In the classroom when a teacher calls for homework to be collected, the feverish shuffling of papers fills the room, along with whisperings of panicked students asking to see a completed paper. If you were to look at the average high schooler’s camera roll on their phone, half of it would be filled with photos of chicken-scratch handwriting on the assignment of their peers. It is instilled into students from a young age that cheating is an academic crime, and every year we are reminded of the drastic consequences for cheating– failing the class or even expulsion. So why is it that so many students are willing to risk their academic career and reputation, for a few points on an assignment or a lower grade on a test?
The answer is rooted in the academic pressure that many students feel from the large workload presented by school. In a 2005 research study conducted by Stanford University found that “The students “know [cheating] is wrong; they tell me they wish they didn’t do it,” she said. “But they feel like the most important thing they do is get the grades, by hook or by crook,” lecturer Denise Clark Pope reported.
After a seven hour school day, and possible after school extracurriculars, students aim to finish their homework as quickly as possible in order to revel in the slim number of hours allocated to sleep. Instead of spending the necessary amount of time doing the assignment, the easy way out is to text a classmate for the assignment, only having to switch the wording of a few sentences which makes the work go quickly and painlessly. Homework, meant to stimulate and reinforce school lectures, turns into meaningless busywork.
In addition, due to the popularity of this easy option, cheating becomes the norm amongst students. This culture comes with the association that every student is okay with setting morals aside to share an assignment, or answers from a test. Students, when asked to send a photo of their work, feel a pressure to send it, as if the other student is depending on them for their academic success. This responsibility for the well-being of one’s peers derives from the added social pressure that comes with being a teenager, aiming to please everyone.
Administrators are not completely blind to the ample academic dishonesty of their students either. To work around the inherent lack of moral judgement in the classrooms, teachers have to create different test versions, every year or even every trimester. This overwork is a waste of time as resources and new copies must be made. Part of a teacher’s job description should not include all the extra work needed to prevent cheating. From creating this “cheating culture,” students not only sacrifice their own integrity, but also the time of their teachers, which could be spent to bettering their education.
The answer to ending the cheating culture must not be found in the increase of academic probations, or the scrutiny of teachers. Instead, the workload and pressure of academic success on students should be decreased so students do not fall prey to cheating. Like all constructs, the problem is deeply ingrained in the structure of the system, and should not be only blamed upon the individuals alone.