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Cheating children guilty, but adults share in blame

January 1, 2017

“The uncreative mind can spot the wrong answers; but it takes a creative mind to spot the wrong question.”

Sir Antony Jay, British author and broadcaster makes us realize that many times things don’t get fixed because we don’t ask what’s wrong. The recent academic cheating scandal at Alamo Heights made me search for the right question. It wasn’t what would the consequences be or why they cheated? It wasn’t even would they do it again? The right question I think is “How did we get here?”

The paper had some great comments about this situation, particularly using it as a teachable moment. But the thrust of what to ask is how we managed to work ourselves into situations where we are more angered by our getting caught than not having the moral sense to do the right thing in the first place.

Stanford University professor David Jaffe published a fact sheet for his “Perspectives in Assistive Technology,” class that revealed some startling facts about how we got here.

In the past 50 years, academic cheating in high school has risen dramatically. In the past it was the struggling students who cheated. Today, we’ve wandered into the poppy fields where cheating no longer has the stigma it once had with the most common cheater being the above-average college-bound student. The pressure of competition has created a culture for students to do what it takes to get an A, where “grades, rather than education, have become the major focus of many students.” That’s part of how we got there.

Jaffe reports high school students are less likely than younger test takers to report incidents of cheating, because it could be construed at tattling or ratting out a friend.

According to Jaffe, cheating at colleges is higher with students with lower GPAs or those at the very top. Additionally, as with the situation at Alamo Heights, the penalties are not severe. This acquiescence seems to create an attitude among individuals who are more afraid of not getting ahead than they are of getting caught. Failing to have an attitude of doing what’s right, even when no one is looking, because it’s the right thing to do, might be an answer to how we got here.

Having slap-on-the-hand penalties is not an answer; neither is providing you-can-still-get-ahead or survive-if-you-get-caught exonerations. That’s not where we want to be.

National Educational Statistics’ studies have shown when parents are more involved in their children’s lives, they do better in school; they are less likely to be suspended or engage in sex, drugs or alcohol. A study by the National Center on Fathers report that of the men in prison, 60 percent indicate their fathers were not involved in their lives.

I think, the question we need to highlight is “Why is adult involvement the pivotal key?” Could letting them off so easily contribute to the epidemic proportion academic cheating has reached? Answer that and ask yourself: “The children might be guilty, but are they the only ones responsible?”

Archie Wortham is a professor of Speech at Northeast Lakeview College.