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Create high price for cheating

Two Views • It's not just students who take the easy way out on cheating - schools aren't off the hook, either
by: JAIME VALDEZ Nico Banks and Alex Bloch, sophomores in David Bailey's journalism class at Lincoln, say many students don't know what constitutes cheating anymore.

People are always looking to find the path of least resistance (Cheating easy as A-B-C, March 3). This path becomes even more tempting when there are few or no consequences for choosing it. In schools, we see this at work every day. Students choose to cheat on assignments rather than actually doing the work to truly learn the material. Many don't even consider cheating on minor assignments, such as worksheets or labs, to be dishonest.

There's the idea that because a worksheet or lab may seem insignificant, it's acceptable to cheat on it. The bottom line is that on such assignments, many students are simply too lazy or consider themselves too busy to complete them with integrity.

Some students don't even understand what cheating is, which increases its frequency. Most commonly, students don't consider allowing others to copy their work to be dishonest. Many only think that cheating on major assignments, such as important papers or tests, actually constitutes cheating.

However, when students cheat on these assignments that carry greater weight in a class, they know that what they're doing is wrong. In such cases, students are most commonly motivated by pressure - pressure from teachers, parents, other students, and themselves. There's a common attitude among students that getting an A is more important than actually learning. This means that cheating can be the most effective path to take.

Cheating is such a deeply entrenched part of school culture that it can be difficult for teachers and administrators to combat. To discourage cheating, it's important to go to the root of the problem. For minor assignments, the problem is that students don't think that doing the work honestly is a valuable use of their time. So they simply cheat to receive credit for the assignment, without actually doing it.

If point value were taken away for any minor assignments, motivation for this scale of cheating would disappear. Students would instead learn that in order to do well on tests and other major assignments, they would need to complete the less-demanding homework. This would give students more control over their own education, allowing them to develop the ability to self-evaluate. It would also emphasize the value of doing work for the sake of learning, rather than to get a good grade.

Discouraging cheating on major assignments is harder to deal with, simply because if the motivation is pressure to receive a high grade, the reward oftentimes outweighs the risk of getting caught. Consequently, the risk associated with cheating needs to be increased. In other words, severe consequences need to be in place for those who cheat.

Punishment for dishonesty on major assignments can be an effective solution, because of the fear it instills. For punishment to be used successfully, the teacher must first set out a severe punishment for cheating, such as failing the assignment or even the class. Second, and most importantly, the teacher must actually follow through with the punishment.

Either way, consistency is key, although it can be difficult to catch those who are willing to devote so much energy to finding ways to be devious.

So, once again, the most effective solution would be to go to the root of the problem: that grades outweigh learning. This can be extremely hard in a society where material success is valued above all else. But teachers can still emphasize the importance of learning through teaching integrity. They can do so by being tolerant of honest mistakes and other infractions in class while being extremely intolerant of dishonesty.

Parents also play an important role in teaching their children that cheating isn't a viable option. Most importantly, parents and teachers alike should model honest, uncompetitive behavior.

Cheating may be unavoidable, but that doesn't mean that we can't discourage it by placing more focus on learning instead of on receiving a high grade- a path that is worth the work.

Lucia Webb and Rebecca Lewinsohn are juniors and co-associate editors of The Cardinal Times at Lincoln High School.