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To Cheat or Not to Cheat... That is the Question!

To more and more students, the answer is becoming – yes. A 1998 study done of Who’s Who in American High School Students showed that 4 of 5   of the top students admitted cheating. And, in recent headlines, a teacher was scrutinized for giving an entire class a 0 grade for cheating (the parents thought she was too hard on the kids). So, what is cheating, and what is not? But, more importantly, why do kids feel the need to cheat in the first place?

First, cheating is defined as: to act dishonestly; practice fraud. Under that definition, there seems to be a great deal of gray area. For instance, some teachers think working in groups is fine, and others believe that it is cheating to do your homework together. Some research on the internet is fine, but how in the world can you stop plagiarism with all of the information that is out there? It is not as if our children are copying from the encyclopedia. How about parental help on an assignment – how much is too much? And, is it fair one student’s parent helps, and another’s doesn’t? What about telling a friend in the hallway what questions were on the test – if you don’t tell them the answers? What constitutes cheating?

A recent article in the Houston Chronicle tried to draw out some black and whites. Here is what that particular panel decided:

Someone corrects the grammar on a writing assignment, and adds some sentences to your work – cheating

Someone studying for a Shakespeare midterm is told by another student to “know Othello”. – not cheating, but giving actual questions would be an unfair advantage

In a foreign language class the assignment is to translate a piece of text, and a language conversion program is used – cheating.

Collaborating to research information for assignments – not cheating as long as each person writes their own stuff.

Finding a website that just happens to have all of the information you need for a term paper – cheating if you quote them without giving proper credit – otherwise you must put the information into your own words.

Okay, so that doesn’t cover the whole area in question, but it is a good start. And now, why do students cheat in the first place? First, students’ schedules today are jammed with things to do. The level of study is harder, and the rate at which after school time is programmed with dance, music, sports, church… is in many cases out of hand. In addition, there is a great deal of pressure to be a success in school as the set up for getting into a good college. Where I live, my 8th grade son’s grades have been “counting” for class placement for several years now. And, with class sizes getting bigger and bigger, there is a sense of depersonalization, and kids don’t feel guilty for cheating in a class where the teacher can hardly remember their name.

What can we, as parents, do? Pay attention to what they are studying and take the time to read their work. Teach the value of actually learning information as opposed to spitting it back out by rote for a test. Not load our kids down with so many activities that they feel overwhelmed and unable to keep up. But, most importantly, teach our children pride in themselves and in real accomplishment.




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