Academic dishonesty has been around as long as schools have existed, but a report submitted to the Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education this month suggests that students everywhere are less likely to think there’s any harm playing fast and loose with the rules.
“If you’ve been looking at the news over the last year you’ve seen a lot of school districts in trouble for problems that they’ve had on tests," explained Supt. Brian Whiston at the board's April 23 meeting, "so we have been trying to focus on academic integrity–not only for our students, but for our staff and for us as a central office."
Whiston explained that information given to board members detailed the district's efforts at eradicating and addressing academic dishonesty.
David Mustonen, the district’s spokesman, said the district doesn’t believe Dearborn schools have a rampant problem with cheating, but it’s something the board is keeping an eye on.
“(The board) asked for the report because they are concerned students might not take the consequences of cheating seriously,” he said. “This is something they want to know more about, and it tied into a video that was made to warn students about doing something in the remainder of the school year that could cause them not to walk for graduation.”
Cheating a 'Major, Growing Problem'
The district’s cheating policy is laid out in the student code of conduct, which is also posted online. Cheating punishments can range from parent meetings and counseling, to detention, school-mandated service requirement and expulsion.
A recent study from Duke University indicated that 75 percent of students surveyed admitted to cheating. That’s in agreement with the research of Dr. Nabeel Abraham, the director of the honors program and an anthropology professor at .
“We should start off with the question, 'Is cheating a problem in society, in our schools, in our colleges (and) in our universities?'” Abraham said during at the Monday night board meeting. “In a quick search of the Internet and other resources indicates that the problem is not only a major one, but is growing.”
Abraham said many forms of cheating are taking place at schools all over the United States.
“In education, the problem is sometimes referred to as academic dishonesty, which often takes the form of plagiarism–that is, presenting someone else’s work as one’s own,” Abraham explained.
“More blatant forms of academic dishonesty include gaining access to test questions or answers prior to or during an exam,” he added. “In 2008, the Center for Academic Integrity found, in a survey of 18,000 high school students, that 70 percent admitted to serious cheating, 60 percent whom had admitted to plagiarism, and more than half had plagiarized work found on the Internet.
Reasons for Cheating
Technology, while arguably essential in today's academic world, is also opening new pathways for cheaters. All over the country, students have photographed tests with their cell phones, texted test answers, purchased term papers online, and plagiarized other’s work. It’s so easy that some students hardly give it a thought.
“Worst of all in my opinion, most of them didn’t see anything wrong with what they did," Abraham said. "I think that’s a serious problem."
There are other factors that seem to spur cheating, however.
Abraham said students are looking for a moral compass in adults, and not finding one. Additionally, students sometimes believe an assignment is irrelevant. And sometimes students inadvertently find themselves in a situation where they don’t know how to properly cite work completed by others.
But the most compelling reason is that young people don’t see, much less face, and negative consequences for dishonest dealings.
If the students don’t think cheating is important, it’s not a view shared by teachers and administrators, said School Board President Mary Lane.
“Many of us have remembered times when we have literally been ready to march (at graduation), then we get a problem–a student has misbehaved, it might be academic, it might be behavioral,” Lane said. “We don’t want to say that students can’t participate, but when there’s serious misconduct, people have to suffer consequences from that.”
Abraham questioned why any adult would not think cheating in school is important.
“It does matter because the students of today will become society’s leaders, corporate officials, bankers, athletes, law enforcement personnel, accountants, doctors, lawyers, airplane pilots, and most importantly, teachers,” he said. “Ultimately, they are going to take over.”
Correction: A previous version of this article suggested that videos being shown to Dearborn Public Schools high school students specifically addressed the issue of cheating. That is incorrect. According to district spokesman David Mustonen, "The video was done to remind seniors not to take part in any type of behavior such as pranks, reckless driving, skipping school, becoming lazy or complacent, or worse yet taking drugs or drinking alcohol. All of these types of behavior could jeopardize their chance to walk at commencements, attend prom, or take part in other activities."