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When it comes to school, kids cheat. They naturally look to others who know an answer when they do not. They did when my grandparents were in school. They did when my parents were in school. Our generation did it. Though it's not the right thing to do, today's students are no different than their parents.

And every generation, teachers work to stop the cheating by banning objects. I once had a chemistry teacher who didn't understand my calculator, so he confiscated it during a test. He was sure that I'd figured out how to store the periodic table on the thing even though it had no memory.

Nowadays, cheating is high tech. Kids text message answers to each other with their phones. In Florida, there have been reports of a student using a phone to take a photo of a state assessment test. So, in most places, the phones are out. Now, some schools are banning iPods because kids have figured out how to download answers onto them.

Clearly, banning technology doesn't stop cheating. It simply gives kids a challenge to kids to figure out another way to get around their teachers. So, what is the answer? What methods kept you from cheating in your younger days? Or did you cheat and turn out fine? For those of you with older kids, what works with them now? Are kids more liable to cheat now than ever before because of all the additional school pressures they face?

Today's Talker: Students Give Edline a Poor Grade

By Stacey Garfinkle |  April 30, 2007; 7:15 AM ET  | Category:  Teens , Tweens
Previous: The Debate: Toy Obsessions | Next: Bullying Takes on More Forms

Comments


Simple; any student caught using any electronic device during a test fails the test, period, and the device is confiscated for the rest of the year. If there's a need for a calculator in a science exam for long calculations, give them some of those basic ones that do the standard features and nothing else.

Tests are to find out what the students know, not what the calculator/iPod/PDA's knows.

Posted by: John L | April 30, 2007 7:23 AM | Report abuse

I disagree with the broad generalization of cheating. YOU may have cheated in school, but I did not.

Nor my parents or grandparents.

Maybe your belief that cheating is in your family history is the beginning of the problem.


I agree with John L. - no tolerance for cheating, swift and certain punishment.

"Did you cheat and turn out fine?"

What's next? Did you lie & steal and turn out fine?

That is not science. Sheesh!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 7:55 AM | Report abuse

No, I did not cheat but I knew plenty of kids who did. I am not saying that all kids cheated or even the majority of kids cheated. But I took the easy way out of things in some ways. Like I took classes that I could get A's in and avoided classes that included a lot of writing. I think I missed out on learning a lot of writing skills and it is still difficult for me today. Not that it impedes me in my job but I could have widened my horizons if I had learned to be a better writer. I also write whole book reports in high school on books that I never read. I swear and I aced the reports as well. It doesn't say very much about educational institutions but it did happen. Overall, people will always cheat. I agree with John L. fail them when they get caught. But in the end, they do end up cheating themselves. And life isn't fair. So we need to move on. I hope my daughter never feels the pressure to cheat.

Posted by: foamgnome | April 30, 2007 8:00 AM | Report abuse

There are dozens of ways to cheat. I teach my kids that it is a calculated risk, but there are some techniques which are "safer" than others:
1. Downloading and paraphrasing. Who cares if the teacher forbids it?
2. Milking your friend of what is on the test who took it a previous period or day before.
3. Sharing answers / dividing homework questions with a friend.
4. Buying time by getting sick on the due date of the major project.

The idea here is that the most important thing to do is to make the grade and gaming the system is part of the strategy. Learning has its merit, but as far as school goes, other than math and a little science, most of what the system teaches is useless garbage anyway.

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 30, 2007 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Father of 4

Since you endorse dozens of ways to cheat, it is a good thing that you are not in a position which requires honor, trust, honesty and loyalty.

The prisons are filled with people like you who thought they could beat the system and didn't need the "useless garbage" taught in schools.

Great example for the kiddies!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 8:09 AM | Report abuse

periodic table, periodic calender, periodic chart - all fine terms

periodic calculator - what?! If you really had a periodic calculator in you chemistry test, no wonder he took it away.

