Cheating in school: Why it’s on the rise

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Have we raised “a generation of cheaters?” asked Robert Kolker in New York magazine. That’s the question people are asking after a series of major cheating scandals involving some of the nation’s top schools and colleges. New York City’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School this month suspended 12 students, and threatened to suspend 50 more, for allegedly sharing test answers via text and email. Weeks earlier, Harvard University accused 125 undergrads of sharing and plagiarizing answers fora final take-home exam. Recent research shows that 85 percent of high school students cheat. This might be because students today face enormous pressure as early as fourth grade to succeed on high-stakes tests that they’re told will determine their entire futures. Now that schools prize test performance over learning, “cheating becomes rational,” said Steve Gimbel in Indeed, cheaters are admired, for having “beat the system.”

For the Millennial Generation, in fact, “cheating” is a foreign concept, said Lauren Stiller Rikleen in The Boston Globe. Having grown up online, immersed in Wikipedia and Facebook, they think it’s perfectly normal to share information and even intimate personal secrets. To them, passing around test answers isn’t really cheating, just as downloading music from file-sharing sites isn’t really stealing. Lazy teaching only makes matters worse, said Zara Kessler in Bloomberg .com. The exam paper at the center of the Harvard scandal was open-book and open-Internet—meaning students could research their answers almost any way they wanted. Is it any wonder students decided that collaborating on their answers was no big thing? To find out what students really have learned, schools must demand that they “shut the laptops altogether.”

How do we convince kids not to cheat, asked James Krohe Jr. in the Springfield Illinois Times, when society’s most successful people cheat all the time? We know now that “bankers rig the interest rates they charge each other,” pocketing billions. Big Pharma phonies up its drug trials. Famous singers lip-synch at concerts. Admired athletes like Lance Armstrong illegally use drugs to become rich and famous. And how many “ordinary Joes” cheat on their taxes and their spouses? So before we dismiss an entire generation as morally flawed, maybe we should look at who taught them to play dirty in the first place.