Cheating in school: Why it’s on the rise

A series of major cheating scandals has involved some of the nation’s top schools and colleges

Have we raised “a generation of cheaters?” asked Robert Kolker in New York magazine. That’s the question people are asking after a series of major cheating scandals involving some of the nation’s top schools and colleges. New York City’s prestigious Stuyvesant High School this month suspended 12 students, and threatened to suspend 50 more, for allegedly sharing test answers via text and email. Weeks earlier, Harvard University accused 125 undergrads of sharing and plagiarizing answers for a final take-home exam. Recent research shows that 85 percent of high school students cheat. This might be because students today face enormous pressure as early as fourth grade to succeed on high-stakes tests that they’re told will determine their entire futures. Now that schools prize test performance over learning, “cheating becomes rational,” said Steve Gimbel in Indeed, cheaters are admired, for having “beat the system.”

For the Millennial Generation, in fact, “cheating” is a foreign concept, said Lauren Stiller Rikleen in The Boston Globe. Having grown up online, immersed in Wikipedia and Facebook, they think it’s perfectly normal to share information and even intimate personal secrets. To them, passing around test answers isn’t really cheating, just as downloading music from file-sharing sites isn’t really stealing. Lazy teaching only makes matters worse, said Zara Kessler in The exam paper at the center of the Harvard scandal was open-book and open-Internet—meaning students could research their answers almost any way they wanted. Is it any wonder students decided that collaborating on their answers was no big thing? To find out what students really have learned, schools must demand that they “shut the laptops altogether.”

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