Posted by: I don't normally harp on this | April 30, 2007 8:18 AM | Report abuse

I never cheated and as far as I know, neither did my parents or grandparents.

As said above, if caught cheating, failure of the test/paper/etc. Only question is will the teachers stand up to the helicopter parents who come in after junior is caught cheating and demand they don't fail.

If my kids ever cheat and I find out, I will insist that the teacher fail them on the project/test/paper/etc. even if the teacher never knew they cheated.

Posted by: Father of 2 | April 30, 2007 8:38 AM | Report abuse

I cheated once -- in 10th grade Spanish, the teacher gave out a pop qiz and left the room. The students (myself included), who universally hated this guy, all promptly started sharing answers. I still feel guilty about it, and I never cheated again.

The thing that kept me from cheating (ok, mostly) was the knoweledge that cheating is wrong. One of the things my parents managed to do right was to instill in me a firm sense of right and wrong that remains in me to this day. If I know something is wrong, I can't (usually) bring myself to do it.

Failing actual moral education of kids, I think harsh punishments for cheating are necessary. Automatic failure of the assignment is a given, with maybe a suspension on top of it.

Posted by: NewSAHM | April 30, 2007 8:53 AM | Report abuse

The origins of cheating come from our emphasis on competition in schools. As long as we give grades in school, there will be cheating.

There is a body of educational research that finds that grading is detremental to education; that it rewards cheating (as well as test taking skills) rather than actual learning is cited as a reason. The pressure to cheat doesn't come from nowhere, we promote it with our educational system and our (very rational) desires for our children to excell at school.

It would take a major shift in culture to change our educational system to one that does not reward cheating, or at least one where the rewards for learning outweigh those for cheating.

Posted by: David S | April 30, 2007 8:54 AM | Report abuse

"As long as we give grades in school, there will be cheating."

As long as there is marriage there will be adultery?

A moral code and a conscience helps a person to avoid cheating.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I strongly disagree with Fo4 on this subject. I am an engineer and many of the new hires we get in my office simply do not know the basics; many of them are used to having a calculator tell them the answer and cannot think for themselves.

Depending on an electronic device to get the answers may be "gaming the system", but it doesn't prepare them for the real world.

Posted by: John L | April 30, 2007 9:03 AM | Report abuse

Harp: Thanks for catching my mistake. I did mean to write periodic table and changed it.

To 7:55 a.m.: To set the record straight as this talk begins, I never cheated in school and I don't condone it. But I have seen plenty of people cheat, both when I was in school and now. When visiting our son's school for next year, I saw a kindergartner looking for answers on the paper of the child next to him. I doubt a kindergartner knows "cheating" like adults and older kids. I suspect he simply recognized he didn't know the answer and looked to his neighbor for help. The teacher noticed and came over to help him.

It's clearly an issue parents and teachers face.

Posted by: Stacey Garfinkle | April 30, 2007 9:09 AM | Report abuse

By Anonymous @ 9:01 AM

"A moral code and a conscience helps a person to avoid cheating."

After posting I thought someone might make this point. As an adult, I admit that I certainly think this is true in normal circumstances, but I also think that moral codes and conscience tend to be flexible under the right situations.

There was a study in the Journal of Educational Psychology a couple years ago about the impact of situational varibles (the attentiveness of the teacher, the pressure to do well) on the prevelence of cheating. If I remember correctly, they found the situation a student was in was more likely to influence their desire to cheat than absoloute morals (ie, whether they thought cheating was wrong or evil).
I will see if I can find a citation.

Posted by: David S | April 30, 2007 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I strongly disagree with John L. I work on an accounting system and some of the olders would rather generate a manual report than use a computer...

Posted by: Father of 4 | April 30, 2007 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Stacey

"To set the record straight as this talk begins"

Learn how to write better and you won't "need to set the record straight" as much.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Found it.

