The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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September 20, 2013

Cheating tendencies come from shocking avenues

Did you know that seven out of 10 high school students have cheated at least once in the past year? Did you know that 50 percent of those students have cheated more than twice?

These shocking statistics are from a survey of 9,000 U.S. high school students.

Incredibly, teachers may even be encouraging their students to cheat. At a school in Detroit, teachers allegedly provided their students with answers to statewide standard tests. Students at the school told investigators that they were promised pizza and money if they cheated on the test as told.

Similar allegations at several schools in San Diego County, Calif., have prompted investigation. A student at a local high school says she sees students cheating on almost every test, and for the most part, teachers do little if anything about it.

Ten percent of Harvard’s incoming freshman class recently admitted to cheating on exams prior to heading to the Ivy League Institution, and another 42 percent admitted to cheating on a homework assignment or problem set, the university’s newspaper, The Crimson, reported recently.

Cheating is increasingly a concern in education. Some colleges, in an attempt to curb academic dishonesty on campus, are beginning to employ methods one has usually associated with Las Vegas casinos. A recent survey found that one-third of all students admitted to cheating on an examination, one-half admitted cheating on a class assignment, two-thirds admitted to cheating at least once during their college career, and two-thirds have seen classmates cheat on exams or assignments.

Paradoxically, three-fourths of those in that survey believe that cheating is not justified under any circumstances. Finally, one-half of the students surveyed believe that the faculty of their university does not try to catch cheaters.

At the same time, a national survey of 23,000 high school students represents the largest of its kind and sheds some light on the ethical considerations of America’s youth.

Ironically though, according to the survey, in 2010, 59 percent of students admitted they had cheated on an exam in the past year — a statistic that dropped to 51 percent in 2012. Those who claimed to have copied another’s homework also dropped from 34 percent to 32 percent over the past two years.

And when it comes to lying to authority figures, 55 percent admitted lying to a teacher on something significant in the past year, down from 61 percent in 2010. Those who lied to their parents also dropped from 80 percent to 76 percent.

Academic cheating, meanwhile, is defined as representing someone else’s work as your own. It can take many forms, including sharing another’s work, purchasing a term paper or test questions in advance, paying another to do the work for you. Statistics show that cheating among high school students has risen dramatically during the past 50 years.

In the past it was the struggling student who was more likely to cheat just to get by. Today it is also the above-average college bound students who are cheating. Grades, rather than education, have become the major focus of many students.

High school students are less likely than younger test takers to report cheaters, because it would be “tattling” or “ratting out a friend.”

While about 20 percent of college students admitted to cheating in high school during the 1940s, today between 75 and 98 percent of college students surveyed each year report having cheated in high school.

In most cases cheaters don’t get caught. If caught, they seldom are punished severely, if at all. Math and science are the courses in which cheating most often occurs.

Computers can make cheating easier than ever before. For example, students can download term papers from the World Wide Web.

The kids, meanwhile, claim that they’re tempted to cheat because of peer pressure and intense competition to get top grades. Many kids also say that their parents are setting a bad example by “fudging” on income taxes, lying about age to pay lower admission prices, or cheating their way out of a speeding ticket. They are sending a message to their kids that it is OK to cheat and lie.

Finding solutions to this problem is difficult. Chances are that students believe that cheating is the only way to meet unreasonably high expectations. Perhaps it is time for parents and teachers to seriously examine whether higher test results are important enough to encourage cheating.

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Top o’ the morning!

— Blankenship is a reporter for The Register-Herald.

E-mail: jabbb@suddenlink.net

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