On Sunday, I woke up at 8:00 a.m. to begin my school work and did not finish until 7:30 that night. One could argue that this is a ludicrous amount of work for a high-school student or that the education system is failing in its attempts to convince students to remain organized throughout the course of the week or blah blah blah…but this is not my greatest concern.
My concern is this: when I walked into first period the following day, I noticed a group of girls (I would call them friends, but they are far from that) copying each other’s homework, word for word. After lunch, I entered math prepared to take an exam for which I had studied three hours the previous day. During the test, the girl sitting in the desk in front of me turned around six times to look at my exam. During a social studies quiz later that day, I noticed the boy next to me Googling the quiz questions on his phone, while my teacher naively sat at her desk typing undeserved quiz grades into her computer.
I wish I could say I was surprised by any of this. I wish I could say that these people were caught and harshly reprimanded according to our code of conduct. I wish that I could be angry with these people for receiving grades that even eleven and a half hours of work couldn’t get me (Yes, that’s right. They all did exceptionally well on the math test and social studies quiz, and my grades were sub-par at best), but I’m not sure that I can be. The truth is, students have been cheating long and successfully enough to realize that there are no consequences to breaking the scared academic code they agreed upon when they first entered the doors of High School West. Cheating is a typical occurrence in Hills West and occurs no matter what grade, class or teacher is involved. One cannot solely place the blame upon the students, because there are an unimaginable amount of factors that go into cheating and the consequences (or lack thereof) that go along with it.
I recently toyed with the idea that maybe these experiences were exclusive to my grade or simply students who enroll in more vigorous courses, but then I heard about an appalling example of cheating that had no affiliation with me or my grade whatsoever. After purchasing a new printer over my summer vacation, I no longer had the need to print out homework or worksheets in the library before school began, and I had not been to the library since last year- but I was surprised to recently learn that the library is no longer available for students to use before school hours. When I inquired with Ms. Lennon, the school librarian, as to why this was, I was appalled to learn that the reason had nothing to do with an overuse of printer-paper or lack of available chaperones- but rather due to a rather disturbing meeting known to its participants as the “Homework Exchange Program.” This “program” consisted of upwards of fifty freshmen boys occupying the far end of the library, and “exchanging,” or copying homework from each other that they had failed to complete on their own the previous night.
In order to prevent this unfair exchange of work, the library was forced to keep its doors closed until 7:14, which is unfortunate for students who have no other opportunities to work on or print out work during the day.
Another unfortunate aspect of this occurrence is the fact that this display of mass cheating is not irregular at High School West and does not even scrape the surface of ways in which students cheat on homework, quizzes, and especially tests.
The pressures have mounted in recent years for students to be top notch, and nothing short of that. Yes, it’s true that colleges are currently forcing students into a state of constant stress and providing reasonable motives to do “whatever it takes,” to get the grade, but are we really letting this justify cheating? When did morals take a back seat to getting the grade? As a student, I can easily admit that among the massive piles of homework rewarded to students nightly and the ACT/SAT/AP/Regents prep, cheating is an alluring prospect. Why not just take a quick peak at someone’s test who actually had time to do the work?
But students should be reminded of the pure immorality of cheating. Students should be reminded of the lessons that Barney and Caillou instilled in us at such young ages- that cheating is wrong and deserves consequences. I myself am guilty in that I often do not report these instances of cheating to my teachers in fear of being dubbed a “snitch,” but should the students willing to do the right thing really be the ones who are afraid? The pressures of high school may be somewhat unreasonable- in addition to school work, sports, music, and volunteer work- there is barely any time left to watch television or do something actually important, but we should not let any of these factors help condone cheating.
One could blame teachers for not discouraging or punishing students on their cheating habits, but that accusation would unfairly incriminate well-meaning professionals. An undisclosed (and particularly popular) Hills West teacher claims that there aren’t many options for teachers who catch students cheating. If a teacher gives a student a zero on a plagiarized essay or exam, parent complaints immediately flood the main office.
Again, there are other factors at hand here, but also a very ironic cycle of events. Students cheat in order to do well on an exam and to please their crazed, bumper-sticker loving parents in the process. When said student is caught cheating, the parent complains and the student has learned that none of the punishments promised to them in the student handbook actually ensue. The student is therefore willing to continue this process, despite warning. Teachers often figure that there is no point in calling students out, when there are no legitimate consequences with which to punish the offender.
So, how does one convince students of the academic and moral effects of cheating? I’ll take stricter consequences for 500, Alex! (Double points to anybody who got the Jeopardy reference). Recently, a girl in my English class was caught plagiarizing a project, and just yesterday she asked me to send her an essay we were assigned in that very class. I politely declined, but I have no doubt that she asked one of our fellow classmates and promptly copied and pasted their essay into Word, changing only the name in the heading.
I don’t think that students should be kicked out of school and sent to a dungeon for cheating on a single test, but repeat offenders should be more strictly reprimanded, not only by their teachers, but by fellow classmates who continuously allow cheating to occur. Students should consider that, if they cheat, their grades are not honestly earned. I don’t know what would truly convince students that cheating is wrong, and I don’t expect the cheating epidemic to be eradicated overnight- I just hope that students realize (hopefully sooner rather than later) that they can’t go through life copying the answers off of their friend’s paper.