Journal of Educational Psychology, v96 n4 p765-777 Dec 2004. 13 pp. (Peer Reviewed Journal)

Here's a link to the article:

http://content.apa.org/journals/edu/96/4/765

Posted by: David S | April 30, 2007 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Fo4,

I work in a field that requires that I both know how to use a computer, do calculations (both simple and complex), review the results from computer programs and other engineers, and be able to come up with solutions to situations where the answer isn't found in a book.

Those last two requirements are often completely lacking in new hires; to them, if a computer (or calculator) gives them an answer, then it must be the right one. There is little critical thinking; the reliance on using their electronic crutches in class has often caused their ability to think for themselves to atrophy.

The graduates that recognize their computers, calculators, etc, are tools and not their masters are easily discovered early on, and they are the ones that move up faster than the ones that relied too much on the devices to tell them how to take a test.

Posted by: John L | April 30, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

What can prevent cheating?

Harsh punishment such as automatic failure for cheating is one method but I agree with David S who suggests alternative non-competitive ways of evaluating student knowledge as well as defanging the weapon.

Give open book exams. Students can bring in the calculators or textbooks during exams. When I took these exams, there was almost no possible way to go in cold and pass even with all the "help".

Assign group or individual projects. Not just book reports but more creative assignments - create a podcast within the context of the assignment, for example (at least put the iPod to use).

Have a student teach the class on his/her topic.

Have a student tutor another student and base the tutor's grade on the tutoree's grade.

The list can go on.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 9:36 AM | Report abuse

By Anonymous @ 9:36

"Harsh punishment such as automatic failure for cheating is one method but I agree with David S who suggests alternative non-competitive ways of evaluating student knowledge as well as defanging the weapon."

Agreed that heavy punishment can definately have an effect. The trick is getting a fair an equal use of punishment. My experience with that is shaped by the so called "single sanction" honor system where cheating (as well as plagarism) results in immediate suspension or expulsion. Unfortunately it is very unevenly applied. This tends to be the result of either a hesitency to identify cheating because the reprecussions are so extreme, or that students of low socio-economic class or racial minorities being disproportionately effected due to effectiveness of parental advocacy in avoiding punishments.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 9:51 AM | Report abuse

"Unfortunately it is very unevenly applied."

Isn't everything in life pretty much unevenly applied for the reasons you stated?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 9:58 AM | Report abuse

"Isn't everything in life pretty much unevenly applied for the reasons you stated?"

What you say is very true. It is the limitation of any system that has difficulty with flexibility (e.g. you can't watch children every second of every day).

It's also the failure of optomists, a class of people I count myself among. So I'll have to keep looking for answers while being trying to remind myself that absoloutes don't exist in the real world.

Posted by: David S | April 30, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

If someone is using an electronic device to cheat on a test, confiscating it and forcing them to rely on their own internal knowledge will probably be sufficient punishment. After all, if they knew the subject matter they wouldn't need the crutch!

And, Fo4's tactic of calling in sick to buy more time never worked with my teachers; they gave MUCH harder makeup tests whenever someone tried to avoid taking the first exam that way.

Posted by: John L | April 30, 2007 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I disagree with the broad generalization of cheating. YOU may have cheated in school, but I did not.

Nor my parents or grandparents.
------

Denial is not just a river in Egypt. It's like the people who claim they never break the law. Everyone speeds in their car once in a while, often with good reason (passing someone, avoiding danger). Admit it.

I'll never forget the time I got a study group together at my house and we found this great article in an old issue of Life magazine and all used it as a resource in our papers and we were almost kicked out of school for cheating. We all got Cs because it was "too weird" that 4 students all used the same article. I don't know how many times I explained that study group to my parents, the teacher, principal, etc.

Posted by: DCer | April 30, 2007 10:22 AM | Report abuse

"If someone is using an electronic device to cheat on a test"

punish them with a cattle prod - another electronic device. Works every time!!!

