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“I’m preparing for the real world. Business is unethical. Cheating is just good training. I’ll be better able to handle what’s put at me when I get out.” “‘Oh, it’ll only be this once’ or ‘Everyone else does it, so why shouldn’t I?’” Sly glances at a neighbor’s work, an open book on the lap, or even high-technology methods—the resources of the cheater are many and varied. Whatever the methods, there are many statements like those above to justify cheating. For example, in the United States, surveys show that more than half of all students cheat, or have cheated, during their school years. Cheating, though, is a problem almost everywhere and everyone at one time or another has cheated. But why is cheating so widespread? Even if it is a way of getting higher grades at school, is it really worth it?
Why do people cheat? To justify the practice, some students claim that school is boring and that they prefer to spend their time on things that really interest them instead of studying. Others say that they are virtually forced to cheat.
However, not everyone feels the need to make excuses, as a poll in the USA shows. Many of the young people questioned admitted that one of the main reasons for cheating was simply laziness. Some of them admitted that they did not cheat when they had studied their lesson. If this is really the case, anyone tempted to cheat should consider the following warning in the book of Proverbs: “The one working with a slack hand will be of little means.” (Proverbs 10:4)
“Success is one of the reasons people cheat.” (McCabe 285) With these words the NASPA Journal touches on another factor that is often mentioned by students. For example, years ago, good grades were desirable. Today, they are a necessity if students plan to apply to college. Cheating has gained greater acceptance as students try to cope with academic pressures. Students have been affected by these pressures, as is shown by a survey organized among 160,000 young Americans. Sixty percent of them said that they studied in order to pass tests and only 40 percent in order really to learn. Randy Herbertson, president of the student body at Colorado University, thus claims that “cutthroat competition” (Hollinger 297) pushes students into “desperate actions,” (Hollinger 297) such as cheating.
Is cheating the best way? Granted, the pressures to make good grades may be intense. So if cheating helps me to succeed, you might reason, then why not do it? As in the story The Extremes of Honor: “academy ever anticipated the find of pressure that the class of 1994 would have to withstand…..stealing and studying a copy of an exam for a notoriously difficult course–eventually enmeshed 133 midshipmen.” (Brock 312-313) For several reasons. One is the risks involved. Indeed, the consequences can be far-reaching when the fact that a student has cheated becomes part of his permanent record. As a director of campus judicial programs explains: “Any student committing an act of academic dishonesty will run a serious risk of harming future educational and employment opportunities.” (McCabe 289) A friend of mine named Jeff had this experience. He explains: “I was caught plagiarizing in the spring of my junior year, and I just couldn’t get my English teacher to forget it.” !
As it turned out, he was not able to get into another school that he wanted to attend.
But even if you are not discovered or the danger of being punished is minimal, cheating has other, long-term consequences. A young girl, for example, cheated in mathematics. Did it help her? She says: “I still failed the quiz. I didn’t learn anything from it.” (Albas 22) Her failure may have opened her eyes. But would she have learned any more if the cheating had worked? No, the cheat is the loser at least in one area: the benefit of learning while in school. Anyone who acts this way runs a grave risk of having serious problems later in life. If someone has gained a diploma by cheating, and then this diploma opens up a job for them, what will they do when their abilities are put to the test?
Moreover, the cheater forgets that the years passed at school can serve not only to build one’s intellectual abilities but also to form good qualities. The book Teenagers Themselves gives one reason why young people may sometimes forget this aspect of the question: “Teenagers…are basically short term thinkers…..The adolescent mind will readily exchange future character for immediate escape from punishment.” (Spangole 135)
This is perhaps not the case with you, but is it not true of the one who cheats? Would it not be better for him to learn to face up to problems while still at school? The book of Proverbs is very much to the point when it says: “The plans of the diligent one surely make for advantage, but everyone that is hasty surely heads for want.” (Proverbs 21:5)
According to religion, being honest brings other advantages besides a good personality. These include a good conscience, peace of mind, and especially the opportunity to have a good relationship with the Creator of the universe. As Morgenthau states: “The moral law is not made for the convince of man, rather it is an indispensable precondition for his civilized existence.” (310)
Cheating is also unfair to those who do not cheat. Other people may have tried their best and remembered what they had to for the test instead of having it written on their desk. How do those who do not cheat view those who do? High achievers are resentful when they see others get ahead of them dishonestly. Yes, what would you think if after all your hard work you saw a cheat get a better grade or gain employment to a job ahead of you?
Then, too, isn’t it true that you want to be respected? But are your friends going to respect you if they find that you have been cheating and they might have suffered because of it? More than likely, you would find it difficult to regain their respect. Should not this potential loss be given some consideration before cheating?
Do not imagine, then, that cheating is harmless. For if you can cheat, others can cheat too. Suppose that one day you get married and have children. And one of your children gets sick, and you take him to the doctor. Now, how would you feel if you learned that the doctor was not properly qualified or that he had cheated to get his diploma? Could you criticize the doctor because of doing something that you yourself had done?
Stealing means taking something that does not belong to you. Cheating is thus a form of theft, since by means of it the cheater takes a grade or a diploma that he does not deserve, or even a position that should have gone to someone else. Hence, the Bible’s counsel to the thief applies equally well to the cheat: “Let the stealer [or, the cheater] steal no more, but rather let him do hard work, doing with his hands what is good work.” (Ephesians 4:28)
Cheating can set a pattern that can lead to a practice of lying that may involve more serious matters. In the first place, the harmlessness of cheating is notoriously disputable. What the cheater perceives as harmless or even beneficial may not be so in the eyes of the deceived.
Cheating, no matter how innocent it may seem to be, is so destructive to relationships. The credibility of the cheater is shattered, and there may well be a permanent breakdown of trust. Out of fear and human weakness, a person may be tempted to seek refuge by cheating. That is the course of least resistance or mistaken kindness.
The one that works hard at studying gains the satisfaction of truly earning his grades. Even if he does not in later life use every detail that he has learned while in school, he leaves school with knowledge or skills that he can use beneficially for the rest of his life. Moreover, his mind has been broadened, and he has received good training in developing strength of personality. The cheater? He soon discovers that the one he has really cheated is himself.
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