Cheating among U.S. high school and university students is common

Posted on September 8, 2012

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RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA, New York Times

Large-scale cheating has been uncovered over the last year at some of the nation’s most competitive schools, like Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, the Air Force Academy and, most recently, Harvard.

Studies of student behavior and attitudes show that a majority of students violate standards of academic integrity to some degree, and that high achievers are just as likely to do it as others. Moreover, there is evidence that the problem has worsened over the last few decades.

Experts say the reasons are relatively simple: Cheating has become easier and more widely tolerated, and both schools and parents have failed to give students strong, repetitive messages about what is allowed and what is prohibited.

“I don’t think there’s any question that students have become more competitive, under more pressure, and, as a result, tend to excuse more from themselves and other students, and that’s abetted by the adults around them,” said Donald L. McCabe, a professor at the Rutgers University Business School, and a leading researcher on cheating.

“There have always been struggling students who cheat to survive,” he said. “But more and more, there are students at the top who cheat to thrive.”

Internet access has made cheating easier, enabling students to connect instantly with answers, friends to consult and works to plagiarize. And generations of research has shown that a major factor in unethical behavior is simply how easy or hard it is. […]

A 2010 survey of Yale undergraduates by The Yale Daily News showed that most had never read the school’s policy on academic honesty, and most were unsure of the rules on sharing or recycling their work.

In surveys of high school students, the Josephson Institute of Ethics, which advises schools on ethics education, has found that about three-fifths admit to having cheated in the previous year — and about four-fifths say their own ethics are above average.

Few schools “place any meaningful emphasis on integrity, academic or otherwise, and colleges are even more indifferent than high schools,” said Michael Josephson, president of the institute.

“When you start giving take-home exams and telling kids not to talk about it, or you let them carry smartphones into tests, it’s an invitation to cheating,” he said.

The case that Harvard revealed in late August involved a take-home final exam in an undergraduate course with 279 students. The university has not yet held hearings on the charges, which may take months to resolve. [Please click here to read the remainder of this article from the New York Times]

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