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Likewise, I never cheated even though there were times when it would have been easy. I think that any student whether child or college age should fail that test or project. Only then will they learn when they do it properly. Do you want a doctor who cheated his way through med school, or what about an engineer who designs high rises, roads or even nuclear plants not really knowing their business?

Posted by: Barbara | April 30, 2007 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Let me toss this out:

Why is cheating on tests bad?

I manage the interns where I work and the two who bragged about elaborate cheating schemes were the same ones who created sophisticated software solutions that meant the 2 days our secretary took to create the monthly reports was reduced to accurate online data on our intranet 24/7, freeing up 16 hours of billable time and increasing our access to data significantly. They appeared to download pirated software at home, create solutions at home, then bring in the solutions the next day. There were other interns who just sat around and did what they were told and accomplished almost nothing. I am recommending we offer the two cheaters the open slots.

I am not convinced that cheating on tests is a bad thing. Anyone have arguments against it?

Look at the person at MIT who lied on her resume, from everything I read she was perfectly capable of doing her job, no? Was it a mistake to rely on a fancy resume? Did MIT lose out because of that?

Posted by: DCer | April 30, 2007 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I remember cheating twice -- 7th or 8th grade Latin final (we had a terrible teacher, it was the only way most of us could pass it) and a final in college...I never cheated on papers though, and this was pre-internet, so it was harder to do papers anyway I guess. I actually had to research! Do kids even do that these days? Do they know how to find books in the library? LOL...

Posted by: WDC | April 30, 2007 10:46 AM | Report abuse

"I am not convinced that cheating on tests is a bad thing. Anyone have arguments against it?"

You must work for the government.

For starters, cheating is breaking a couple of the Ten Commandments.

Is cheating on a spouse a bad thing?

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 10:49 AM | Report abuse

To me, someone who cheats to get a good grade in school will also cheat to get ahead in his job.

Why do the work yourself if you can steal it from someone else (plagiarizing)?

Why not just "make the numbers work" instead of figuring out why they don't?

Why not take a little out of the till when no one is watching?

Why not sign off on work that isn't up to standards if no one will ever know?

IMO it's a character issue that can lead to other, much more serious consequences than just not getting a test question wrong.

Posted by: John L | April 30, 2007 10:50 AM | Report abuse

By DCer @ 10:36am

"I am not convinced that cheating on tests is a bad thing. Anyone have arguments against it?"

I'll prelude my answer by saying that you definately have a point in that the skills learned in cheating (e.g. thinking non-linearly about a problem) are definately useful and perhaps even the tests themselves are circumspectly useful.

That said, I see two issues with cheating. The first is that students who cheat regularly end up mastering the ability to cheat, but not the content they are supposed to learn. Some of that content may be of dubious use. We do, however have manditory schooling for a reason, and those subjects are supposed to teach the knowledge and values we deam useful as a society - so some of them must be useful. The essence of this argument is that the student, through cheating, is sacraficing long term benefits (knowledge) for short term gains (grades).

The second reson concerns not the cheater specifically, but the student who does not cheat. As a society, we necessarily want to reward the ability to abide by laws and rules. If one student on a test cheats and the other doesn't, yet they both get the same grade, the student who did not cheat is not taught that his/her respect for the rules is worth anything. It is worse if the rule-abiding student actually realizes that the other student is cheating. Then the student learns that the studying they have done and the things they have learned are not worth anything (if we imagine the currency of a school being grades).

Of these two, I find the first most compelling because (as I think the study I linked suggests, though doesn't outrightly say) just because a student cheats in school does not make them more likely to do so in the future. Students still know that cheating is wrong. It's much worse then to cheat yourself out of long term benefits to achieve short term gains, something that my experience says that teenagers have a problem with anyway.

