Cheaters prosper

If a high school lets cheaters prosper, students will learn the lesson, writes Marianne Jennings, who was invited to speak on ethics at a Phoenix high school.

There was growing insurrection as I outlined the consequences of cheating. They booed, and then they laughed hysterically. The infomercial administrator called in security to man the aisles. I had visions of pitch forks storming the stage. They soon stopped listening. A couple in the front row needed abstinence training, most particularly its importance in public auditoriums.

. . . Last year several students at this school cheated on a math final. When the instructor proposed a penalty, the parents protested mightily. No action was taken against the students.

The school has a culture of looking the other way. These students know that you can cheat and get away with it. My message was laughable, given their life and academic experiences. They also know their parents are a safety net. Administrators back down on penalties. The honest students can’t figure out why they should care when no one else does.

Via Number 2 Pencil.

Ms Frizzle has a good post on honesty in her clasroom and out.

Update: Some New York City teachers admit to changing the scores of students who just barely failed Regents’ essay exams so they’ll get a diploma. It’s called “scrubbing”. Or cheating.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m grad student who works as an adjunct instructor at a City University in a big city. I bet you can’t guess which one. 😉 When I catch students plagiarizing on a paper I can only give them a point deduction. What is more disturbing is that some students are so unafraid about being punished, they admit to plagiarizing, but complain about too many points being deducted due to the plagiarism. This is after all the student sign a paper that explains what plagiarism and cheating is, and what is the punishment is (inc. in the course and hearing in front of a disciplinary court). It is not the Profs fault, the administration doesn’t like to punish these students, too much controversy.

  2. Is that one percentage point, or one letter grade? Neither sounds particularly threatening.

  3. Sorry, i should have made this more clear. The point deduction is usually 50-80% of the total grade of the paper or project.

  4. It sounds like we can blame the parents as well as the school.

    I’ve spoken to my children’s teachers about grades in the past. Sometimes my kids deserved better marks than they received, and sometimes they deserved exactly what they got; I always listen to what the teachers had to say before asking for a grade to be changed. But I’d never protest if one of my children were caught cheating. Part of raising children is teaching them to accept the consequences of their actions. And I think any punishment my kids would receive from the school would pale in comparison to what they’d get from me.

  5. If the kids have no fear of punishment then it’s sad and pathetic.Schools can’t and won’t punish em and mommy of course won’t.It’s not just cheating though.It’s drugs,drinking,sex and everything

  6. PJ/Maryland says:

    I don’t know much about speaking to high schoolers, but I wonder if Marianne Jennings went about it the wrong way. She says “I outlined the consequences of cheating”, but I wonder which consequences she talked about. I’m sure the kids had already heard that they wouldn’t learn as much by cheating, blah blah blah.

    But these were juniors and seniors, and so were 16 to 18 years old. Maybe a better idea would be to talk about the social consequences if everyone cheated. Do they want to live in a world where you have to count your change every time you buy something, for example? Where the very concept of merit is ignored because everyone’s cheating (or assumed to be)? How much fun would watching sports be if you knew all the players were open to bribery? (I gather that widespread bribery is a serious economic problem in some underdeveloped countries.)

    I’d like to think that some students are mature enough to consider how the world works, and how they will fit into it. Whether the more self-centered students will sit quietly is another question. And, I’m not familiar with Jennings’ book, so maybe she did take this approach (in which case, it sounds like it didn’t work).

  7. Some of these students may be in for a nasty surprise when they hit college. I remember when I was in college I spent a quarter acting as a lab proctor for a programming class. Part of our job was to talk with students who had finished programming assignments. We would ask them to explain how their program worked, make minor changes and ask them to explain the effects, and generally try to show that they had “living” knowledge of the code they had allegedly just written.

    One student I did this with had a textbook-perfect implementation of his program, but could explain *nothing* about how it worked. I wound up locking him out of the lab computer system and reporting him to the professor. (This was standard policy when proctors suspected cheating.) The student admitted to copying the program from a discarded printout he recovered from the trash can in the lab. The professor gave him an “F” for the course (not just for the assignment) and threw him out of the class.

    We can only hope that some of the students who laughed at the supposed “consequences of cheating” wind up encountering professors like that one later in their academic careers.

  8. The real problem is that everyone seems to think cheating is ok. I just finished up a consult where the staff for a company claimed to have all of this experience solving the type of stuff I was called in to take care of.

    When the owner was standing there, I asked some questions of the staff (I.T. types) if anyone could explain what I had just done (All I got was blank stares from the staff), and needless to say the next thing I hear is the owner and general manager having a discussion to have everyone re-checked in terms of job specific knowledge (which made more than a few people very nervous).

    I guess most (if not all of the staff) cheated their way through school, and the end result is they’ll hopefully get fired, and replaced with people who actually know what the hell they are doing.

    (sigh)

  9. The rules tend to be clear: no cheating or we’ll throw the book at you. But it’s the implementation of the rules where the things go wrong.

    And with schools being judged by test scores, athletic championships, and college acceptance rates, isn’t there a certain dampeninging effect on the desire to strongly punish cheaters?

  10. D*mn inmates are in charge of the asylum, that’s the problem.

  11. Do they want to live in a world where you have to count your change every time you buy something, for example?

    Given the standard amount of arithmetic most people know, we already live in that world – cheating or no cheating. *sighs*

  12. jeff wright says:

    > I’d like to think that some students are mature enough to consider how the world works, and how they will fit into it.

    PJ, I always enjoy your posts: articulate, informative and usually right on target (of course, I usually agree with you). But this time, I fear you’re being hopelessly naive. Those kids don’t give a shit, their parents don’t give a shit, and, all too often, their teachers don’t give a shit. They will shamelessly cut every corner they can and not understand why you or I might find it wrong. Check the rewards for integrity and then check the number of people of questionable integrity who thrive in our society. Case in point: the hero Pete Rose.

  13. Actually I’m surprised at how good the US is at preventing cheating and corruption. Many people I know from both Western and Eastern Europe say cheating was normal and “honorable” in their schools. One German said they thought students should help other students. In some countries, teachers can be bought.

    My friend from Eastern Europe was shocked to find that American professors (at least at University) do not accept cash to raise grades. That corruption of that sort is an extremely serious offense that would utterly destroy a career. She said at her university (where teachers are paid $300 a month) profs can earn thousands a year in payola.

    Not saying cheating in high schools isn’t disgusting, but giving a moment of thanks that we care so much about this problem still.

  14. PJ/Maryland says:

    But this time, I fear you’re being hopelessly naive. Those kids don’t give a shit, their parents don’t give a shit, and, all too often, their teachers don’t give a shit. They will shamelessly cut every corner they can and not understand why you or I might find it wrong. Check the rewards for integrity and then check the number of people of questionable integrity who thrive in our society. Case in point: the hero Pete Rose.

    Well, as I said, I don’t know much about speaking to high schoolers. But these kids are going out into the world in a year or two (if you count college as “the world”), and they will be running society at some point. It’d be nice if some of them were willing to think ahead and consider that actions that might benefit them in the short run will cause serious problems in the long run. (Like, keep them out of the Hall of Fame.)

    BTW, I always like the world “integrity”, which has its root in “wholeness”. If I can go off-topic, one of the things that always irritated me about both Clintons was the feeling that their public faces were masks, a huge contrast to someone like Jimmy Carter. Of course, integrity can be over-rated (Clinton was obviously a more successful president than Carter), but I’d rather have lower grades myself and know that everyone else’s grade refects their knowledge rather than their cheating ability.