Elite students excuse cheating

Cheating is easy to rationalize, say students at New York City’s elite Stuyvesant High School in the New York Times.

The night before one of the “5 to 10” times he has cheated on a test, a senior at Stuyvesant High School said, he copied a table of chemical reactions onto a scrap of paper he would peek at in his chemistry exam. He had decided that memorizing the table was a waste of time — time he could spend completing other assignments or catching up on sleep.

“It’s like, ‘I’ll keep my integrity and fail this test’ — no. No one wants to fail a test,” he said, explaining how he and others persuaded themselves to cheat. “You could study for two hours and get an 80, or you could take a risk and get a 90.”

A recent alumnus said that by the time he took his French final exam one year, he, along with his classmates, had lost all respect for the teacher. He framed the decision to cheat as a choice between pursuing the computer science and politics projects he loved or studying for a class he believed was a joke.

“When it came to French class, where the teacher had literally taught me nothing all year, and during the final the students around me were openly discussing the answers, should I not listen?” he said.

Stuyvesant students are competing for highly selective colleges. They work very hard in the classes they care about, but try to limit their workload in other classes. Copying homework is considered OK, students told the Times. Cheating on tests requires some extra excuse-making.

In June, 71 juniors were caught texting his each other answers to state Regents exams.

Education and civil rights group charge the elite high schools’ admissions test screens out black and Hispanic students, reports the Times. The Specialized High School Admissions Test is the sole criterion for admission to eight specialized schools.

According to the complaint, 733 of the 12,525 black and Hispanic students who took the exam were offered seats this year. For whites, 1,253 of the 4,101 test takers were offered seats. Of 7,119 Asian students who took the test, 2,490 were offered seats. At Stuyvesant High School, the most sought-after school, 19 blacks were offered seats in a freshman class of 967.

“Stuyvesant and these other schools are as fair as fair can be,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a news conference. “You pass the test, you get the highest score, you get into the school — no matter what your ethnicity, no matter what your economic background is.”

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  1. Cheating is easy to rationalize… I hope they remember this when they go to apply for a job and get handed a project at work they have absolutely NO idea how to handle because they cheated their way through school.

    I’ve seen cases like this on the job where the claimed skills/degree didn’t match the actual knowledge (either during the interview phase), or 4-5 weeks after being hired it becomes evident that the person has no idea what they’re trying to do.

    Usually the person winds up getting fired, and the employer has wasted a lot of time and effort on this person.

    IMO, the penalty for being caught cheating on an exam should be a big fat zero, and if the student is caught a 3rd time, expulsion should be the recommended procedure, with the student being able to re-apply for admission after a year.

  2. Roger Sweeny says:

    Not to excuse the cheating but …

    The fact that these “elite” students, who probably have a time horizon longer than next week, think cheating is often better than learning, indicates that they think what they are supposed to learn in those classes won’t matter in their lives.

    If they are right, that says something bad about the courses we require them to take.

    • cranberry says:

      If they are right, that says something bad about the courses we require them to take.

      Right. We should require courses in Ethics.

      I happen to think a chemist will need to know the table of the elements by heart. I’ve heard Bad Things happen when one confuses phosphorous with lead.

      The “I have no respect for the teacher” line is laughable. Perhaps the student in the French class could have learned something if he had done the work rather than cheated.

      Again, I’m not impressed by Stuyvesant. The greatest value in the Stuyvesant halo may be adults’ reluctance to “ruin” the future of the “brightest.” Massive cheating rings don’t happen overnight, and it’s now obvious that it’s not a one time thing. Tolerating such cheating does every student and graduate of the institution a disservice.

  3. No, the problem is that they kiss off their plans if they get a B, because colleges demand straight A averages rather than good test scores. So they cheat to maintain an A in everything. The kid makes that clear. He could work hard and get a B, or take a risk for the A. That’s not a kid who thinks the course is useless; it’s a kid who needs an A.

    All back to grade fraud, and pretending that smart kids who get Bs are less qualified than low ability kids with straight As.

  4. Complaints that the admission test screens out blacks and Hispanics is merely an excuse; any competitive-admission public school gets the same complaints, regardless of their admission process. There’s some kind of a whine in the WaPo about Thomas Jefferson math/science magnet’s “elitism” and “lack of diversity” almost every month.