You know you taught them better than that, but when it comes to cheating at school most kids admit to finding a little wiggle room on the old moral compass. It’s not that they weren’t listening when you stressed the importance of being honest and true. It’s more a case of selective application.
In an anonymous survey at a large Midwestern high school, 100 students of the junior class were asked to share their views and experiences regarding cheating on tests, homework assignments and essays. What their responses revealed was a somewhat self-serving attitude about right and wrong and an overwhelming willingness to cross the line when it serves their interests.
- Classroom Tests – When asked if looking at someone else’s answers during a test was cheating, 89% said it was. However, 87% admitted to doing just that. And while 94% said that providing test answers to someone else was cheating, only 47% said providing test questions to someone who had yet to take the test was. Regardless, around 70% admitted to doing both.
- Take-Home Tests – While 62% said it was cheating to complete take-home tests with the help of a partner, more than half admitted to doing it.
- Homework – A mere 23% said it was dishonest to do homework with a partner and 91% said they’d done it.
- Book Reports – Only 39% said that doing a book report based on the movie instead of the book wasn’t cheating. However, more than half had done it.
Kenneth Kiewra, professor of educational psychology at UNL and one of the study’s authors, says the while survey results indicate an obvious comfort with deliberate dishonesty, they also reveal some confusion about just what constitutes cheating. While large numbers viewed in-class cheating as wrong, fewer felt that way about getting help with individual work done at home.
Most interesting is the perceived difference in the wrongness of giving another student the answers to a test as opposed to just giving the questions and having them find the answers themselves. Kiewra says this indicates a belief that how wrong something is inversely proportionate to how much effort is involved.
That so many students admit to cheating is sad, but not all that surprising. We live in a world where success is admired regardless of how it is obtained. And kids don’t have to look far to learn that cheating is only wrong if you get caught. And even then, redemption is often just a tearful apology away.
Image: Benjamin Chun/Flickr
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