Young People Ask . . .
What’s Wrong With Cheating?
“Everybody knows cheating is wrong, but it’s easy.”—Jimmy, aged 17.
HAVE you ever been tempted to sneak a peek at a classmate’s paper while taking a test? If so, you are not alone. Jenna, who is in the 12th grade, notes the brazen attitude with which many of her classmates cheat: “They brag about how they do it,” she says. “They look at you as odd if you don’t cheat!”
In one U.S. survey, 80 percent of teens at the top of their class admitted to cheating, and 95 percent of these “high achievers” were never caught. After conducting a survey of more than 20,000 middle and high school students, the Josephson Institute of Ethics concluded: “In terms of honesty and integrity, things are going from very bad to worse.” Educators are astounded at how pervasive the practice of cheating has become! School director Gary J. Niels went so far as to claim: “It is the non-cheater who is in the minority.”
Most parents expect their children to behave honorably when it comes to their schoolwork. Unfortunately, though, many young ones compromise their honesty by cheating. What new methods are they using? Why do some youths resort to cheating? Why should you avoid the practice?
Any number of devious methods are used by the modern cheater. In fact, cheating by copying homework or using crib sheets pales into insignificance when compared with today’s high-tech tactics. These include the use of pagers that receive answers to test questions from remote callers; calculators preprogrammed with “extra” information; miniature cameras hidden in clothing, which are used to relay questions to a helper elsewhere; devices that transmit infrared messages to nearby classmates; and even Internet sites that contain completed term papers on virtually any subject!
Educators are trying to reverse the alarming trend toward cheating, but the task is not easy. After all, not every student—or teacher—agrees on what constitutes cheating. For example, when teams of students work together on a project, the line between fair collaboration and dishonest collusion may not be so clear. Then there are those who might take advantage of a group effort to let others do all the work. “Some of these students are very lazy—they don’t do anything!” exclaims Yuji, who is attending a community college. “Then they get the same grade. I think that’s cheating too!”
Why Do They Cheat?
In one survey, lack of preparation was found to be the number one reason why many students choose to cheat. Other students, compelled by a competitive climate at school or by the high expectations of their parents, conclude that they have no other choice. “Grades are everything to my parents,” says Sam, aged 13. “They ask me: ‘What mark did you get on your math test? What mark did you get on your English paper?’ I hate that!”
For some, constant pressure to get good grades leads to cheating. Says the book The Private Life of the American Teenager: “There is something out of balance in a system in which pressure is so intense that the satisfactions of learning are often superseded by the pressure to achieve, sometimes at the expense of honesty.” Many students agree. After all, no one wants to flunk a test, much less a whole course. “Some people are just real scared that they’re going to fail,” observes Jimmy, a high school student. “Even if they know the answers, they’ll cheat just to make sure.”
The sheer number of people who are willing to sacrifice standards of honesty can make cheating appear harmless. And sometimes it might seem downright advantageous. “Yesterday I spotted a kid cheating on a test in one of my classes,” says 17-year-old Greg. “Today when we got the test back, he got a higher score than I did.” Many are swayed by the prevalence of cheating among their peers. “Some students feel that ‘if others are doing it, I have to do it,’” says Yuji. But is that true?
A Deceptive Addiction
Compare cheating to stealing. Does the fact that many people resort to thievery make it acceptable? ‘Of course not,’ you might say—especially if it’s your money that is being stolen! By cheating, we are taking credit for something we do not deserve—perhaps even taking advantage of those who act fairly. (Ephesians 4:28) “It’s just not right,” says Tommy, who recently finished high school. “You’re saying, ‘I know this stuff,’ when you really don’t. So you’re lying.” The Bible’s viewpoint on this is clearly indicated at Colossians 3:9: “Do not be lying to one another.”
Cheating can become like an addiction that is difficult to break. “Cheaters learn that they don’t even have to study to pass,” says Jenna, “so they just rely on cheating. And then once they’re out on their own, they don’t know how to function.”
The principle recorded at Galatians 6:7 is sobering: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” The consequences of cheating in school can include the pain of a troubled conscience, the loss of your friends’ trust, and stunted academic growth because of your avoiding the learning process. Like a cancer that turns malignant, this pattern of deception can spread to affect other areas of life and can poison your most valued relationships. Most certainly, it will affect your relationship with God, who is displeased by deception.—Proverbs 11:1.
Those who rely on cheating are only fooling themselves. (Proverbs 12:19) By their actions they take a position similar to the corrupt rulers in the ancient city of Jerusalem: “We have made a lie our refuge and in falsehood we have concealed ourselves.” (Isaiah 28:15) In reality, however, the cheater cannot conceal his actions from God.—Hebrews 4:13.
Do Not Cheat!
In many cases youths put a lot of effort and ingenuity into cheating—which they would be better off channeling into obtaining an honest education. As 18-year-old Abby puts it, “if they applied themselves to learning as well as they apply themselves to cheating, they’d probably do very well.”
Granted, the temptation to cheat may be strong. But you must avoid this moral pitfall! (Proverbs 2:10-15) How can you do so? First, remember why you are at school—to learn. True, there might seem to be little benefit in accumulating facts you may never use. But by circumventing this process through cheating, a person hinders his ability to learn new things and make practical use of knowledge. Real understanding is never obtained without effort; it costs something. The Bible states: “Buy truth itself and do not sell it—wisdom and discipline and understanding.” (Proverbs 23:23) Yes, you need to take a serious view of study and preparation. “You have to do your work,” recommends Jimmy. “It will make you confident that you know the answers.”
True, at times you may not know all the answers, and this may result in a lower score. Still, if you do not compromise your principles, you may see what you need to do in order to improve.—Proverbs 21:5.
Yuji, quoted earlier, is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He explains what he does when other classmates put pressure on him to help them cheat: “First thing—I just let them know I’m a Witness,” he says. “That’s helped me a lot because they know Jehovah’s Witnesses are honest people. If someone asks me to give him an answer during a test, I just say no. Then later on I can explain why I don’t do that.”
Yuji agrees with the apostle Paul’s statement to the Hebrews: “We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.” (Hebrews 13:18) Your holding to high standards of honesty and refusing to compromise by cheating imparts real value to the good grades you obtain. You bring home from school one of the best gifts you can give your parents—a record of Christian integrity. (3 John 4) Moreover, you preserve a clean conscience and have the joy of knowing that you are making Jehovah God’s heart rejoice.—Proverbs 27:11.
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The cheater often fails to see that he is actually stealing
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Often, cheating leads to more serious acts of dishonesty
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The cheater cannot conceal his actions from God
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Adequate study before a test will give you confidence