There’s good news and bad news in newly released data from a 2010 Josephson Institute of Ethics survey of more than 43,000 high school students.
The good news is that rates of stealing and cheating dropped about 5 percent since 2008. The bad news is that far too many high schoolers engage in dishonest conduct: 27 percent of the students admitted stealing from a store within the past year, and 60 percent said they cheated on an exam.
Twenty-one percent said they stole something from a parent or other relative, and 18 percent confessed they stole something from a friend.
More than two in five (42 percent) said they sometimes lie to save money.
As bad as these numbers are, it appears they understate the level of dishonesty exhibited by America’s youth. More than one in four (26 percent) confessed they lied on at least one question on the survey. Experts agree that dishonesty on surveys usually is an attempt to conceal misconduct.
Despite these high levels of dishonesty, these same kids have a high self-image when it comes to ethics. A whopping 92 percent said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character and 79 percent said that, “when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.”
This data reveals entrenched habits of dishonesty in today’s young people, and that doesn’t bode well for the future when these youngsters become the next generation’s politicians and parents, cops and corporate executives, and journalists and generals.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.