Parents Could Wage a
War Against Cheating
so disheartening to learn how much kids are cheating at our school. Teachers
are doing what they can to stop it. But what could parents be doing?
appears to be more widespread than in the past for several reasons:
The emphasis in schools today on
skills rather than the learning process
Technology which makes cheating
easier: Internet term paper "mills" for easy plagiarizing; text messages with
multiple choice answers; crib notes electronically embedded in pencils;
Internet chat rooms in which students can swap entire papers and projects;
computer hackers who can get into school records and change grades on
transcripts; "ringers" who take a nationally standardized test in the morning
in New York and telephone answers to test-takers on the West Coast who will
take the test hours later; tiny cameras which can beam test questions to
someone outside the class who can then silently page back the answers;
Excessive pressure from parents to
get into a top college
An overall erosion of conscience and
character in American society, as kids see athletes, musicians, business
people, husbands and wives who are unfaithful, and politicians who take bribes
and get favors constantly violating ethical standards and getting away with it
the bad news. The good news is, parents have the power to cut 'way down on
cheating if they would take a few simple steps as an organized task force in
their own schools and districts.
first, assessing the problem:
to a survey conducted by Who's Who Among
American High School Students, 80% of our top high-school students admit to
having cheated at least once; half said they did not believe cheating was
necessarily wrong, and 95 percent said they have never been caught.
to the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University, 75% of college
students confess to cheating at least once. And a new U.S. News poll found 90% of college kids believe cheaters always
get away with it, and most don't think it's wrong for parents to do their
homework for them sometimes.
In many high schools, sad to say, it's the top-level kids
who are cheating, probably because of pressure from parents, themselves and
their communities to get in to prestigious colleges and universities. It's
interesting to note that these were the students in third grade whose science
fair projects and History Day presentations were sooooo much better than
everybody else's, to the point at which you could tell their parents must have
come up with the ideas and done most of the work.
But widespread cheating discredits the many, many high
school scholars who have resisted the temptation to cheat, and often drops them
much lower in the class rankings than they should have been, because kids who leap
over them in the rankings have cheated to get there.
parents could do to stem the tide of cheating:
Oftentimes, the kids just don't know that they're cheating.
As an organized parent-group task force, develop a list what is cheating, and
what is not: copying homework is cheating, but collaborating on homework is
not; peeking at someone's answers is cheating but comparing answers after
everyone has taken the test is not; pretending to be sick on test day and
getting the questions from a friend before taking a makeup test is cheating,
but offering to do an alternative project to demonstrate mastery of the
material if you missed the test, so that the teacher knows you didn't cheat, is
a great idea.
Schedule a meeting on your list with parents, students and
teachers to add and subtract to the list. Circulate the list among all parents;
often, it is the parents who are cheating who make things difficult for the
non-cheating parents. If you can win the parents over to academic honesty,
stopping cheating among the kids will be a snap.
Investigate ways that teachers can deter and detect
cheating; for instance, burned-out older teachers often use the same
assignments and tests from year to year so it's easy for kids to develop a
"bank" of old tests to copy, and those teachers should be exposed and made to
develop new tests; similarly, a teacher who suspects that a piece of writing is
not the student's own work might be coached to ask the student to pronounce,
spell and define a word from his or her own paper, and if the student cannot,
then the teacher has grounds for suspicion of plagiarism; some teachers might
not know how to detect Internet plagiarism and could be taught that skill by
more tech-savvy parents.
Have your list included in the student handbook and make
sure a statement about excessive parental involvement in homework and projects
is in there.
Develop an honor code for your school, and work out
consequences for breaking it. The younger the students, the less serious the
consequences probably should be. Instilling honesty is a process like every
other one. But anticipate the issues: should any cheating offense result in a
zero grade on that one assignment, or should the student automatically receive
an "F" for the semester? Is just one offense enough to bar a student from being
in National Honor Society? Would it take two offenses to exclude a student from
the graduation ceremony? A good idea is to send a violator to an ethics
workshop, the way a speeder is often sentenced to a motor vehicle safety class.
Work to add a line to your school's mission statement that
morality and character are more important than grades and academic skills.
the book, Lying: Moral Choice in Public
and Private Life by Sissela Bok.