by michael on August 31, 2012

I attended Lynbrook High School, located in southern Nassau County, Long Island. The students came from what might be referred to as working class families, although there were a few relatively wealthy families. I and my friends did not cheat on exams and papers. It was a matter of honor for us to do our own work. To the best of my knowledge, very few students cheated but my knowledge about their cheating was only anecdotal. In the rare instance that I learned about someone cheating—and I did not seek out the information and such behavior was irrelevant to my life—it was a matter of marginal students cheating with or from other marginal students.

I went to Williams College from 1965 through 1969. I consider my college experience to be part of what I call the Golden Age of American education. Professors, who were uniformly brilliant and hardworking, kept their political views to themselves. We worked very hard at Williams during those years. In more recent times, as I meet with professors now who have taught for many years, the single most significant observation of these professors is that they assign one half the work that they assigned years ago. And the students complain bitterly about being overworked.

To my knowledge, there was never any cheating at Williams. No one I knew cheated or talked about others cheating. The first page of our exam notebooks had a phrase on it to the effect that the exam material was original and that there was no cheating. The phrase had to be signed upon risk of failing the course or worse.

I went to the University of Denver Law School from the years 1971-1973. To my knowledge, no cheating occurred at the law school. As at Williams, each exam notebook began with a printed statement to be signed affirming that one’s work was original and not the consequence of cheating.

Cheating was rejected, or so it seemed, because it signified a defective character. The dishonesty illuminated a corrupt spirit and a lack of pride in one’s work. Over the decades, evidently, things have changed. While writing my book, The Good, The Bad & The Difference, I conversed for hours with a colleague who informed me that data demonstrated that cheating at graduate schools was most prevalent at business schools. If true, the behavior is discomforting.

Years ago at one of the elementary schools where I taught my ethics class, a very fine teacher disclosed an experience he had with a student he caught cheating. The issue is addressed in detail in my book. In summary, the parent of the cheating student threatened and intimidated the principal with litigation for accusing her child of cheating. The principal caved in to the parent and allowed the student to take the test again. Obviously, the cheating student was in a comparatively preferable position to the other students when he took the test again.

The perverse incentives created by the gelatinous principal are obvious.

Now I read about our so-called best and brightest engaged in a scourge of mass cheating. These are the children of wealth and privilege, who are statistically likely to out-earn other college graduates. They will be on the gilded path to enter prestigious graduate schools, run businesses, gain access to cushy government jobs and, by and large, influence our nation and our society. And evidently a lot of them cheat, and if they cheat once, it is likely they cheat a lot. Why not?

What this says about our culture is not uplifting. That children of privileged status are willing to be unethical at such a petty level does not bode well for when those children are engaged in pursuits where consequences are greater and where risks are greater.


Here is the article I read moments ago in The American Thinker

 Harvard investigates cheating in ‘Introduction to Congress’ class

Rick Moran

August 31, 2012

The scope of the case is “unprecedented in anyone’s living memory.”

Harvard Crimson:

Harvard College’s disciplinary board is investigating nearly half of the 279 students who enrolled in Government 1310: “Introduction to Congress” last spring for allegedly plagiarizing answers or inappropriately collaborating on the class’ final take-home exam.

Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris said the magnitude of the case was “unprecedented in anyone’s living memory.”

Harris declined to name the course, but several students familiar with the investigation confirmed that Professor Matthew B. Platt’s spring government lecture course was the class in question.

The professor of the course brought the case to the Administrative Board in May after noticing similarities in 10 to 20 exams, Harris said. During the summer, the Ad Board conducted a review of all final exams submitted for the course and found about 125 of them to be suspicious.

Platt declined The Crimson’s request for comment.

If found guilty of academic dishonesty, students could be required to withdraw from the College for a year, among other possible sanctions.

The final examination in “Introduction to Congress,” which included three multi-part short answer questions, a bonus short answer question, and an essay question, came with the instruction: “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.”

Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith sent an email to all faculty members about the case, and Harris also sent a message to the student body and their parents on Thursday. That letter said that all students who are under investigation have been contacted.

Harris said the College’s unusual step of announcing the investigation was intended in part to launch a broader conversation about academic integrity.

Cheating has been a cottage industry forever in college. Now, it’s big business. With so much at stake, some students – and parents – are willing to pay thousands of dollars for papers, test answers, and the like.

“You’re only cheating yourself,” they used to tell us. Apparently, many Harvard undergrads don’t mind doing that at all.

End of article

For parents desiring to raise ethical honorable children, it seems the cultural currents make the task increasingly more difficult.

More later


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