“Cheaters never prosper”

95% of high school students cheat.

A 2012 study by the Josephson Institute’s Center for Youth Ethics found that an astounding number of students have cheated in some capacity, whether it was on a homework assignment, paper, or test.

There is no way that true, right? 

Yet, the year before I entered AP US History, students got busted for cheating on homework assignments. Last year, Madame VanHouten caught a lower level French student cheating on a vocab quiz. I witnessed Mrs. Will tell a student to make sure they erase the formulas on the inside of their calculator cover that they carelessly left lying face up before the test. Mr. Anderson moved his entire class to the lunchroom to take a unit test after a student had informed him of the incessant cheating. 

And those are only the circumstances where teachers have discovered it. For every student who is caught, there are plenty who slip away. Some students don’t even think twice about their academic dishonesty because it has become so normalized and ingrained in student culture. Often, their friends are cheating and receiving good grades, so they follow the pack.

On the other hand, many teens cheat because they feel they can justify it. Most commonly, students claim that it doesn’t matter because the work they completed by cheating doesn’t matter—it’s simply busywork that they weren’t going to learn anything from anyway. It wasn’t worth their time.

Time is something high school students are constantly short on, and when you mix that with stress and expectations, you end up with cheating. Parents are constantly nagging kids about their grades and GPAs. Colleges are becoming more and more selective. Society itself is a pretentious being that only values the best and brightest kids.  

For some students, the pressure to be perfect is too much. On top of that, these pressures are compelling teens to take classes that are too challenging for them and do not remotely interest them.

Moreover, some students cheat just because they can. Maybe it makes them feel a little rebellious. Maybe they are lazy and don’t feel like working. Maybe it’s just easy. If a student cheats once, they are more likely to do it again— it’s a cycle.

However, many research studies still claim that kids know and understand that cheating is morally wrong but continue to do it anyway. When it comes to cheating, many teens believe that the benefits outweigh the costs.

Do students even know the real costs? 

Even though most students have never read the student handbook, most know that they are risking a zero on the assignment or perhaps even a zero in the class. Sure, this is one consequence, but it certainly isn’t the most important one.  

Losing their teachers’ respect and their credibility with teachers is much more detrimental. The people who are there to foster growth and care for students’ academic wellbeing will never be able to look at cheaters the same. Cheating is probably one of the most offensive things someone could do to a teacher.

It should be equally offensive to students as well; through their dishonesty, they make the course harder for everyone else, especially for students who genuinely try and still struggle. To begin with, they destroy the curve that some teachers graciously grade with. They also give off the impression to teachers that all the students are learning and understanding the material at the pace they are teaching.

Furthermore, cheating hurts the cheater, too, even if they get away clean.  While it seems foolish in the face of a 4.0 achieved through cheating, the saying is “cheaters never prosper” for a reason. By cutting corners in high school, students are setting themselves up for a lifetime of cutting corners. 

Because they never encounter hardship in high school– a safe environment to grow and develop as a person– they won’t know how to battle adversity as an adult. They won’t have any study skills for college and any schooling beyond undergrad, leaving them completely unprepared to be a part of the workforce. Cheaters will never understand determination, perseverance, and grit. 

Oh, and don’t forget integrity! 

Doing the right thing when nobody’s watching— that’s what friends look for, that’s what colleges look for, that’s what employers look for. It’s what makes someone trustworthy. 

Additionally, cheating can stunt a student’s self-esteem. Every time they cheat, they believe less and less in themselves and their own abilities; they rely on cheating to keep up a facade of prodigious intelligence to which they continue to be praised for.

The majority of cheating could be prevented if everyone changed their mindsets. Teachers and parents need to praise teens based on the effort and work they put into something rather than good grades. Society needs to stop the stigma associated with asking for help. Students need to understand that their GPA isn’t what defines them.

Receiving an A+ doesn’t make someone an A+ person. Remember that. Just because cheating is convenient or feels like a desperate necessity to gain acceptance, remember that.

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