Reports of widespread cheating by schools in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and other districts – highlighted by the huge scandal in Atlanta involving 178 teachers and principals – should be alarming.
If our educators don’t have the moral courage and integrity to resist pressures to cheat, what hope do we have that they will successfully instill these virtues in their students?
According to Josephson Institute’s 2010 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth based on a survey of more than 40,000 high school students, 59% admitted cheating on an exam at least once within the past year.
Though the cheating rate has been about 60% for more than a decade, very few schools have made a concerted effort to address the problem. What’s more, parents haven’t put any pressure on schools to do so. Perhaps no one thinks it’s a problem.
It’s seemingly impossible to summon any interest, let alone outrage, about the fact that student performance is regularly and rampantly inflated, that the typical high school culture permits and thereby promotes cheating, or that extensive cheating prevents learning (why study when you can cheat?).
The stakes are higher than they seem when we consider the impact of this generation’s entering the workforce to become our future nurses and nuclear inspectors, corporate executives and cops, paramedics and politicians?
Cheating is a habit-forming coping mechanism, and unless we take steps to reverse the trend, you can bet that we will see and suffer from more economy-damaging frauds and credibility-destroying scandals in the coming years.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
For more details on the scandal in Georgia, see the footnotes to Tuesday’s commentary Even Our Schools Are Cheating, including an excerpt from the official report of the Governor’s Special Investigators.