Prosperous cheaters

A “good” school in a wealthy suburb of San Jose is plagued by cheating.

Update: Kimberly posts on a British plagiarist who plans to sue the university for not catching him right away.

A student who admits down-loading material from the internet for his degree plans to sue his university for negligence.

Michael Gunn, an English major at the University of Kent at Canterbury, claims he wasn’t warned not to plagiarise and “never dreamt it was a problem.”

“If they had pulled me up with my first essay at the beginning and warned me of the problems and consequences, it would be fair enough.

“But all my essays were handed back with good marks and no one spotted it.”

Gunn’s plagiarism was caught just before he was due to receive his degree. That does sound negligent.

About Joanne


  1. I can’t understand why these students were expelled or suspended. Why not charged with theft? The school districts pay the teachers to make these tests, the tests are the property of the schools, and the student thefts reduced the value of these tests. That’s theft, pure and simple. And hacking is a federal crime. I don’t advocate throwing these kids in federal prison, but I think they should know that it’s a possibility.

    And, since it needs to be mentioned: if my child was studying until 3 or 4 in the morning, I’d pressure her to sleep, not study harder. That school’s students have issues. I understand drive and ambition, but basic health issues should trump the need for that fifth AP class.

  2. Walter Wallis says:

    Come on, JJ, Bring the article over. Having dumped those commie bastards at the Murky Turkey for the last time, no way I will sign up for a peek.

  3. The article should be free for the first week without a sign-up. Isn’t it? I’ll admit Knight Ridder keeps making it harder to read articles online.

  4. I was able to read it once, but can’t now. I guess we’ll have to gang up and come up with a shared name for this site’s readers to access stories by. That’s not against any federal regs, is it?

  5. And as for the article, I wonder how many of these kids get to college already burnt out. That’s why I tolerate mediocre grades from my honor student – she puts in a reasonable amount of time studying and that’s just going to have to do it. Bedtime is 10:00 PM; she gets up at 6:00 during the school year. I don’t see the point in killing them.

  6. Bill Leonard says:

    As one who has read these accounts in the San Jose Murky, I can’t help wondering whether the cheating issue is a major problem primarily in the minds of the reporter and a couple editors, given a slow news weekend.

  7. Steven H says:

    “…a school like Saratoga may have an especially tough time combating cheating, because it can’t change significantly one of the root causes: its high-achieving, pressure-packed culture.”

    In my experience students who cheat when stakes are high will also cheat when the stakes are low. It is part of who they are – cheaters.

    An honest person would return a found wallet if it had $1 or $1000 in it. A thief would keep the money either way. Cheating is no more than intellectual thievery.

  8. Rita C. says:

    No, cheating is a huge problem. It can drive you around the bend trying to chase it down all the time. I choose not to spend a ton of time trying to figure it out, but I know the kids are doing it. It shows up most when the pressure is on, such as when I’ve assigned a major paper at the same time another teacher has assigned something huge. I probably only catch a small percentage.

  9. Tim from Texas says:

    Cheating and lying is a way of life in this country. That students cheat,even at the best of schools, I’m sooooooooooooooo surprised!

  10. Fuzzy Rider says:

    The greatest compliments I received concerning my son, who just recently graduated HS (4th in his class)were that he “did it honest”. Cheating is rampant in our AP program, but my son pointed out that you could tell who was cheating by comparing the class grades to the AP test scores- people who get high ‘A’ in class, but who bomb out on the AP test, are nearly always the ones who were cheating.

    Our school system is either in total denial concerning the cheating problem, or they are afraid that a crackdown will catch too many ‘good’ kids with influentual parents- I, personally, suspect the latter.

  11. Richard Heddleson says:

    This is one that’s hard to tell about. My daughters went to a high school as “pressure packed” as Saratoga and their impression was that there was not a lot of cheating going on, particularly among their friends. (Yes they do speak to us and we do believe them.)

    The paper has certainly made an issue out of Saratoga and they may have some especially ingenious cheaters there. It’s also great for circulation, especialy in Saratoga. But I doubt there is more cheating going on than 25 years ago and would not be surprised to learn there is less.

  12. Mad Scientist says:

    This is nothing new. When I was in grad school, the year behind me had a slew of very good students. One had a 3.8 GPA in Engineering. We found out how he got it: he mooched assingments off of others.

    FInally, the rest of the class decided not to bail him out any more. He flunked out in the first semester, earning 3 C’s and a B. Back then you needed a 3.0 to graduate from Grad School.

  13. Well, I’m not surprised that students are able to cheat more these days than in years past (technology has made it very easy, IMO).

    The lack of ethics in corporate america and in the clinton administration (as an example), the old concept of ‘monkey see, monkey do’ becomes the norm, rather than the exception.

