Cheating Is Just Wrong 711.3

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.

Comments 5

  1. Don’t discount the value that whatever you cheat to achieve is discounted. Even if no one else knows about it, you do. Even years later there remains a nagging doubt that you may not deserve the status, recognition, degree, license, or other accolade received. It won’t be from others but it is something that haunts the one that does know the truth in the quiet hours of the night – you.

  2. Is there connection to both this article and “The Illusion of Success 711.5”? I am sure there are multiple reasons why one may feel it is necessary to cheat in high school, however one could be the pressure or expectation we put on our children that nothing but an “A” is acceptable. So, if the “A” is the only acceptable grade then one may feel that “character” may be forced to the back seat. If we are setting the goals too high we may be forcing our children to figure out another way to get there. In “The Illusion of success 711.5”, it states that employees feel “it’s a matter of survial” and it is jusified; do high school kids feel the same way?
    Personally, while I was in high school I cheated a few times. Usually the reason was to pass a test I failed to study enough to pass with an acceptable grade. There was a time or two I felt my only option was to cheat to pass the class because I could not quite understand the concept. Neither of these reasons justify cheating but they are real to the high school student.
    Thanks for the articles!

  3. The problem of situation ethics dominates our society. Whether it is the philosophy of “If it feels right, just do it” to “As long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, it’s ok”, the care for others and not simply the self tends to be minimised if not ridiculed. Darwin has much to answer for in promoting the “survival of the fittest” which underpins our capitalist society. So does Saul Alinsky who trumpeted the philosophy that “the ends justify the means”, when it means others suffer in our own pursuit of “self-actualisation”, whatever that is.
    The problem is exacerbated when trying to convince young children and youths to uphold honesty in a world that simply does not value those values. Analysis of worth tends to be considered in the context of cost/benefit to self rather than benefit to others. The Apostle Paul quoted Christ by saying that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” How do we convince a generation suckled on selfishness of this fundamental, yet eternal, principle? What is it that underpins our society? It is not the pursuit of all things good! To believe so is to live in wilful denial. Rather than try to make sense of the senseless, simply accept what our Creator said: “Greater love has no one than this, to lay down his life for his friends.” Oh that we would learn what that means!

  4. Identical grades do not have the same weight, depending upon where your parents attended school, your socio-economic background, your race, etc. This nation’s compulsory education system determines the material welfare and overall quality of each child’s future to a significant degree. Refusing to obey rules established by a corrupt system is not necessarily immoral.
    “Some ethicists argue that student cheating — whether using the Internet to plagiarize or finding a rogue way to ace a classroom exam — is the ‘canary in the mine,’ about the extent of wider cheating now and in the future.
    ‘There is no question that students point to things in the larger society as rationale and justification for their cheating, whether its Michael Milken, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Bill Clinton or Enron or their parents cheating on taxes,’ Mr. McCabe said.”
    “[T]he crisis occurs when it appears that the financial elite used the politico-legal structure to enrich themselves through systematically imprudent behavior while those engaged in prudent behavior were harmed, with the political elite apparently taking no action to protect the victims.”
    “Let us go back and distinguish between the two things that we want to do; for we want to do two things in modern society. We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forego the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.”

  5. First of all I just love reading your commentaries. I feel compelled to reply to this one. I personally have raised my three children by this standard. Cheating is wrong…morally wrong and its repercussions can and will be felt in all of our society. Question would you like to lay your heart in the hands of a Surgeon who cheated while in school? Or live in a house built by a builder who didn’t honestly earn his trade? or cross a bridge designed by an engineer who dishonestly received his degree?
    Cheating affects all of us in one way or another always. Thank you for your amazing commentaries! God bless..

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