Is It OK to Cheat to Get Good Grades?
ARE you a student? If so, likely you know of fellow students who cheat in class to get good grades. Indeed, the problem is very widespread. In 2008, the Josephson Institute surveyed nearly 30,000 high school students in the United States, and 64 percent admitted to cheating on a test that year. The actual figure, however, is estimated by others to be even higher—more than 75 percent.
In Europe too cheating has become a serious problem, especially plagiarism. “Websites that sell student essays, master’s theses and doctoral dissertations as ready-made commodities are a new and increasingly worrying problem,” says an article published in the e-journal Digithum.
Why has cheating become such a major concern? Does cheating really benefit those who do it? Is honesty—even if it means lower grades—still the best policy?
Why the Plague?
An erosion of ethics. “Many educators say the rise in cheating is due to an erosion of ethics in a self-centered culture,” says the American School Board Journal. Concerning those in her high school honors classes, one student admitted: “All of us . . . cheated; we needed the grades to get into good schools. We were good, moral students; we weren’t like unethical people . . . We just needed to get into good universities.” Even some parents have “caught” the plague. Anxious to see their offspring “succeed,” they either approve of cheating or turn a blind eye to it, thus further undermining their children’s ethics.
The pressure to succeed. According to Donald McCabe, founder of the International Center for Academic Integrity, students who cheat believe that honesty puts them at a disadvantage compared with others who cheat and get away with it.
The help of technology. Modern technology enables students to cheat with new levels of ease and sophistication. They can download term papers and answers for their homework from the Internet and share them with others. Often, only a small percentage get caught, and this emboldens others.
The influence of bad examples. Cheating has become commonplace in the adult world—in big business corporations, in politics, in sports, and often even at home, where parents cheat on income tax or insurance claims. “If people in positions of authority or role models are cheating,” says David Callahan, author of The Cheating Culture, “then I think it sends a signal to young people that cheating is OK.” But is it? Does the pursuit of better grades really justify cheating?
Why Choose Not to Cheat?
Ask yourself this, ‘What is the goal of a good education?’ Is it not to equip students for many of life’s responsibilities, such as analyzing problems in the workplace and solving them? Students who get into the habit of cheating may fail to learn those valuable skills. Thus, people who habitually cheat mask their weaknesses and undermine their chances for success in many areas of life.
What is more, “people who cut corners early in life—such as cheating a lot in school—may bring that habit to the workplace,” says Callahan. In a way, such ones are like a fake brand-name garment or wristwatch that looks genuine but eventually disappoints.
Of course, cheaters also risk getting caught and suffering the consequences. At the very least, this may involve embarrassment and shame. But it may also lead to expulsion from school or even more severe discipline. The Bible frankly warns: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) Fear of getting caught, however, should not be the main reason for being honest. There are far more noble reasons.
Honesty—The Real Key to Success
Wise young people strive to develop qualities that will stand them in good stead, not just for exams but for the rest of their life. Hence, they work hard at school and strive to nurture values that foster self-respect, that will earn the gratitude of future employers, and that will lead to lasting happiness.
Those values can be found in the Bible, and young people who live by them are not disadvantaged. On the contrary, as 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 states, they become “fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” A ninth grader named Jorge says: “My classmates cheat because they want to get good grades without any effort. But I want to please God. At Proverbs 14:2, the Bible states that ‘the one walking in his uprightness is fearing Jehovah, but the one crooked in his ways is despising Him.’ I know that we can’t hide anything from God. So I don’t cheat, and I don’t help others to cheat.”
Students who strive to live in harmony with Bible principles may or may not be the brightest students in class. But they are the wisest, for they are building a rock-solid foundation for lasting success in life. (Psalm 1:1-3; Matthew 7:24, 25) What is more, they can be assured of the Creator’s approval and support.
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PRINCIPLES TO THINK ABOUT
● “It is the lip of truth that will be firmly established forever, but the tongue of falsehood will be only as long as a moment.”—Proverbs 12:19.
● “A man of faithful acts will get many blessings.”—Proverbs 28:20.
● “The true God himself will bring every sort of work into the judgment in relation to every hidden thing, as to whether it is good or bad.”—Ecclesiastes 12:14.
● “We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”—Hebrews 13:18.
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Modern technology enables students to cheat with new levels of ease and sophistication
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Students who cheat are like a fake brand-name wristwatch that only looks good