Opinion: Is Cheating in School Really That Bad?

Peyton Carley

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In every single syllabus I have received in my academic career, there has been at least a paragraph about the class teachers policy on cheating. Any test or quiz or homework assignment, any form of cheating on those would result in a zero. These rules are consistent with just about every teacher policy out there. But these clauses and notes do not stop students from cheating on various things. According to a study done by Dr. Donald McCabe and the International Center for Academic Inquiry, 95% of high schoolers admitted to any form of cheating, including cheating on tests, and plagiarism.

Now, plagiarism is the lowest of the low given the fact that there are actual contracts that you have to sign stating that you will not plagiarize because it is a crime to take something and pass it off as your own. But other forms of cheating from high schoolers seem, just normal. Teachers don’t like that high schoolers are relying on each other for answers, when I believe that’s exactly what we should be teaching in the school system. Not necessarily cheating, but more collaboration with students in order to improve our grades.

The way I see it, there are three different types of cheating. There is straight up copying an assignment, there’s looking off a kid’s paper on a test or quiz, then there is sneaking notes on the test. All of these are frowned upon by teachers everywhere. But, why is that exactly? High schoolers need good grades, yes we NEED them in order to set ourselves for the post-college world, and the fact of the matter is that cheating is occasionally the best way to get those grades. A study was done by the Open Education Database, and through that study, they found that people who cheat on various tests and quizzes have a higher GPA than the average student.

Being in high school, I know about all the homework swaps and group chats specifically for copying homework. I have never been a part of one of those chats, but I’m not against it. Here’s the deal, high school is meant to prepare us for the future. It’s meant to help us with our endeavors into the real world. But let me throw this question at you. Most high school tests don’t allow any sort of notes to be used on whatever test you take. But I never understood this because when you get in the real world, is your boss ever going to ask you, “Hey you need to fill out those expense reports, but you can’t use any spreadsheets or data from the company over the past fiscal year.” The answer is no. Why is the answer no? Well simply because the boss in this situation wants you to do the best you can on those expense reports so that you and your boss don’t get in trouble.

So here’s my question, why don’t we have that same dynamic in school? We want to do the best we can on tests and quizzes, and the fact of the matter is that the best way for us to do that is to use notes. And I know the counterargument to this claim is that the students shouldn’t use notes so they show that they learned the content that was presented in class. But using notes on a test doesn’t mean that you didn’t learn anything. It takes basic knowledge of what a certain test is over in order to do well, even with notes. There is nothing wrong with using notes on a test, and it will end up benefiting us in the future.

Certain types of cheating are bad, I get it. Plagiarism is one that nobody should do because it brings down the integrity of the student by not being able to simply think creatively about something to write. But if other forms of cheating work, and high schoolers benefit more from doing it than not, then what’s the big deal?