The C-Word

By Avramit Katsnelson, Class of 2011

That’s right—cheating!  In this case, it has nothing to do with adultery!  Rather, it refers to the epidemic among students of one student copying the work of another and claiming it as his own or referring to his notes during a test.  Unfortunately, many students either fail to see the unethical nature of cheating or immunize themselves to it.  In this article, what makes it unethical as well as why many fail to see this will be discussed, along with what students can do to avoid cheating.

Obviously, students who cheat do so because they care about their grades.  They will do whatever it takes to have all their work turned in and all of it done correctly.  This raises the question Wouldn’t students who care so much about their grades not need to cheat? 

On the contrary, no one is perfect and no one knows everything.  Thus, even those who want good grades aren’t necessarily able to understand their assignments the first time around.  As a result, they resort to cheating.  When students still don’t understand the material by the time of the test, they will again resort to cheating. 

Another cause of cheating is a problem actually related to not understanding the material—time management.  Students may have so much schoolwork to do, or other tasks, that they aren’t able to sit down and give the material of a particular class the attention it deserves.  This leads to a last-minute scramble for someone else’s completed work to copy.

Yet another cause of cheating is related to time management problems—procrastination.  More often than not, students procrastinate because they would rather listen to their iPods or catch the latest episode of Glee than do their math homework!  They then copy off of the responsible student who did his work on time.

This brings us to another important role in cheating—that of the students who let others copy their work.  Without these students, no one would be able to copy!  So why do students who put so much time into their own work let others copy it in a few minutes and get the same grade or higher?  When asked why they let others copy their work, a number of students responded that they want to be nice.  If their friends don’t understand something or didn’t have time to complete an assignment, they don’t want them to get a bad grade.  One student responded that because she sometimes copies off of others, she would be a hypocrite to not let another student copy off of her.

Many students simply don’t see anything wrong with cheating!  They just see it as a way to do what they need to do to get to where they want to be in the world.  Unfortunately, there are many adults in the world who feel the same way about their own lives.  They will do whatever it takes, no matter how corrupt, to get ahead. 

Obviously, cheating isn’t the worst thing a person could do.  However, nurturing this easygoing attitude about cheating now can lead to a generation of adults who just don’t care about how unethical their actions are.  In a survey, one student wrote that he doesn’t feel bad about cheating because he has nothing to lose.  People say that children are the future.  If that’s true, ours isn’t looking very bright.

Cheating.  Some will say that everyone does it.  It sure seems that way, doesn’t it?  This is why students who do it once in a while don’t feel as bad about it as they should.  They just look around and tell themselves, It’s not a big deal.  It’s only one time.  Look at these kids.  They do it every day!  If that doesn’t work, they just convince themselves that cheating is something they need to do to get the grade, to reach their goals, to please their parents.  But how many parents would really be pleased if they knew that their child got his four A’s and two B’s by copying off of other students and using his notes during tests?  What kind of self-esteem can that student have?

What’s wrong with cheating?  What’s the big deal?  These are questions many students have probably asked over the ages.  The answer is very simple: When a student turns in an assignment, he is telling the teacher that it is his own work.  He is saying that he’s the one who tried, who put in the effort.  Thus, to turn in work that another student spent his time on is dishonest.  Again, many students don’t care if they’re being dishonest.  In their minds, they’re just doing what they need to do. 

Also, turning in another’s work isn’t fair to the student who actually did it.  This student is being exploited, taken advantage of.  As if that isn’t enough, if this student has some kind of conscience, he may feel guilty about having let this student turn in his work, whereas the copier likely has no reservations about it.

Cheating on tests (i.e. without copying someone else’s work but by using a cheat sheet) is also dishonest because it is generally understood that the work done on a test is done without the aid of another student or of notes. 

Lastly, aside from the ethical considerations, cheating is just detrimental to the person who’s doing it.  As one student wrote:

 “If you do cheat, your not learning anything.  Your using someone elses information…if there was a day someone copied off of me, I guarantee you that if you ask them the answer to the question they copied off of me they probably wouldn’t be able to answer it correctly.” 

Despite his errors in spelling and grammar (or maybe because of them), this student makes a good point.

It’s difficult to convince a veteran cheater that he’s doing the wrong thing.  For one thing, he already knows it!  This may seem to be a contradiction, but it’s the truth!  People who cheat know that they’re doing the wrong thing.  They just convince themselves that it’s not a big deal, that they’re somehow justified in cheating because the assignment was “pointless.”  Or they just don’t care.  The difficultly, thus, lies in convincing this person that cheating is inexcusable

In almost all the major religions, dishonesty is frowned upon.  Thus, it is possible that a person who calls himself a follower of one of these religions may be persuaded to stop cheating.  For everyone else, including atheists and agnostics, it just comes down to basic ethics.  People need to understand that cheating is wrong and should not be resorted to no matter what the circumstances.  Understanding ethics—and acting in an ethical manner—is part of being a mature person.  How can people deceive others every day by turning in the work of other students and still look themselves in the mirror?  How can other students let their work be plagiarized?  Truth is stranger than fiction.

Once students understand that they must stop cheating, it isn’t very hard.  They just need to spend more time on their studies and less time watching television or staring into space!  Time management is all about prioritizing—determining what is more important or more difficult to do and doing that thing first.  Sometimes, setting aside half an hour, an hour, or even two hours may leave some time for the enjoyable activities.  However, this isn’t always the case.  Nonetheless, if a task is that important, it is worth it.  One can listen to a song or watch a television show anytime, but one doesn’t have forever to complete an assignment.  Doing the homework will not only remove the need for copying but will help prepare students for their tests.  Thus, along with studying, it will also remove the need for cheat sheets.

Although it may seem difficult, the solution for those who let others copy their work is simple: just say “no”!  It is understandable that students want to be nice and not let their classmates get a zero on an assignment, but by letting their friends copy, they aren’t doing them any good.  These nice people are merely making their friends dependent on them, letting them rely on them for future assignments that they don’t need to do themselves to receive full credit.  In addition, as mentioned earlier, those who copy off of others lack strength in those subject areas.  Thus, while many students feel they are doing their friends a favor, they are really hurting them.

To conclude, cheating is just not beneficial at all!  It conditions people to be unethical and weakens them in the subject areas they are supposed to be learning.  While it seems like a minor issue, such issues combine to form the character of our generation.  For those who want to make the world a better place, this means it is not possible until everyone demonstrates by his actions that he understands the value of honesty and hard work.

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