Posted by: David S | April 30, 2007 11:08 AM | Report abuse

I think that a lot of parents these days help create a climate that tacitly encourages cheating. If you hold your child back in kindergarten twice then pay to have him retested multiple times by an expensive psychologist until he's found to be gifted, then give him Ritalin so he'll perform better in school, then have him classified as learning disabled so he'll do better on the SAT's without a time limit, aren't you in essence teaching him that the rules don't apply to him? Aren't you teaching him how to game the system? There's a book out there on how to get your child into an Ivy League college that actually tells parents to write notes so the kids can submit work late and take tests late so they can outwit the competition. What about paying a coach to heavily edit and rewrite his college applications? Is it really all that surprising that a child who's been helped this much thinks he's also entitled to cheat?

Posted by: ? | April 30, 2007 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Wow, I cannot believe some of these comments. Yes, I cheated twice in high school that I remember, and probably not any more times, but certainly not many more times. No, I do not think it was right, and would not condone it if my own kids tried it. Even as a freshman in high school I was appalled by my friend's statement that she "had to" cheat on a weekly vocabulary test because she had some sport practice on Thursday nights. I agree with Stacey that cheating is rampant and has been for generations. Not everyone does it. I can't vouch for my parents and grandparents, because I never asked them if they had. But I can assure you that they always communicated the value that cheating is wrong. I didn't always live up to to their standards, but I generally tried to do so. I am really shocked that there are people who would encourage their children to cheat in any manner, and that they would brag about in in even an anonymous forum.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 30, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

By ? @ 11:12AM

"I think that a lot of parents these days help create a climate that tacitly
encourages cheating."

The role of parents in cheating is a whole huge bag of beans that might venture off topic. There are any number of examples, but I think they all originate to the notion of parenthood as a competition (somewhat like school is for students - Hmmm!) whereby parents are measured by their child's performance in school and other places.

I think the same problems come up, however, in terms of sacraficing short term benefits to long term gains. The parents may get express pride over their child to other parents and relatives, but if the child has not learned the material needed nothing has been gained in the long term. This is especially true with the infamous example of the parent doing the work for the child.

Posted by: David S | April 30, 2007 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Every school I've ever attended from grade school to law school has had an honor code that all students must read and sign, and that imposes an affirmative duty to refrain from academic dishonesty themselves and report academic dishonesty by others. If kids have been raised properly, they should take their honor very seriously. Kids are also less likely to cheat if they know every other kid in the classroom is duty-bound to report them.

I grew up with the attitude that I'd rather fail on my own that cheat and get an A. Not only did that make me honest, it made me study hard enough to get that A on my own steam.

Posted by: lawgirl | April 30, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

DCer - use of pirated software in a business is illegal and may create a liability for your firm.

Posted by: anonymous | April 30, 2007 3:31 PM | Report abuse

DCer, just to let you know, If I were the supervisor of those two little "interns" who download pirated software at home and then bring in a "project" the next day, they would be fired and promptly escorted from the building, to be replaced by a worker with GOOD work ethics.

Posted by: alex | April 30, 2007 3:53 PM | Report abuse

exactly which couple of commandments is cheating breaking??? come on, i could see thou shalt not steal but i don't see cheating on a test as falling under the purview of any of the other 9.

Posted by: quark | April 30, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse

I think that a lot of parents these days help create a climate that tacitly encourages cheating.

I agree. I often hear of parents "helping" with a child's class project. My scientist ex-boss "helped" her child with a science fair project, resulting in a blue ribbon. What does the child learn from this? Many things. Mostly bad.

--
--
The parents may get express pride over their child to other parents and relatives, but if the child has not learned the material needed nothing has been gained in the long term.

But is this really true? Much of the material I learned in grade school has been useless to me since then. I never used trigonometry in my PhD. I think one barrier to encouraging honesty is that the long-term bad consequences of cheating are so miniscule, but the long-term good consequences of a resulting good grade are so big.

when I was in grade school and college, the only technological tool available was a calculator. If schools want to prevent cheating, just disallow the requisite tools.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 1, 2007 12:00 AM | Report abuse

DCer, just to let you know, If I were the supervisor of those two little "interns" who download pirated software at home and then bring in a "project" the next day, they would be fired and promptly escorted from the building, to be replaced by a worker with GOOD work ethics.
------

Are you actually, honestly a manager who is given hiring power or are you a playa hata, seeing their career in danger as these kids produce more than you are.

