization that was fair.  Different groups come to the organization, stating why they should receive grant money.  The organization then decides how the money is allocated .  My research indicated that the process included information and discussion, which seemed extremely fair to me.

I also had to consider the group that would be making the decisions.  In respect to the individuals forming the panel and those groups that were soliciting funds, I considered the concept of good will.  My thought process mirrored that in the third question:  “will it build good will and better friendships?”   On the surface, it may seem like a question that has little or nothing to do with ethics, but rather the betterment of oneself.  Some may take it as a way to increase relations that will result in more unfair and despicable ways of commerce.  Despite the way it appears, this is truly a moral issue.  If one thinks about it clearly, it makes sense.  If something does not build good will and better relations, how could it possibly improve the state of the world?  We have to use community service to promote altruism in our communities, in the country and all over our planet.  If we help others, friendships will result and the world will become increasingly more peaceful.   In considering the United Way, I realized that it was a way to meet other young people from other schools, also concerned with the community.  Additionally, it promotes relations with members of other service associations that ask for money.  Ultimately, good amity is formed between the program and different establishments where funds and awareness are both raised.

That brings me to the final question posed by the test:  This question may be the most significant of them all.  “Will it be beneficial to all concerned?”  The idea obviates the idea of collaboration and tries to put an end to lopsided proposals.  Of course, when I mention collaboration, I mean it in the sense of working together as a way to blackball other sides, not as cooperation between two parties.  In this sense of the term, collaboration is a terrible thing, and I believe the third question does its best to prevent that from ever happening.  This, too, has implications in the daily lives of laypeople.  For example, cheating may or may not be beneficial to the perpetrator, but can seriously harm the reputation and trustworthiness of the collaborator.  We need to consider the future and how our words and actions will affect the progress of the human race.  Did I consider this United Way program to be beneficial to those concerned?  The answer is a resounding yes.  The money goes to great causes.  Not only do the places who get the allocation benefit, but the panel members gain experience as active members of their community, helping them evolve as positive leaders for the future.

The United Way Youth Allocation Panel definitely passes the Rotary’s Four-Way Test as they continue to work diligently servicing the community.  In applying the values of the test, I am again glad that I was approached and that I said yes.  I am proud to be part of this wonderful service organization and I have already begun recruiting new members.

Rotary International is another service organization that prides itself in its volunteerism and community service.  When Taylor invented the Four-Way Test in 1932, he had no intention of using it in this way.  On the contrary, he used it as a way to revive his struggling business.  He could not have known how momentous it would become in the field of ethics.  Taylor lived during America’s hardest times, the Great Depression, when scandals dominated the country.  Taylor, however, was not corrupt, like so many others during this troubled time.  He used his professional-minded approach to develop a standard of compliance for business decisions.  His approach began as a 100 word statement that was reduced to a seven question test, and then further condensed until it became the current Four-Way Test.

My experience in considering the United Way Youth Allocation Panel was not the first time I used the principles of the Four-Way Test, nor will it be the last.  I plan to use the Four-Way Test to make many important decisions in the future.  Obviously, as a member of the panel, I will be making many allocation decisions over the next four years.  I will remember these ideals and  I will evaluate each service application and decide whether or not it fits Taylor’s criteria.  If it does not, I will make sure that the funds go to a different service that is maybe more fair and is beneficial to everyone.  Additionally, I plan to apply these principles to my other club involvements as well.

I am very pleased that I was given the opportunity to do research on the Rotary Clubs and the Four-Way Test.  It allowed me a chance to reflect on my own personal values, and provided me with a tool to use for making important decisions.  It provided me with an excellent asset that I can utilize to help the community.  From this point in my life onward, I am sure I will remember Taylor’s famous test.  I greatly admire Herbert Taylor and am grateful for his philosophy.   His method can be used by people everywhere to prevent the world to become as scandalous as it was during Taylor’s lifetime. I look forward to utilizing the Four-Way Test for a positive impact on my future decisions.



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