Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Cheating to make the grade

There are good ways for students to strive for that "A" in school, and then there's a darker path...

"Around 60% of American high school students cheated on a test," according to a 2006 survey of 36,122 students released by the Josephson Institute, a US-based partnership of 700 educational and youth groups trying to improve teen ethics. (Reported by, via the ASCD Smartbrief -- click here to subscribe).

The same study, ironically, found that "Ninety-two percent of the students said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character, and 74% agreed with the statement, 'When it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.'"

This study confirms previous research on student cheating, including a 2005 survey of 18,000 students by Rutgers University professor Donald McCabe, which found that "More than 70 percent of students admitted to cheating at least once on a test and more than 60 percent admitted to plagiarism."

The internet -- and a cloudy understanding of ownership -- seems to drive much of the cheating, according to McCabe. "A number of students have a very different definition of when borrowing something from the Internet rises to the level of cheating than their teachers or school do."

As a teacher, I've seen every trick in the book from students. My personal favorite: A student who turned in an essay copied word-for-word from an internet site on Greek mythology. When confronted, he insisted -- in the face of a mountain of evidence -- that he hadn't cheated. After a few minutes of probing, he admitted, "I didn't even write the paper. My mom did." A phone call confirmed it. The mother claimed not to know that copying someone else's writing from the internet constituted cheating. Aye carumba. Where to begin?


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