    A student who wants to cheat their way through K-12 and college is only cheating themselves and any future employer, which is why there are professional exams for M.D.’s, R.N.’s, Lawyers, Engineers, and others.

    If you know the material well, and haven’t gotten caught by the ‘teach to the test’ mantra, you’ll do fine on any exam.

  14. Superdestroyer says:

    Another interesting concept in the cause of cheating is the belief that achievement should appear effortlessly to the best students. In a poll of Duke Students, one of the biggest pressure was to be a good students, in shape, and socially active while appearing to achieve everything without a lot of effort.

    Remember, to upper middle class white kids, to work hard is to act like an Asian student.

  15. Walter Wallis says:

    Using another name to access the Murky Turkey would be cheating.
    JJ can steal it for us and keep us honest.
    She is a journalist so it don’t matter with her.

  16. Well, if we are talking about cheating and lying, and though I don’t condone either, society as a whole lives by the mantra “It isn’t lying or cheating unless I get caught.”

    A simple thought is how many of us own Radar Detectors? Why? To break the law, of course. Before you poo-poo the thought, what is the reason behind the thought? To get away with something that one shouldn’t get away with.

  17. Walter Wallis says:

    This is an education blog. No crooks here.

  18. this is anecdotal, but: my daughter’s private high school, which is Benedictine, had an influx of kids from Saratoga HS–not because of the cheating, but because of the culture. Too many parties with the parents not home. Too many unsupervised kids.

    It is the “shut up, leave me alone, but bring me those A’s” parenting.

  19. Kristin says:

    I’m a student, and I submitted a couple of my papers this year through I thought it was a great system; apparently this technology allows a teacher to automatically compare every essay turned in with a huge database of all past papers submitted (as well as hundreds of thousands of others from the internet).

    Of course, it helps that everyone at my school receives a laptop and can submit papers electronically. Still, maybe technology like this can be used more widely to solve problems with cheating, at least at the university level.

  20. Cousin Dave says:

    Joanne, I think it’s unlikely that Kent was negligent. Plagiarism has always been hard to prove; in the academic world it’s almost impossible to make it stick unless either the student was caught in the act (e.g., someone actually saw him copy the material), or the copied material is so extensive (and the student so poor/lazy about re-phrasing it) that there can reasonably only be one possible source. And even at that: I don’t know how things are today, but when I was in school, the topics were were sometimes assigned for essays were sufficiently arcane that it was possible for only one or two research sources to be located. (Students would have to arrange with the library to make an appointment book for who could use them when, so that everyone got a shot at them before the due date.) This resulted in many papers being similarly worded — it wasn’t plagiarism, but just a reflection of the paucity of sources. (And, to be honest, unimaginative writing, but every college student knows that on a research paper, clever writing usually doesn’t help your grade, and may hurt it.) This makes it very difficult for an instructor or grader to sort out intentional plagiarism from just plain not-very-good work.

    And, it’s my impression that in the English system, many primary and secondary schools are on the honor code, in which case there is no way the student could have not learned in previous schooling that plagiarism is regarded very gravely.

  21. JimInNOVA says:

    Cousin Dave – My high school and college both required students to sign the plagerism policy at the beginning of the year before any work was turned in. That way they could punish severely on the first offense without any claims of “I didn’t know.” It didn’t stop the excuses (even from the parnts sometimes) but it did take away one of them.

  22. Anonymous says:

    From whom do the students learn to cheat?

    This hit NBC evening news also.

  23. I was being sarcastic in my negligence comment. There’s no way on earth that an English major wouldn’t know that copying essays from the Internet is plagiarism and that plagiarism is not OK.

  24. Cousin Dave says:

    My apologies, Joanne. I should have recognized. My lame excuse is I’m still not fully recovered from spending the entire holiday weekend doing house repairs. Going to work is a breeze by comparison.

  25. Steven H–I have to disagree. What’s at stake can play a very important role in your actions. That is not to say that it changes your character (I believe that character is how you act under a stressful/difficult situation, not an easy one where things don’t matter as much), but it can still change what you do. Somebody who cheats on a high-stakes test probably will not on an assignment (or something) that is only worth five points. The same goes for stealing. Of course, if you’re a kleptomaniac that’s a different story. 🙂

    I went to a public high school around the same general Silicon Valley area as Saratoga. Believe me, the pressure is definitely there. My high school is over 50% Asian, the vast majority of whose parents place an undue amount of pressure on grades and academic accomplishments. Parents there live vicariously through their children. I mean, I do believe that at some point children should become culpable for their own actions, but if this get-good-grades-or-else mentality is all that they know (and I know this from personal experience, having gone to the aforementioned school), I can’t condemn them. Parents can be incredibly psycho.


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