It’s time to stop cheating

January 5, 2009 — by Shannon Galvin and Melody Zhang

Forget teaching students biology or algebra, it’s time to go back to basics, back to when teachers had to remind students not to take other’s belongings and to tell the truth.

Cheating isn’t something people should ever take lightly, yet in an alarming 2008 survey conducted by the Josephson Institute, a majority of high schools students nationwide admitted to cheating, without a single flicker of guilt.

According to the survey, 30 percent of high school students have stolen from a store and 64 percent have cheated on a test. And here’s the kicker: 93 percent of students surveyed said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character, and 77 percent affirmed that “when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.”

With the pressure and competition of today’s high schools, it is no surprise that cheating exists, but it’s shocking that the numbers are so high. The push for straight A’s has left behind what keeps our society together: strong ethics and character.

With the type of competition students must go through today to procure a spot in a top college, the importance of academics has gradually become less important next to extracurricular activities. There are only so many hours in a day to keep top grades while juggling sports, community service, band and college applications. Pressure to excel in everything has pushed the temptation to cheat from every student’s peripheral to their foremost attention.

Some adults have attributed this trend in lack of morals to the absence of a caring environment. They again point to the fact that today’s society is much too apathetic to teenager behavior. The National Association of Secondary School Principals, for example, said that to help students choose the right choice, they need to emphasize classrooms where learning takes more importance than the right answer.

But it would be wrong to completely blame students’ shortcomings on society or competitive pressures. Deep down, everyone possesses an innate sense of right and wrong. Teenagers need to stop claiming ignorance of morals to both themselves and to their family and friends. The “but everyone else does it too” viewpoint doesn’t justify stealing or cheating.

Students also need to be held responsible for breaking the rules. Too many times peers let others get away with cheating. This happens time and again, until cheating doesn’t seem to matter anymore. To encourage academic integrity, schools need to enact a stricter honor code that can’t be dodged on account of ignorance. But the burden of addressing this problem isn’t just the schools’; change can’t happen if the students don’t allow it to.

It’s nice that some of the adults are trying to cover for us, but it’s time for us to grow up, shoulder our own responsibilities, and correct our own faults. Better late than never.

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