Losing Students Integrity is the price of an ‘A’

Has cheating become the new norm?

Emma Obrietan

Eleanor Dudley, Features Editor

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“The first time I remember cheating was on a second grade spelling test. I ended up with a 100% on that test.”

“I cheated on a math test because I wasn’t actually taught the material.”

“I cheat almost every Japanese test.”

In a recent survey conducted by the Talisman, the number of students who admit to cheating at least once vastly outweigh those who never have. As students get older the number of students who say they have never cheated drops down to zero.

Kristen Storey

Kristen Storey

Language arts teacher , Kristen Storey, recently wrote a paper for the National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar on Philosophers of Education, trying to find answers.

She discovered that students cheat for a number of reasons, and the Talisman survey corroborates every one of them, as student after student wrote that they cheat because of the pressure to get good grades, from being overwhelmed and overworked, and because cheating has become the new norm in high schools. Students see cheating as a routine part of the day, it’s just doing what students have to do.

Storey says students have a mentality of well,  it’s so prevalent it obviously can’t be a problem,” she said.“It loses its weightiness the more common it becomes.”

And it definitely is common.

No matter what subject, the weightiness of the assignment, or the percentage of the grade, students don’t hesitate to turn to cheating and plagiarism when times get tough.

But the real worry is what cheating is doing to a student’s future.

Cheating can hurt students’ futures. Colleges don’t take kindly to cheating and plagiarism, and if students spend high school leaning on the crutch of cheating, they can fall in a downward spiral. Colleges, from Harvard to the University of Washington, have a wide range of disciplinary action in response to suspected academic misconduct, ranging from a written reprimand to required withdrawal from the College.

“If they never try to write a beautiful, eloquent sentence on their own and just take it from other people, they just don’t develop the skills,” Storey said.

Each teacher handles the problem differently, which Storey argues is part of the problem. She said teachers often have different policies and reactions,which doesn’t benefit students. “Sometimes when teachers do find it, it’s messy to deal with,” she said.

Teachers play a large role, but they are yet another cog in the wheel, next to parents, students, administration and a society that values grades as the ultimate success for high school students.

But the pressure often falls on teachers to enact classroom policies that discourage cheating. Some teachers handle the problem by putting weight behind tests, not homework and cracking down on phone use.

General chemistry teacher Timothy Stedman tightened policies in response  to cheating in a challenging class like chemistry, where copying worksheets is common, and evidence appears on tests. His responses include clearing graphing calculator memories and banning headphones or phone use as a calculator.

“You can get a good grade with cheating but you haven’t earned it–it won’t feel good. There is a greater sense of well-being that comes from an accomplishment won by your own hard work,” he said.

How do students learn the integrity and work ethic that parents and teachers alike hope they have? What is the difference between a student who cheats and one who doesn’t?

It seems there becomes no difference as the years go on, desperation takes hold and students lose sight of the value of their own work, feeling it’s not worth their time, when the grade is what matters most.

Because it’s the grade that gives students the GPA that gives students the ticket to college admissions and that is the ticket to their future… isn’t it?

Storey is concerned about what this epidemic of cheating means beyond academics, for personal character.“If I’m sending citizens out in the world I would like my fellow citizens to be honest beings and if they don’t know something to say I don’t know and not to lie about things, it’s a human character trait we are trying to instill.”

Students, teachers and parents don’t seem to be on the same page in regards to the value of integrity, according to the Talisman survey, and a survey of parents, done by Storey on curriculum night, where parents had unexpected answers when asked: “ What do you wish for your kid?”. “Not a single one wrote a 4.0, not a single one wrote a thing about grades at all. They want them to be happy, to grow, to learn and to have fun.”

In a culture that values success above all , students feel pressured to the point that they live on the breaking point. And for some students sooner or later they will break.

Studies done by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2011, show suicide as the third leading cause of death in American youth, and the National Alliance of Mental Illness reports that 20% of American youth ages 13-8 live with a mental health condition.

“These are young lives we’re dealing with here. The increased anxiety rates, and the increased mental health ailments should tell us something,” Storey said.

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