If you have a child in high school, there’s a pretty good chance he or she cheats at school. In fact, a recent study by the Josephson Institute reveals that 59% of high schoolers admit they cheated in the past year. Yet neither schools nor parents seem to take this seriously.
Instead they often tell kids: “You’re only cheating yourself.” Not a good thing to say.
First, it’s not true. Cheaters don’t only cheat themselves. They cheat fellow students who earn their grades fairly, and they cheat everyone who is misled by a fraudulently acquired grade. Most of all, cheaters dishonor themselves, their families, teachers, and schools.
Telling a youngster “you’re only cheating yourself” transforms an issue of integrity and moral responsibility into a self-serving cost/benefit calculation that doesn’t favor a decision to not cheat. Most kids know that they could live successful and happy lives even if they never learn the value of X or capital of Zimbabwe. What’s more, a strong argument could be made that learning to cheat could be more useful than learning to study.
Trying to instill a commitment to honesty by appealing to self-interest reinforces the corrosive idea that decisions should be made on the basis of personal advantage rather than moral duty.
We should tell children that cheating is wrong because it is dishonest and unfair. We should tell them that the road to a worthy and fulfilling life filled with meaningful relationships is the road of honor, not expediency. We should teach them to do what is right, not because of what they will get from it, but because of what they will become by it.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.