Guest Editorial: Cheating, Another Student’s View

Jim Nagle, Guest Writer

Cheating, as much as AP tests and competitive sports, is an integral part of the modern high school experience. While I don’t condone cheating, it is so prevalent, so easy, and in some cases, so necessary to cheat, that it almost seems as though the system encourages it. In today’s academic society, grades are everything. Intelligence is no longer measured by how smart you actually are, but by a number. Nowadays, when hardened criminals can beat lie detector tests without breaking a sweat, it should come as no surprise that an ambitious high school student whose only care in the world is getting .1 higher than his competitor would be able to beat a math test. A society that encourages academic skill in the form of numbers, and achieving such numbers by any means possible is a society that encourages cheating. In order to truly change this problem we must consider new ideas that would discourage students from cheating their way to success.

One of the main problems in today’s society is the concern over grades and GPA. Grades certainly matter though, and, in most cases, show a student’s skill in a certain subject. However, more often than not, grades also show a student’s ability to beat the system without having any skill in the class. The problem with grades is that they show that Bob did well in his math class. Grades do not show, however, that Bob copied off of his smarter neighbor, and was able to find the tests on an online teaching website. In order to discourage cheating for grades, schools need to offer more variety in tests given. A previous teacher of mine, who shall remain nameless, would give tests that were copied off of an online teachers’ website. Once the class figured this out, (within days of taking the first test), getting an A became as simple as heading to Google and looking up the test. Occurrences like this show not only the laziness of some teachers, but the sheer simplicity of cheating. Another problem occurs when teachers give the same test to different class periods. Inevitably, the first period tells the next period the answers, usually with the expectation of help with tests from other classes. One of my teacher’s last year told us that she expected us to stick to the “honor code.” Now, this teacher had been at her job for a long time, and seen almost everything in the way of cheating. What she did not understand, however, is that modern students have no honor; when your college education, and success in later life is on the line, concepts like “honor” and “playing fair” go out the window very quickly. If teachers don’t want students to cheat, they can’t give them the opportunity to do so. It may require extra work to write up different tests, but at least they can sleep at night with a clean conscience, knowing that Johnny will not be going to Harvard by cheating his way through high school. On a more personal note relating to colleges, I would like to call BS on the old saying: “You may be able to cheat now, but you won’t be able to in college.” If anything, cheating will be easier in college, albeit with harsher penalties for getting caught; students will likely be in a large lecture hall with 200 other students. It is unlikely that the professor would even know individual names, and for a former high school cheater, finding somebody on campus to help would be quite easy.

If teachers are unable or unwilling to put in the extra man-hours to create different tests, then the system must give students less motivation to cheat. For starters, college application essays and entrance exams should be worth significantly more in terms of value. The essays should be written by the applicant in the admissions office, to ensure no outside help is present. In this way, colleges would be able to better judge a student’s skill rather than going off of a possibly undeserved GPA. Additionally, a basic IQ test should be administered to all college applicants. While critics argue that IQ tests do not accurately represent intelligence, they do give a pretty good idea. For example, if Mary scores a 90 on an IQ test, but maintains a steady 4.5 GPA, colleges should be suspicious, and rightfully so. How could a person who is considerably below average in terms of intelligence ethically maintain such an excellent GPA? (Hint: She didn’t.) If students knew that basic intelligence counted a lot more than a good GPA, there would be a lot less motivation to cheat. Comes less motivation to work; if I know I’m smart, and GPA isn’t worth much to colleges, why should I try? In order to combat this, colleges and high schools should not tell students about the decreased worth of GPA. This way, students will go ahead believing in the importance of grades, and colleges will be able to weed out cheaters. While this may seem unethical, it must also be remembered that students do far worse in their efforts to land a spot in the college of their choice.

The problems with cheating inherent in today’s academic society are astonishingly apparent. In today’s world, where numbers and statistics mean everything, students will go to extraordinary lengths and resort to reprehensible practices in order to achieve a good GPA. In order to prevent this, teachers must be more diligent in creating assessments on which it is more difficult to cheat, and colleges must give tests to applicants that can judge basic intelligence in order to determine if the high school grades were determined ethically, or by cheating. Until this is done, and even if it is, cheating will remain an inherent part of high school life.