The following post features a letter from one of Mary B.’s students and includes my response here below:
I’m a 19 year old student, who has recently read your articles on cheating in school. I have a few ideas as to why cheating has become more common schools today. There are a lot of reasons why students cheat, but I want to focus on some big ones that I have witnessed or experienced over the years. These include: parental influence, extracurricular activities, work overload, and sheer laziness.
Positive parental influence is one of the cornerstones of success in school as a student. From my experience in High School, students that come from low-income families tend to have less academic support. These kids were typically bullies, had drug problems, and were always focused on having fun because their parents didn’t care enough. However, they still try to cheat at the last minute because they usually care right before they have to take the test, or turn in homework. I’ve known kids in the past that simply didn’t care about school because even if they got a bad report card their parents wouldn’t yell at them. I think with good parenting students are less likely to cheat because the scariest thing is coming home with a bad report card and getting an earful from the parents. Also, if you have a positive parental influence then you will know that education is the key to success in life.
Extracurricular activities were another big one at my high school. Practice was everyday after school until either 5 pm or as late as 8 pm, which really took out a lot of energy after going to school from 8-2. Some sports were more intense than others; basketball, football, soccer, and swimming were the toughest. I played basketball, and after practice all I wanted to do was lie down and relax (not study). As the season progresses, the more competitive it gets. Once offseason starts, all of the focus goes to the upcoming game. I’m not letting people off the hook with cheating because they play sports and don’t have time to study, there is time, and you just have to be responsible about it.
Work overload comes into play when you have a job and go to school. Having a job while in school, especially high school, can be a lot to handle. At my job I am able to study and do homework, so this never affected me. However, some of my friends would work from 3-9, and come home at 9:30 to start homework or study for a test. Having a schedule like this is common for high school and college students, which makes it hard to get studying done.
Laziness is probably the biggest reason why students cheat. Not many students actually enjoy studying and doing homework, so they would rather do other things instead. Lazy students typically put work off to the last minute and don’t give themselves enough time to fully absorb the information or complete the homework assignment. I am a pretty lazy student, at least in high school I was. High School was just really boring for me, and nothing really got me interested in school. It’s different in college, although I could be doing better. I’m not as lazy in college as I was in high school because I’m taking classes that I am interested in, such as environmental studies.
Personally, when it comes to homework, I normally try to get my homework done in a timely manner. I have only cheated a few times, and it happened in high school. I cheated because I was lazy, and didn’t feel like studying chemistry equations because I didn’t understand it. The teacher didn’t seem to care that I was struggling, because I was a senior and didn’t need the class to graduate. The teacher also didn’t mind that I cheated, and laughed at me whenever I did.
Students cheat for a variety of reasons, and I don’t see anything changing. To me there will always be cheating students and cheating people even when they are done with school. Cheating is an unfortunate part of our culture, and it will take something very serious, such as a law, to change it.
Thanks so much for your correspondence.
Without a doubt, laziness is a significant determinant for why some students cheat. But it seems to me that in instances where you decided to cheat, you weren’t just lazy, you were also disengaged.
I sympathize. I also thought high school was really boring. The best times I had invariably came from cutting class.
You cited boredom and a lack of academic motivation in these cases, suggesting that without any meaningful connection to the material, your greatest priority was simply to pass a class.
Far too often, this is the single most important priority for a student, whether he or she is lazy or is truly struggling with the materials. Sadly, I have worked with a great many students at every level of academia who are in way over their heads. By the time you’ve reached graduate school, the support resources for basic compositional skills are far lesser, primarily because you are expected to have obtained all the tools necessary to address more complex scholarly tasks. This is often not the case though.
Many students are likely to feel that they’ve invested far too much time and money at this point to allow a failing grade to derail them. Ironically, parental influence can often be another reason why students cheat. The pressure to satisfy high parental expectations or even a parental attitude that the ends justify the means where her child’s success is concerned can be reasons why students decide to cheat. As point of fact, in my line of work, it is not uncommon for the highly involved parent to provide the credit card that will ultimately pay for her child’s ghostwritten work.
But this shouldn’t be too surprising. With respect to the investment in one’s education, most parents are footing the bill.