Cheating has become a multi-faceted issue over the years. Before the invention of the internet, students had to rely on books and other students to cheat. After the internet was created, plagiarism and cheating became accessible with a few simple clicks of a mouse.
However, the internet isn’t the only cause for cheating. Other reasons that students cheat are due to laziness, lack of effort, the pressure to succeed, a lack of values, or rationalizing the definition of cheating.
Since 1992, the Josephson Institute of Ethics has conducted a biennial report on the ethics of American high school students. The results of these reports have revealed significant erosion of values in students, including high levels of cheating and dishonesty.
According to the Josephson Institute of Ethics, the 2008 report revealed that 64% of students cheated on an exam during that year. Many survey respondents agree that schools should be more active in instilling core ethical values like honesty, responsibility, and respect and developing good character in children.
Dordt Senior, Derek Visser, is a Teacher’s Aide for Western Civilization. Visser thinks that there are multiple reasons why students would plagiarize. One reason is that students weren’t correctly taught how to cite sources before they got to college. Visser also mentioned that students either don’t care or are not willing to put in the work to research and write a good paper. In other words, some students are simply lazy.
Visser mentioned that he had a recent conversation with a friend who has a job as a high school teacher. They came to the conclusion that “the problem is a lack of empathy on the part of the students,” Visser said. It has become so easy to Google an article and copy it, and students don’t make the connection that they are stealing something that someone else has spent a lot of time and effort working on, Visser explained.
In a 2009 publication of Ethics and Behavior, a group of researchers surveyed college alumnus concerning cheating during their undergraduate career: “The vast majority of participants (81.7%) report having engaged in some form of cheating during their undergraduate career.”
According to the Josephson Institute of Ethics, “Teens are five times and young adults (18-24) are three times more likely than those over 40 to hold the cynical belief that lying and cheating is necessary to success. This belief is one of the most significant and reliable predictors of dishonest behavior in the adult world.”
Dordt Psychology Professor, Ryan Brunner, thinks that the biggest help in understanding the act of cheating is interpreting the situation from a student’s perspective. Brunner pointed out that there are multiple reasons why students would cheat, including the pressure to get good grades.
However, according to Brunner, the biggest reason that students cheat is because of the ambiguity surrounding the situation. Students view cheating as “getting a little help.”
“The important thing for people to know is that most students who cheat don’t think of themselves as cheaters,” Brunner said. Students think of cheaters as dishonest people who deceive in direct ways. “No one likes a cheater,” he added.
If students simply bend the rules a little, they can assure themselves that they aren’t cheating. They look at plagiarizing other sources as using an aid or a tutor and that certainly isn’t against the rules.
“By doing this, students are rationalizing their acts as not really cheating,” Brunner said.
He explained that if students take a whole paper off the internet, it becomes harder for them to justify.
According to Brunner, students have difficulty being honest with themselves. “Because it is so easy to cheat now due to the internet, there are a lot of partial cheaters,” he said.
Amber Vis, Staff Writer