Cheating in Public Schools

K-12: Why cheating must be eliminated

Bruce Deitrick Price
April 18, 2021

Cheating is all too common in our public schools. Bad students want all the help they can get. Even the best students might steal an advantage if they think they won’t be caught. In any case, cheating comes in all shapes and sizes, some of it very creative.

The tendency in the US is to be indulgent, to look the other way. There are usually rules against cheating; but the rules are enforced unevenly and erratically. Many people probably think: a little cheating never hurt anyone. (This article is intended to refute that attitude. Cheating hurts everyone.)

A lot of factors protect cheaters and cheating. Teachers don’t want to cripple a student’s career. Better, they think, to promote children to the next grade no matter what. Some cheaters are remarkably clever, using hidden electronics and other original strategies. I suspect this maverick intelligence buys some prestige for cheating. People this smart will do well in life, why make a big deal of their cheating?

Another enabling factor: cheating conceals the reality of our K-12 schools, where not much is taught or learned Cheating maintains the illusion that the school system is doing a good job. Principals and administrators can proudly point to a high graduation rate! If these people really wanted to stop cheating, they probably could. But they don’t. There might be a big exodus from some schools. Administrators would no longer have jobs.

Traditionally, American culture praised honesty. Generally speaking, students heard cheating condemned. Some people might cheat but virtually no one defended cheating. Now the message is much softer, if there’s any message at all. Many children probably hear this message: do what you gotta do. The message year-by-year becomes more permissive, which encourages lower standards.

One spectacular indication of the problem is the essay for hire. This particular mail order business is vast. There seem to be many hundreds of these companies selling tens of thousands of dishonest research papers. Even kids in high school, if they have the money, can purchase a professionally written paper, and continue to do so right through graduate school. Some of these companies play word-games in their ads, claiming that purchasing an essay is not plagiarism because the original author “allowed” this transaction. After all, it’s a case of “victimless” plagiarism. That’s the depths to which people are sinking. Everything shoddy and for sale. But what are the repercussions of so much dishonesty and cynicism?

Clearly many people, throughout our society, have been promoted beyond their actual ability and competence. Cheating in high school and college can obviously create a more impressive resume and better job offers. But there will automatically be pockets of incompetence where employees cannot do a job as well as the bosses assume.

But here’s the aspect that started to bother me the most. A cheater is stealing the future from a non-cheater. We should be helping the honest kids. Instead, the cheaters get scholarships or promotion. They get more respect than the non-cheater, who ends up a notch below his deserved spot. That is the tragedy.

Isn’t it reasonable to think that some industrial accidents result because people can’t actually read manuals and such? They have to guess a lot. They look at the illustrations, that’s what they’ve been taught to do since the first grade. Finally they’re in charge of something dangerous. Maybe they cheat on their tests for nursing, fire department, police, and the military. So now we have weak links scattered throughout the society.

Main thing is not to abandon the honor students. If we allow cheating to go on, we basically steal from the honest people. And by a secret unseen route, we attack and weaken our own society. We hurt the good guys and hurt ourselves. Isn’t this starting to look like a bad deal?

Sure it’s tacky and nothing to write home about but all through our society there are people who have been demoted to the B and C level when in fact they are the A students.

We have entered the age of dishonesty. A time of flexible logic, squishy morals,, and sophistry de jour. The New York Times recommends lying if that will hurt Trump. Just look at the mainstream mendacious media. They are notorious now for being unreliable. These fatuous people brag when Snopes agrees with their lies.

So the real story is not about the cheaters. It’s about the honest people who have been systematically pulled downward because we allow cheating.

Bruce Deitrick Price is the author of six books, an artist, a poet, and an education reformer. He was born in Norfolk, Virginia, earned Honors in English Literature from Princeton, served two years in the Army, and then lived many years in Manhattan.

Price explains educational theories and methods on his ed site (founded in 2005). He has 400 education articles and videos on the Internet. More forcefully than most, Price argues that the public schools are mediocre because our Education Establishment wants them that way.

Price’s literary site is .

© Copyright 2021 by Bruce Deitrick Price



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