Posted by: DCer | May 1, 2007 12:14 AM | Report abuse

DCer - use of pirated software in a business is illegal and may create a liability for your firm.
----
as was clearly evident in what I posted, the software is not installed by our firm on our firm's computers and I know BSA regs well enough to know we violated nothing. Apparently these kids have better reading comprehension than you, cheaters or not.

Posted by: DCer | May 1, 2007 12:17 AM | Report abuse

I am not the original poster of this, but I have been a manager with hiring/firing responsibilities. I have indeed fired someone who acted unethically. And although the pirated software was not used on your business computers, your business benefitted from illegal use of the software, so from my standpoint this was illegal as well as unethical. Please identify your business if you are so sure that all was above board.

Posted by: to DCer | May 1, 2007 8:49 AM | Report abuse

Well, here's a news article on this very subject:

http://www.newsobserver.com/1366/story/569568.html

"34 graduate students have been caught in the business school's largest cheating scandal ever. The Duke business school's judicial board found that they had cheated on a take-home exam.

Though fellow students were shocked, national data show that perhaps they shouldn't have been. Results from a survey released last year found that 56 percent of master's of business administration students admitted cheating in the previous year, compared with 47 percent of graduate students in other fields."

"They just don't see it as a big deal," said McCabe, a leading authority on academic dishonesty in higher education. "They see it as a victimless crime in some cases. It's a time management technique."

Posted by: John L | May 1, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

By Anonymous @ May 1, 2007 12:00 AM

"But is this really true? Much of the material I learned in grade school has been useless to me since then. I never used trigonometry in my PhD. I think one barrier to encouraging honesty is that the long-term bad consequences of cheating are so miniscule, but the long-term good consequences of a resulting good grade are so big."

I definately agree that the rewards for good grades vastly outpace the consequences of cheating. I see the primary barriers to rectifying that being a) the culture of competition that permiates our society; and b) the hesitency of administrators/staff to dispense harsh punishments.

As to the utility of the material, that is much more of a matter of communal values and a pretty difficult nut to crack. An examination of the whole debate around the teaching of evolution/creation shows that the creation of curriculum is a pretty complex buisness. Though even if we did perfect the curriculum to represent the most useful (and character enhancing) knowledge, I suspect we would still have to deal with cheating.

Posted by: David S | May 1, 2007 10:48 AM | Report abuse

I agree with all the great ideas to alternatives to standard tests.

Only when we stop creating quick bubble tests which have answers and create tests and demonstrations to show actual processing and comprehension will we eliminate (most of) the ability to cheat and force students to study and work for it or be shown for what they are.

Of course, this requires teachers to be given decent time and freedom in which to create and enact this. This requires that we stop thinking that learning can be easily quantifiable based on small sample multiple choice. This requires that we value our students learning HOW to learn and conjecture as much or more as we do them learning basic facts and figures.

Until then, the bubble test, and it's ways of cheating, will prevail.

Posted by: Liz D | May 1, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I never cheated. Ever. To my detriment, particularly in a high school Chemistry class. The rich kids openly shared answers during tests. The rest of us pointed this out multiple times during the year. That teacher did nothing, and had the nerve to chide me about my low grade. I replied that at least I worked hard to get the grade I received. That teacher said nothing. Among those students were two who went on to the Air Force and Naval Academies. Color me completely unimpressed with people who attended those institutions following my experience. Learning should be a core value. Too bad some families have dispensed with learning, honor, and effort as values.

Posted by: dahozho | May 7, 2007 4:09 PM | Report abuse

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