Any views or opinions presented in this editorial are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Pulse Magazine.
Cheating has existed for hundreds to even thousands of years, sparked especially by the introduction of civil service testing in Asian countries thousands of years ago. Without proper standards or organizations regulating the intellectual properties of scholars, plagiarism existed in every corner of the world. Both unintentional and intentional, divergent forms of academic dishonesty carried over to recent decades when compulsory education was mandated in the United States and secondary education became widely available. In fact, recent research by Rutgers University on 24000 students reveals that 64% of high school students admitted to cheating on a test. And cheating is not limited to sharing information on tests and quizzes, as most people think. Prevalent forms of academic honesty ranges from simple peeks at a neighboring student to complex methods of plagiarism and ghost writing in higher academic settings. Myopic critics of cheating often focus on the immoral aspects of cheating, screaming about how educational systems are breeding and releasing incompetent and unethical individuals into society. Unfortunately, they ignore, misrepresent, or misunderstand many underlying factors that are contaminating students and giving most supposedly honest students a reason to cheat.
First, why exactly is cheating “bad”? And how is cheating justified from a student’s standpoint? Obviously, cheating is unfair. While the cheaters are receiving disproportionately higher scores, other honest students may be getting crushed by the test’s difficulty, which probably warranted the cheaters to cheat in the first place. Furthermore, the high scores can also disrupt a test curve and push other students even further into the sea of lower scores. The immorality in cheating is the fact that you are circumventing an established educational system, receiving a grade not representative of your actual abilities, and ultimately graduating under false conditions. Cheating on a test is both cheating yourself, the school, and society. To artificially augment your own work with others, on tests or essays, means that you are not learning or producing the material and sometimes essentially taking credit for other people’s work.
These previous points of argument are probably well elaborated by educators already, and students beginning in primary school years probably have also been battered by them. As a high school student, I recognize the merit in these guidelines but also realize that the educational system has evolved over the years. In a perfect world, educational systems strive to catalyze the personal growth of each student. Students supposedly learn to problem solve and think critically, speak and write well, become lifelong learners, and to compete and survive in a globally connected society. In fact, ever since elementary school, students have been taught to be morally uptight and to be respectful of their teachers and peers. Unfortunately, these goals have become fantasies and delusions for many middle schools, high schools, and colleges.
In your average high school, learning has largely become a process of memorization and regurgitation; teachers that actually teach the concepts of application are becoming rarer by the moment. Many math teachers now project notes or powerpoint slides onto the board and say a few words about the mathematical concepts, while students struggle to quickly copy down the contents on the board. Only those who are proactive enough to ask the teacher or spend extra hours googling the math could grasp those concepts. English classes have been reduced to vocabulary tests and constant essay writing, while intelligent and critical skills and other crucial essay writing skills are not emphasized. For many academic classes, students are expected or assumed to have prior knowledge of curricula content. The proficiency difference generated by these expectations and poor inventory and assessment of students compromises the academic infrastructure since in any given class, slower students may fall even more behind and brighter students cannot display or utilize their full potential.
In terms of standardized testing, such as AP or SATs, there have still been cases of proctors improperly securing the electronic devices students. During break times, those students can simply walk to the bathroom, into a stall, and Google away what they want. Later, if they are sitting towards the back, they can discreetly flip to previous test sections and fill them in. Since students’ SAT, ACT, and AP test scores may be crucial to determining college entrance, the whole college applications process may be called into question. Unfortunately, for those types of tests and others, many times it is the bright and elite student cheating. Contrary to popular beliefs, students that give themselves high standards or are pressured by their parents cannot accept low grades, so they do whatever they can to maintain their high grade even when they have the ability to achieve it honestly. They do it because they are under so much stress that they don’t have time to study; they do it to ensure an A+; they do it because they are forced to.
So how do we solve this problem? In terms of behavior modification, to simply stop the behavior of cheating, teachers must start being more vigilant. They should keep a constant eye in the classroom or even patrol around the desks. Test forms should be unique, unrecycled, and varied in form. Teachers should make it clear that cheating is not tolerable and students who violate the academic honesty rule will be severely punished. Meanwhile, pop quizzes can also be given to keep students aware and on track. If those methods don’t work, it’s time to change the school, change the root of this epidemic. Classes should not only teach the information, but catalyze academic utility by explaining the relevance, purpose, and application of concepts taught. As many educators elaborated already, tests and quizzes should not test the regurgitation of information, but the application of information and critical thinking and reasoning using the information. Even though it’s hard to, schools should attempt to reduce competitiveness and emphasis on grades. By being more flexible and more responsive to students’ needs, teachers show that students are more than just a grade or GPA.
It’s not only the students’ fault; it’s time that everyone starts changing.
Patrick Lin is a Staff Writer for Pulse Magazine.