Whether your parents like it or not, cheating has been a part of academia since the beginning. The nature of cheating, however, is rapidly changing. There have always been struggling students who cheat so survive.
However, more and more studies in the past few years have shown that higher achieving students are beginning to cheat to get ahead, and stay ahead. According to the NY Times, studies on student behavior have shown that the majority of students violate academic standards and integrity to some degree.
The reason is fairly simple. It’s easy. As Gen Z is growing up using conveniently enhanced technology at their fingertips throughout the school day (or at home), students are tempted to compromise their integrity and work ethic for a better grade or less time spent completing an assignment.
Not to mention, educators, parents, and leaders of society are failing to alleviate this world-wide academic phenomenon in a couple ways. Between new media outlets and downloadable pieces of software, the internet truly has changed perceptions on what exactly we consider “ownership.” No one is pointing fingers there… yet.
However, as a result, students are unclear about the guidelines of assignments, especially when a lack of differentiation is given on which resources are allowed and which are not. Take a look at the Harvard cheating scandal from 2012.
A professor issued a take-home final with directions on the first page reading as follows, “The exam is completely open book, open note, open internet, etc. However, in all other regards, this should fall under similar guidelines that apply to in-class exams. More specifically, students may not discuss the exam with others—this includes resident tutors, writing centers, etc.”
Why would a professor use “etc.” in his policies? What other “open” resources are allowed, then?? Regardless, the scandal lead to an investigation of half of the 279 students enrolled in the course, around 2 percent of the undergraduate body, leading to law suits from each side, as well as a number of various and severe disciplinary actions… an absolute catastrophe.
Who was guilty and who was not is not the point. It is the systematic approach from both sides of the cheating phenomenon that must be corrected. Howard Gardner, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education said that over the 20 years he has studied professional and academic integrity, “the ethical muscles have atrophied,” in part because of a culture that exalts success, however it is attained.”
Cheating may be easy. Cheating may be unclearly defined. However, do yourself a favor and think about what’s at stake next time you contemplate cheating. Most students feel the need to cheat from factors such as academic pressure, lack of organization and preparedness, or poor communication and understanding.
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