Education's Cheating Epidemic (Opinion)

Ann McClure's picture
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cheating was, is and probably always will be a fact of life. Recently, technology has provided new ways to cheat, but advanced electronics can't be blamed for our increasing willingness to tolerate it.

Once upon a time, being an honorable person included the notion that your word was your bond, and integrity was a crucial element in establishing a good reputation. At least, that was part of the narrative that made up our social compact. My teaching experience tells me, however, that lying and cheating are seen by a lot of kids today as a crucial part of any path to success. The only shame is in getting caught.

Students tell me that math is the easiest course in which to cheat because they can program calculators before a test and cheat undetected. An English teacher told me she no longer counts her vocabulary quizzes in her students' grades because she hasn't found a way to stop them from copying the answers. And our school's not-uncommon policy is basically to forgive a first offense and to enter it into the permanent record only if the student is caught again.

Compounding the problem is the fact that many students aren't fully aware of what constitutes cheating. While teaching at a university a few years ago, I was surprised when a student I had accused of plagiarizing by cutting and pasting text from a website denied having cheated. He indignantly argued that he would never cut and paste — he had retyped the entire thing.

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