Cheating in our schools has reached epidemic proportions. Why do students cheat? What can we as parents do to prevent it? Here are some answers to these questions and much more in this article which features an in-depth interview with one of the nation's top authorities on the subject, Gary Niels.
Why do students cheat?
- Everybody does it.
- Unrealistic demands for academic achievement by state education boards
- Expediency or the easy way out
Everybody does it.
It's disturbing to discover that young people in middle school and high school think that it is acceptable to cheat. But it's our fault, isn't it? We adults encourage young people to cheat. Take multiple choice tests, for example: they literally invite you to cheat. Cheating, after all, is nothing more than a game of wits as far as teenagers are concerned. Kids delight in outwitting adults, if they can.
While cheating is discouraged in private schools by tough Codes of Behavior which are enforced, cheating still exists. Private schools which devise tests requiring written answers rather than multiple guess answers discourage cheating. It's more work for teachers to grade, but written answers do eliminate an opportunity for cheating.
Unrealistic demands for academic achievement by state and federal education authorities.
The public education sector is accountable to government, largely as a result of No Child Left Behind. State legislatures, state boards of education, local boards of education, unions, and countless other organizations demand action to correct the real and imagined failings of our nation's public education system. As a result, students must take standardized tests so that we can compare one school system to another nationally and at the state level. In the classroom these tests mean that a teacher must achieve the expected results or better, or she will be viewed as ineffective, or worse, incompetent. So instead of teaching your child how to think, she teaches your child how to pass the test.
No Child Left Behind is driving most of the assessment teaching these days. Educators really have no option but to produce the best possible results. To do that they must teach solely to the test or else.
The best antidotes for cheating are teachers who fill children with a love of learning, who impart some idea of life's possibilities and who understand that assessment is merely a means to an end, not the end itself. A meaningful curriculum will shift the focus from learning boring lists of irrelevant facts to exploring subjects in depth.
Expediency or the easy way out
Years ago cheaters lifted whole passages from an encyclopedia and called them their own. That was plagiarism. Plagiarism's newest incarnation is dead easy: you simply point and click your way to the site with the relevant information, swipe and paste it, reformat it somewhat and it's yours. Need to write a paper in a hurry? You can quickly find a site which provide a paper for a fee. Or go to a chat room and swap papers and projects with students nationwide. Perhaps you'd prefer to cheat using texting or email. Both work just fine for that purpose. Sadly, many parents and teachers have not learned the subtleties of electronic cheating
Schools need to have zero tolerance policies concerning cheating.
Teachers must be vigilant and alert to all the newer forms of cheating, particularly electronic cheating. Cellphones and iPods are powerful tools for cheating with uses limited only by a student's imagination. How do you fight that kind of brain power? Discuss the issue with both technology-savvy students and adults. Their exploits and perspective will help you fight electronic cheating.
Ultimately the best solution is to make learning exciting and absorbing. Teach the whole child. Make the learning process student-centric. Allow students to buy into the process. Empower them to guide and direct their learning. Encourage creativity and critical thinking as opposed to rote learning.
We parents have a huge role to play in combating cheating. That's because our children mimic almost everything we do. We must set the right sort of example for them to copy. We must also take a genuine interest in our children's work. Ask to see everything and anything. Discuss everything and anything. An involved parent is a powerful weapon against cheating.
Students must learn to be true to themselves and their own core values. Don't let peer pressure and other influences steal your dream. If you are caught, cheating has serious consequences.