Who Says Cheating Doesn't Pay? By MYLINH SHATTANSpecial to the Tribune Published: Sep 22, 2005
I observed two of my students conversing in the back row during a test. They were on the same page and whispering about the answers. The students explained they were only helping each other, relating that this had been common practice in high school and no big deal. I revisited the cheating policy with them and they earned zeros on the exam.
From then on, I clearly outlined the cheating policy and the consequences, created multiple tests, clarified homework assignments and supervised testing periods closely, often walking around the room or taking questions. I feel comfortable saying that was the end of cheating in my classroom.
But it's hard to foresee the cunning that bright, resourceful minds can bring to the equation.
Earlier this year, seven honors students at Plant City High School were caught in a serious cheating scheme. Three of them stole the teacher's manual for their advanced placement class, which included the assignments, quizzes and answers for the entire year. All seven of them benefited from it. And to do this, they lied and abused the good nature of the school custodian to get into the locked classroom.
After several months, word got out; one offender bragging to other students might have been a factor.
Are they remorseful? The boy who came up with the idea had this response to his punishment: `What the school has done so far has been hugely incorrect. They clearly made a mistake, and that's causing more trouble for us.`
Another cheater said, `We were good people and happened to have one slight mistake and everyone turns their back on you.`
As for a reason he did it, one explained, `So we can be the best we can and have the greatest re'sume' in our hands, so when we apply to colleges we look outstanding and the college of your choice will want you.`
Their parents were sympathetic to their plight. One father called it `an unfortunate incident.` A mother said, `I think it's all been blown out of proportion.` The parents of the three who stole the book appealed their dismissal from the National Honor Society. The four other cheaters were not dismissed.
Unfortunately, the Plant City seven are not in the minority when it comes to ethical standards in high school. A 2002 report card on American youth completed by Josephson Institute of Ethics found 74 percent of high school students admitted to cheating.
Parents who make excuses for their children, students who rationalize their behavior, three-quarters of kids cheating - we have created a culture of tolerance and a breeding ground for cheating, stealing and lying.
And what becomes of these top notch, cream-of-the-crop `honors` students? Despite this `unfortunate incident,` they graduated at the top of their class and will go off to the best schools, achieving their ultimate end. They are future leaders in business, government and politics - tomorrow's Enron and WorldCom executives in training.
Cheating pays off.
MyLinh Shattan is an adjunct instructor for St. Petersburg College. She lives in Lutz with her husband and three children.