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Cheaters never win–Winners never cheat

Kathryn O’Brien & Maia Wiseman, Features Editor & Editor-in-Chief
Originally published March 21, 2014

Evan Bunnage

Evan Bunnage

Within that giddy first week of school, each teacher passes out a syllabus. This packet outlines their class, their expectations, their homework policy, their grade percentages and almost always includes an honesty policy. Students take this home to their parents, get signatures and sign it themselves before turning it in for the first points in the otherwise blank gradebook.

The honesty policy may vary in wording but the breakdown is this: don’t cheat or plagiarize. Students sign this, promising that they won’t cheat. But in a recent Talisman survey, 68 percent of students admitted to cheating while 20 percent admitted to cheating regularly.

The current school-wide policy outlined in the student handbook defines honesty as doing your own work; crediting others’ words, pictures, facts or ideas; keeping your eyes on your own work; helping, not copying; and using electronic sources with integrity.

The repercussions of cheating vary depending on which offense it is; the third offense results in the student being withdrawn with a failing grade from the class affected by the incident. Formal paperwork is also signed to indicate this is a third offense for the student and a parent conference is held.

“I think kids in high school [cheat] a lot, because even little things like copying homework—where you don’t technically think it’s cheating and it really is cheating—happens a lot,” math teacher Holly Dreier said. “Or looking on someone’s paper or getting hints from someone.”

Despite the majority number of students who have confessed to cheating, only 16 percent of those who have cheated reported having been caught. This is likely due to the low weight of most assignments that students cheat on: one-answer worksheets or math assignments.

Junior Sofia Ghilarducci also admits she sees “a lot of people sharing their answers or [saying] ‘Oh let me copy that.’”

Dreier reported that students not only copy others’ homework, but she has also heard of instances of students taking others’ homework out of the bin and writing their own name on it and then turning it back in.

“Mainly it’s the looking at different papers during a test. . . I’ve had instances where someone didn’t know. Sometimes as a teacher it’s hard to tell,” Dreier said. “Usually if you ask one kid says ‘I’m sorry,’ you give them a zero on the problem and move on.”

For teachers, cheating is frustrating not only because it shows that students don’t want to put effort into learning the subject but that it is “a fight” to call someone out on cheating, according to Dreier. “I think the cheating combined with the lying is probably what gets most kids in trouble,” she said.

According to the same Talisman poll, only 12 percent of students said that they’ve confessed to cheating.

“Whenever I catch [cheating] it makes me just sick because I know it’s rampant…there’s a sense that I get from a lot of people that there’s nothing wrong with it, that it’s just what you do to get ahead,” history teacher Pamela Hering said. “Are these the people that become our community leaders? Is this who we are today?”

Cheating comes from an increasingly more widespread attitude that grades are more important than honesty. In a world where the SAT promises to determine futures and colleges are highly selective, it’s no surprise that it’s so rampant with students at all levels.

According to math teacher Joe Schmidt, “…students are motivated by grades as opposed to understanding or knowledge or wisdom and when you’re motivated by grades, the thing you care about is the grade and any means to a good grade seems almost legitimate. That’s a flaw with our system.”

Schmidt also acknowledges the struggle, however. “There’s really no excuse for cheating,” he said. “But it’s so easy. . . You can either study really hard and do well or cheat and get a good grade and hardly do anything. It’s very tempting.”

Senior Jim Binuya has had some personal experience with cheating. When he was in his freshman year, he was caught sharing answers with another student. “They just called home and let my parents know,” Binuya said. “It’s something I regret now.”

And cheating is on the rise. According to an Academic Cheating Fact Sheet from Stanford University, while about 20 percent of college students admitted to cheating in high school during the 1940’s, today between 75 and 98 percent of college students surveyed each year report having cheated in high school.

Most students acknowledge the presence of cheating in school. “You know other people that do it, so you’re not going to snitch on them,” Binuya said.

In fact, 77 percent of those polled in the Talisman survey reported they knew someone that has cheated. This aligns with the Stanford study of college students: “High school students are less likely than younger test takers to report cheaters, because it would be “tattling” or “ratting out a friend.”’

In the end cheaters won’t always benefit, even if they are not caught. “The people that cheated, I knew that they were cheating and they got good grades on the quizzes but they got a 1 on the AP exam,” Hering said. “I guess all that cheating didn’t prepare you for the AP test.”

However, many students acknowledge that cheating is not beneficial intellectually, but it did help them pass a class. “In the long run, it’s not going to do very much for you,” Ghilarducci said.

“I’d rather not cheat,” Binuya said. “It feels good to get a high score without cheating.”

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Cheaters never win–Winners never cheat