COMMENTARY: “You’re Only Cheating Yourself”

It’s in the news all the time – kids are cheating in school in new ways and at unprecedented rates.

One of the reasons is the way schools and parents deal with or ignore the underlying issues of integrity and character. For instance, to discourage kids from cheating, adults commonly say, “You’re only cheating yourself.”

Of course cheating damages credibility and character, but it’s also dishonest and unfair. Cheaters don’t just cheat themselves. They cheat everyone affected by their cheating, including honest students, who are put at a competitive disadvantage, and college admission officers and employers who think a student’s grade accurately reflects his or her competence. What’s more, cheaters dishonor their families, teachers, and schools.

When we tell kids they’re cheating themselves because they aren’t learning the material, we have to remember that most kids who cheat think what they’re asked to learn is unimportant. They’re quite comfortable not knowing the value of X or the capital of Zimbabwe. As to mastering skills, cynical and coldly pragmatic students believe that learning to cheat is more useful than learning the material.

Finally, it’s dangerous to promote self-centered, cost-benefit calculations about cheating in a way that ignores or minimizes the crucial moral issues of honesty and honor. Nearly two-thirds of high school students cheat on exams because they’re not afraid of getting caught and they get better grades.

To address the problem, we must promote integrity, not self-interest, and we must tell kids that whether they get away with it or not, cheating’s wrong.

Of course, it helps if we really believe that.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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Comments 2

  1. Why do kids cheat?

    1. Pressure from Parents to be #1 (to get into collage).
    2. I wont use anything this class offers anyway, why should I study?
    3. Did not prepare for the test.

    Does our present testing system really test of what a student knows or is it only a test to see how good a student’s memory is?

    We use these test to see how good a teacher is. We have seen teachers change answers to protect there job. This is no way to see how well teachers teach.

    For a student to learn requires more than the time a student is in the classroom. There are other ways to review teachers performance, but that is a subjective review open to criticism also. But we need parents involvement with the kids education. Where schools are in a more influential part of town, not only do their kids go to regular school, but they are able to send their kids to tutors and additional classes to prepare there kids for SAT etc. tests. When the kid takes the standardize tests, it makes the teacher look better than they are.

    For cheating, maybe the main reason is we cannot teach morals in school anymore, since this is considered teach religion.

  2. It starts at home! Parents lie
    And their kids are listening loud and clear. We as teachers can do so much to teach Character.

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