Students rationalize cheating: is it worth it?

Ashley Hoang, Staff Writer

Cheating is wrong — but only when it comes to copying answers for a test, right? Most students, regardless of this purpose, can justify their cheating.

“Cheating responsibly” refers to the minor cheating habits of students, usually those under the pressure of an abundance of AP classes and homework. Most students see cheating responsibly to include such acts as copying homework from a friend or sharing prior knowledge of an upcoming quiz.

The word “responsibly” connotes a sense of assurance, maturity, and trustworthy — all of which are contradictory to what cheating really is: deceiving, manipulating, and lying. Students cannot cheat and assure themselves that it’s perfectly normal – because everyone is doing it, right? The term “cheating responsibly” itself is contradictory: students cannot cheat while keeping their honesty intact. There is no such way of cheating or doing it rationally, and students should not use this excuse to justify their dishonesty.

Students who handle loads after loads of homework and AP courses argue that copying class work or having prior knowledge of a test isn’t really considered cheating — it’s more just of a convenience that’ll help them get through the day. Regardless, cheating implies that students are too lazy to complete the given work and many seek excuses to justify their actions.

Even more concerning are the cheating habits students will be unable to break.

In her article, “Studies Find Cheaters Overinflate Academic Ability,” Sarah Sparks says that cheating will eventually have students attempting to appease their consciences: “Not only are students who cheat successfully more likely to cheat again, but as they cheat more frequently they rationalize their cheating to ease their consciences.”

In its most recent survey based on Josephson Institute’s 2010 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth conducted in 2010, the study found that a majority of students that cheat at some point during high school will have the likelihood of increasing their cheating habits the older they get.

With the idea that even the lowest level of cheating could be justifiable if the student has a hard enough workload, students will go on applying this idea to other problems later in life: lying on an interview, stealing from a store or refusing to accept their mistakes. Cheating in its own sense is atrocious, but to excuse and downplay the seriousness of it is downright irresponsible and immature.

Furthermore, students argue that “small scale” cheating occurs practically every day. Based on data collected by Harvard’s The Crimson in an online survey, 42 percent of the surveyed freshmen admitted to cheating on a homework assignment or problem set. Despite this being virtually half of the incoming freshmen class that has cheated, the students consider it being nothing more serious than comparing notes with a fellow classmate.

Cheating, whether it’s merely copying down the answers for homework or sharing answers during a final exam, is still an act of deceit. Students are deceiving their teachers into believing that they understand a subject material, eventually hurting themselves in the future. Cheating can be drowned in excuses of procrastination, all-nighters and an endless workpile, but in the end, it is still cheating. To say that there is a responsible way of cheating is saying there is a responsible way of stealing, lying or scheming.

Students need to open their eyes and question whether they’re putting more effort in legitimizing their cheating habits or in their actual work itself.