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Cheating to survive or cheating to thrive?

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Cheating to survive or cheating to thrive?


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In 2012, approximately 125 Harvard College students were investigated for cheating on the take-home final examination for the course “Introduction to Congress.” In an attempt to call attention to the flaws of their student body, “The Harvard Crimson” stated that the scandal “speaks to a more systematic problem with the value Harvard places on its undergraduate education. The institution and the community condones, if not promotes, academic dishonesty, emphasizing prestige over intellectual growth.” Ultimately, the article concluded, “Academics are no longer the priority of the students or teachers at Harvard College.” As one of the most prestigious universities in the world, even Harvard was not immune from the immoralities of students.

According to a recent study completed by the American Psychological Association, seventy percent of high school students have admitted to cheating. Ninety percent admitted to having copied another student’s homework. Moreover, there is evidence that the problem has worsened over the last few decades. Experts say the reasons are relatively simple: Cheating has become easier and more widely tolerated, and both students and parents have failed to give strong, repetitive messages about what is allowed and what is prohibited. There have always been struggling students who cheat to survive, but increasingly, there are students at the top who cheat to thrive.

As society places an increasing amount of pressure on high school students to reach exceptional academic levels, the next generation has become scared of failure. Importantly, we are scared of the assessments that can determine our future, but this should not be an excuse for academic dishonesty.

In a New York Times article, which featured the prevalent cheating culture of Stuyvesant High School, one of the best high schools in New York, one student described his mindset and justification for cheating.

“It’s like, ‘I’ll keep my integrity and fail this test’— no. No one wants to fail a test. You could study for two hours and get an eighty, or you could take a risk and get a 90.”

Another student said “the race for top scores and admission to Ivy League colleges at Stuyvesant was addictive.”

Society’s competitive mindset is exactly what needs to be fixed. Top students in all high schools realize that they must compete with hundreds just like them, and the pressure only grows. Top students who cheat to thrive are trained to hand in every assignment without always believing in its value, and they are convinced that it’s acceptable as long as they aren’t caught.

“I don’t have to study,” a Trinity Prep student said. “Instead I can look at things. I am pressured to both excel in academics and extracurriculars, and I don’t have the energy to study.”

All this makes for a culture in which students band together, sharing homework and test questions with a common understanding that they simply have to survive the heavy workload of high school until they finally reach their goals: dream colleges and jobs.

As a student, I can attest that Trinity is not immune from the larger issues of cheating in society. Trinity students are subject to the same pressures that all high schoolers across the nation face, and it becomes easy to succumb to this pressure and to take the short cut.

“I don’t think that [cheating] is as widespread as the perception may be,” upper school principal Dennis Herron said. “But I know cheating does go on here. We are a part of society, and we are a difficult and rigorous independent school.”

Throughout my years both in Trinity and at other academic programs, I have seen students who store answer keys on their graphing calculators and people who find a test ahead of time only to memorize the correct answers. In fact, it seems that a large majority of students and teachers alike are aware that cheating goes on in classrooms. However, not all of these students face disciplinary actions for their academic dishonesty. Why? Because there is no tangible proof that you memorized the answers the night before, and this is exactly why cheating still exists in our society. But the worst part of it all is that so many students who don’t cheat have become immune and unfazed to those who do cheat on a regular basis, and it is challenging for students to challenge their peers on issues of academic dishonesty.

“At a first glance, cheating does not seem to be that prevalent in Trinity,” junior Antonio Camasmie said. “But there are also situations where it becomes really easy for students to cheat.”

I am sure that every student understands the unethical nature of cheating and the importance of academic integrity. But it seems to me that cheating is more of a psychological issue than anything else. Most people label cheating as a “bad habit” that can be easily fixed with self-control, but I think it goes beyond that. At a certain point, academically dishonest students cease to consciously choose to cheat and it soon becomes a habit that can morph into addiction.

“[Cheating] is dangerous,” Herron said. “Once you do it, and you get away with it, it’s easier to do it a second time.”

I was once told that teachers never write their own test questions and the questions to any test could almost always be found online. The root of cheating lies in class entitlement and a sense that a teacher’s instructions are not applicable to a student. A recent alumnus of Stuyvesant high school said that by the time he took his French final exam, he had lost all respect for his teacher. He justified his decision to cheat as a choice between pursuing a computer science project that he was interested in and studying for a class he believed to be a joke.

Schools rely on a system of trust in their students as a preventative measure for cheating. But all too often, students do not value the trust that teachers have given them. After all, it’s not cheating unless the teacher catches you. Right?





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About the Contributors
AMBER YANG, Editor-in-Chief

Amber Yang is a senior entering her fourth year on staff. She is currently Editor-in-Chief but has a love for writing controversial pieces for the Opinions...

AMY LOWNDES, Editor-in-Chief

Amy Lowndes is thrilled to be entering her fourth and final year on staff as Editor-in-Chief. Besides the paper, she loves iced coffee, Waffle House and...

1 Comment

One Response to “Cheating to survive or cheating to thrive?”

  1. Patrick Salas on March 8th, 2016 9:35 pm

    I found this article interesting. It gives more insight into what caused the cheating culture and where the root problems lie. Are students really to blame for cheating, or is the system that caused the incentive to arise the real problem?

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Cheating to survive or cheating to thrive?