Bring cheating in schools out in the open

By Light Staff

Cheating isn’t new in schools - or in life - but it seems that when La Jolla High has to launch a website to report cheaters and large numbers of Advanced Placement students get caught, it’s time to talk frankly about the topic.

What better time than fall when students are gearing up for a new year for parents to take some time and let their children know that when they cheat on exams and papers they’re only cheating themselves?

Comments on our (unscientific) online poll indicate the reasons why smart kids cheat range from laziness and pressure from parents to it being “all about the money.”

And, as our recent series noted, intense competition for slots in highly selective colleges has contributed to the problem, expanding the practice to include high-achieving students when decades ago cheaters were mainly D students trying simply not to fail. Now the problem is complicated by technology that students use with increasing facility.

What does it say when a school’s yearbook devotes two pages to “The Art of Deception - Inventive Ways to Cheat.” Maybe the fact that the piece was tongue in cheek says more than we want to acknowledge about the proliferation of cheating.

Whether they’re sharing notes and homework assignments, plagiarizing or cribbing on tests, or texting answers to friends, it all comes down to the fact that for some reason these students feel a need to set themselves up for a fall.

As adults, we need to remind them of the consequences - some obvious, some not so. They may skate by in one particular class, but when faced with the college level class or the SAT or some other significant exam in their future, what will they do when that knowledge is missing because they never learned it in the first place? In the end, cheating may be the end to their dreams of college or a scholarship should they be caught.

We applaud La Jolla High for trying the website, although we recognize teachers’ concerns about its anonymity being cause for concern that could put them in an undeserved spotlight. Giving a zero on a particular test or paper may or may not get the message across, but it’s a small step towards teaching students consequences of their actions.

The key here is that the dialogue should continue: Parents talk to your children; students talk to your friends; teachers talk to your students, administrators talk to everyone. Get the topic out in the open.

We know cheating won’t go away; we just hope that shining a light on it will make some young people think twice before throwing in the towel on studying a little harder.