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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cheating: The New Normal?

I will admit that I have cheated once or twice in my life.   I have cheated on all of my diets, especially when chocolate comes within any vicinity of my mouth.

In elementary school, I  cheated when we played Thumbs Up 7up.  I looked like I wasn't, but when my head was down, I looked at shoes.

I always read the last page of a book early.

I sometimes Google answers to crossword puzzles.  I hate them.

I may say that I am 5'1 1/2 in casual conversation.  I am probably stretching it to say I am 5'1.

However, I was not a cheater in school.  Yesterday, I had a cheating incident in my classroom.  Two of the kids came clean when confronted with the evidence.  One of the kids is still denying her involvement.

Here is the surprise.  I am not mad at the kids.  They made a poor choice, and sometimes kids learn more from dealing with the consequences of their choice than from the lesson I quizzed them over.

Unfortunately, cheating is a problem in our culture.  It is far too easy.  From texting quiz answers across the room, to plagiarism.   Cheating is celebrated on reality shows.  All over our country, kids see their parents cheating on their taxes and sometimes on their spouse.

High school students really aren't bothered by the morality of cheating.  They are looking for a quick solution to a problem.  I always wonder about the motives of the person providing the answer.  Why would they want to give away the results of their hard work?  The educational requirements for a 21st century student are very demanding.  When coupled with technological distractions, parent demands for perfection, over scheduling  and testing requirements, time spent on education sometimes fall short.

The Internet has opened a Pandora's Box of cheating opportunities in the classroom.  Last year when I asked my students to put their phones on my desk during a test, one student told me that I was wise.  She even told me several of their cheating secrets.

 I learned a lesson that day.  High school kids are very creative and have more techniques for cheating than most adults can imagine.  Of course, I attempt to point out that, in finding ways to cheat, they are often putting more effort into the act of cheating than they would by simply doing their assignment or spending time studying.  At their age and level of reasoning, they don't see this is what they are doing.  When they put all of their work into pulling off a cheat they are, of course, cheating themselves.

Perhaps we need to add lessons about the ethics of cheating?  Do kids even understand what cheating is since it is rampant in our culture?  My husband was once questioned, in an accusatory tone, if he defined cheating before handing out assignments. Why do parents become angry with the teacher when their kid gets caught?  Recently the parents have been very supportive, but I have witnessed incidents in the past where parents accused the teacher of picking on their kid rather than supporting the teacher and her consequences.

It would be so much easier for me to look the other way.  When I noticed a small group of students had all of the same very wrong answers, I could have ignored it and just counted the questions wrong.  I made the conscious decision to confront the students because I know this lesson is one they will always remember.

As they continue to mature, when faced with what seems to them to be the harder road versus what they think is the easy road, I hope my students choose the harder path.  Then, I will know that they have learned, although becoming an educated productive member of society isn't easy, it is worth the benefits that they will reap.

Update:  This has been a very difficult experience for me, the teacher.  On one hand, one of my students wrote me a lovely apology letter.  On the other hand, one of the parents has been very confrontational.  I think my reader is right when she says that it is not worth the confrontation.


  1. ha! I cheated at 7up the same way. I wonder if all kids do that??

  2. Good, I am not alone. I still feel guilty about that!

  3. I cheat sometimes when I am playing games with the kids and want the game to end quickly :))

    (found you on the blog hop)

  4. Good for you! I only hope that my kids will have teachers like you as they grow up.

  5. I have stopped confronting them (for fear of parents) and just let the wrong answers be the consequence.

  6. what a great post and reminder to us all- big and small kids, heck there may even be a few adults.