How Cheating Corrupts Our Schools Michael Yarbrough Education, Politics & Economics Cheating has always been an unsavory part of both schools and universities. More often than not if you cheated you would get caught by an observant teacher, whether it was when you were stretching your neck to copy answers from a neighbor in an exam room, hiding key facts on your lap to help answer questions in an exam room, or copying huge chunks from books and inserting them in essays without offering a source. Cheating, or plagiarism to use the alternative name for it, is still widespread and is due to the near prevalent use of the Internet. You may go even further than this by accessing the Internet and hiring a writer who will research and write the essay assignment for you. Statistics tell the cheating story Donald McCabe, a leading researcher from Rutger’s University in New Jersey, found in a study of 24,000 students who attended 70 high schools that 64% of them freely admitted to cheating on a test, 58% admitted they had plagiarized, while overall a staggering 95% said they had taken part in some form of cheating at some point in their school career! In a similar high school sample 72% said they had cheated on written work, including 15% who took a complete essay from an internet essay bank, while 52% copied whole sentences without referencing the source. Universities appear to have a worse cheating problem than high schools. Students at state universities certainly follow the cheating and plagiarizing trend as out of a survey of 1,800 students 70% said they had cheated in exams, 84% said they had cheated on submitted written assignments and more than half admitted copying sentences from sources found on a website, but failed to reference them in the essay. Why students cheat Cheating in many forms ebbs and flows within society and it takes place typically because a student really wants to reach a goal, but he or she doesn’t think it is possible without at least a little helping hand from outside their own brain. We live in a highly competitive society and the stakes are high to get both good grades at university and a good job. Friends and family may love you dearly, but they still want you have a high status so that they can talk about your exceptional achievements to others. Finance is another issue as most students and their families can only afford to get loans for a limited period of time for degrees and other courses of study. The dangers of cheating in education The staggering statistics threaten the integrity of grading students at schools and universities accurately, meaning that some students may be entering professions when they are not fully equipped to do so. Can you imagine being treated by a doctor who cheated his or her way through the years and years of university training? It seems that plagiarizing and cheating in exams isn’t the only way that students are arriving at the results that they do not really deserve. There is also bribery to consider when students get teachers or tutors to change marks for a fee. You could call this ‘secret cheating’ and there are no tools to check it. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, there is pervasive cheating going on amongst teachers and lecturers too, especially when it comes to concern about keeping a position because of high student failure rates compared to others. This practice is hard to detect as the student is unlikely to complain if he or she is given a higher mark than deserved. Who are the winners and losers in the cheating game? The winner is the successful cheater, while the biggest losers are those who have to take on students who should have failed but didn’t because of their success in cheating. This could be a university faculty that has chosen students based on qualifications they allegedly achieved at school or it could be an employer who hires an ex student based on straight As gained at school, but were in fact fabricated. There is also the research faculty at a university that is eager to sponsor a student on a PhD course, but the student selected paid someone to complete all the coursework. How are schools and universities tackling the cheating epidemic? Universities try of course to threaten the students with expulsion, but it hasn’t stopped students, and the problem has increased exponentially. Teachers have always tried to figure out how to catch students who cheat, and recently they started using one of the more modern day tactics: Teachers advise students put their essays through plagiarism checkers, thanks to which it is possible to see how original these student works are. Featured image courtesy of Flickr.