Cheating: The Test, Yourself, and Society
We are students in college, high school, junior high. While we’ve enjoyed a nice relaxing weekend at home with our families, many of us did not go through this “break” with a clean conscience. Our teachers, questionably cold and heartless, assigned term papers and huge projects that now hang over our heads like ugly rainclouds. We shudder to think about the hours in the library ahead of us and we begrudgingly become reacquainted with our old friends, coffee and energy drinks.
Back to school, the pressure is on. And according to The Shadow Scholar, a man who makes a living writing papers for a custom-essay company, the stress brought on by this intense pressure to excel in school will push many of us to seek shortcuts and cheat. Will you?
In the article he pseudonymously published on The Chronicle of Higher Education's website, "Ed Dante" reveals the extent of student cheating he has witnessed while working for a lucrative online paper-writing service. The anonymous writer has written academic papers full time since 2004 at this company, which "generates tens of thousands of dollars a month by creating original essays based on specific instructions provided by cheating students." The Shadow Scholar has done business with the desperate, the illiterate, and the downright stupid. He has seen it all—and under some of the tightest deadlines.
He reports that at busy times, meaning midterm and final exam seasons, his "company's staff of roughly 50 writers is not large enough to satisfy the demands of students who will pay for [their] work and claim it as their own." Kids and young adults alike will always have high expectations to meet from hard-driving peers and parents. When placed at an ethical crossroads in the face of a towering stack of homework, some will opt for an easy way out if it means getting ahead.
So as this finals season creeps up on us, undoubtedly students from grade school to graduate school will stoop to plagiarization and other indecent methods. No matter how often administrators condemn it, survey results indicate that cheating will happen. More times than not it will go undetected. Turnitin.com can only do so much.
According to surveys conducted by The Center for Academic Integrity, a whopping 80 percent of "high-achieving" high school students and 75 percent of college students admit to cheating. The statistics get more unsettling. Of those high school students, 51 percent did not believe cheating was wrong, and of those college students, nearly 85 percent said cheating was necessary to get ahead. So yes, cheating happens at every place of education, and these percentages suggest it isn’t going to go away anytime soon.
In fact, academic fraud has never been easier in the age of the Internet. An article written over 10 years ago for U.S. News and World Report described how "students can tamper electronically with grade records, transmit quiz answers via pager or cell phone, and lift term papers from hundreds of Web sites." A decade has passed since this observation, and my imagination runs wild thinking of all the ways that cheating has evolved since then. Students have their creativity if not their integrity in the year 2010 and I don't think it would be too much of a stretch to say cheating has become something of an art form.
Some of the highest ranked universities have the most widespread instances of cheating today.
An anonymous undergraduate at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism admitted that he’s “cheated on tests so many times, it’s ridiculous."
"I’m like a pro at that,” the student bragged. Being caught in the act hasn’t stopped him, either. “In high school, my friend and I used to literally swap geometry exams. Whatever he didn’t know I would work on and whatever I didn’t know he would work on. We finally got caught when I misspelled the word ‘asymptote’ on both of our papers. Our teacher called us out on it in front of the entire class and threatened to report us to the principal if we ever cheated again,” he said.
Such incidents have hardly left an impression on him though and in college his attitude and habits seemed to have changed little if not at all. “Every time I have to write a paper, I offer my friends money to write it for me," the student admitted. "They never do, but I’m always completely serious in my offer.”
You can blame it on soft administrative discipline or oblivious teachers, but when it comes down to it, a student who cheats is likely to cheat again regardless of whether or not they are caught. The old adage “once a cheater, always a cheater” exists for a reason.
Let's face the facts. We live in a society dictated by social Darwinism in which only the “fittest” survive. In the world of academia, where we are allegedly trained to enter the "real world," the same rules apply to a different game. Yet this game is only one piece of a much greater puzzle. Sure, none of us wants to sink when we can swim with a few shortcuts. But this is fundamentally about morality and practicality. Do we not go to school to learn the trade we intend to practice in? If this is true, then it would seem that by cheating on a test or a paper, we are merely cheating ourselves and in turn the rest of society.
The thought of a medical professional who has cheated his way through his college biology class operating on me today leaves me concerned. So the next time you consider cheating, think about that. Would you feel comfortable with someone who couldn't pass a biology class on his own merit cutting you open? If your answer is no, then maybe copying and pasting that answer from somewhere online isn’t the most honorable, intelligent idea.
Maybe we owe it to ourselves to uphold the integrity of our education system. Because by cheating on tests or papers or homework, we aren't just cheating our way to the top. While we may think that one shortcut will get us to where we want to be in the immediate future, the reality is that not only are we cheating ourselves, but we're also cheating each other.
And all of this is assuming we get away with it in the first place, something we should remember doesn’t always happen and can result in disastrous career-tarnishing consequences.
Just some food for thought to digest along with this year's Thanksgiving dinner. Good luck on finals, everyone.
Reach Reporter Jenna Kovalsky here.