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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Is Cheating Normal Now?

I recognize I have blogged before about students, teachers and cheating in schools.  It has reached an all-time high. I suppose the lingering question I have at this point is: is cheating simply the “norm” today? Do we just expect it to happen?


According to U.S. News and World Report:

* 80% of “high-achieving” high school students admit to cheating.

* 51% of high school students did not believe cheating was wrong.

* 95% of cheating high school students said they had not been detected.

* Almost 85% of college students said cheating is necessary to get ahead.

* 75% of college students admitted cheating, and 90% of college students didn’t believe cheaters would be caught.

Instead of downloading more data (if you want the stats on cheating, see my past blogs about it), today I’d like to hear from you.

Do we need to adjust our expectations? Are students entering a world where cheating in some form will be normal and therefore, we must simply help them limit it or use it to their advantage?

Talk to me.



  1. Linda Ellinghausen-Svacha on September 23, 2013 at 6:18 am

    Proverbs 12:22. “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who
    deal truthfully are His delight.”

    The Bible is very clear that God wants us to be truthful in all things. If we ever condone lying or any sin, we are lower God and His holiness. Lying shows a deeper issue (fear, trying to get away with something, trying to be someone you are not, trying to please someone or be accepted, etc). As parents and Christian leaders, I feel it is important to look into the heart and the root of the lying and then address the issue. Too often, we just punish the behavior and do not get to the heart issue. Balance in both is important. When the heart changes, the behavior follows.

    • Tim Elmore on September 23, 2013 at 9:55 am

      Wise words Linda. With our kids and students, I believe we do need to take a deeper look in what the intention was behind their actions, in order to understand their heart and truly address the issue.

  2. Jeff Miller on September 23, 2013 at 6:42 am

    I knew many of my classmates back in the 80s cheated their way through high school…I don’t think it is a new phenomonom that kids cheat in school…they are kids and will push the limits because they are lazy…especially boys…they seem to be the ones who cheat more frequently.

    • Tim Elmore on September 23, 2013 at 10:55 am

      Thank you for your comment. Certainly cheating is not a new phenomenon. It seems that the percentage of students who are cheating is the phenomenon.

  3. Blane on September 23, 2013 at 6:42 am

    I agree with Linda, cheating/lying that is allowed in the classroom setting will bleed over into the rest of the students’ lives: in the workplace, in the home, at church, etc.

    My expectations for students will remain the same: not all of my students will get A’s and B’s; but as long as they do their absolute best, getting A’s and B’s does not entirely matter. Cheating would be nowhere near there best and is actually closer to their least. Cheating is the students’ way of saying that they feel they can’t do better, which is where the role of the teacher comes in to correct that attitude and show the student how they can do better.

    • Tim Elmore on September 23, 2013 at 10:32 am

      Great thoughts Blane. Cheating may seem like the easy way out in many situations, but it often leads to complicated long-term consequences. As adults, we need to model the behavior that we want to see reciprocated in our students.

  4. Timothy Lynn Burchfield on September 23, 2013 at 7:37 am

    Seems like cheating has hit the list of things that are OK. Murder is not. Cheating, drug use, premarital sex and debt you cannot repay all seem to be OK. There are not laws to prevent these from growing even more.
    I served on the board an internet security company for about five years. Our issue that ultimately resulted in the sale of the company was we could never keep up with the changing security risks by hackers. As we searched for programers who could assure us that our software was safe, we were always told that they could assure safety for a period of time only. Like only for a few days before an opportunity to break our security would be present.
    I asked my son who is a software designer for Apple if this was an issue for all internet security companies. He told me either he or one of his friends could break through any security curtain in the marketplace. After hearing his comments I found my answer for the perfect security. The Heart! A pure heart will protect you from any of the above. Pure hearts only come from one place……Jesus.
    My answer is simple for cheating and the other things that have become part of our culture. Create a pure heart in me jesus.

    • Tim Elmore on September 23, 2013 at 10:44 am

      Good observations Timothy. A pure heart with the right intentions is the most simple and profound answer. Unfortunately, our world has become very complex with cluttered intentions, it is no surprise that we are dealing with these security risks.

  5. charlene.fonseca on September 23, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Timothy and Linda, wow…my choice of words exactly. I was thinking the same, that it’s a condition of the heart rooted in fear. Our culture will have an exceedingly more difficult time coming to the Lord with such dismissed dishonesty of the heart. We can pray and we can hold the line where we are the line holders.

    • Tim Elmore on September 23, 2013 at 10:45 am

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Charlene!

  6. Gregg Andrews on September 23, 2013 at 8:55 am

    One new question that needs clarified is the definition of cheating. Just this past weekend, I was discussing this topic with my wife who is a high school english teacher. She has noticed a new trend. Many of her students will copy from the same source on the internet. They google the topic and copy straight from the source. Not unusual huh. Here is the kicker – they don’t know that they are cheating. They are so accustomed to googling everything that they are not aware of wrong doing. They truly believe that they are doing the correct thing.

    • Tim Elmore on September 23, 2013 at 10:49 am

      Wow, that is interesting Gregg. I think if that is truly one of the issues we’re dealing with, then it is up to us, as the adults to educate our students about the appropriate ways to problem-solve. We want to cultivate an environment where our students are using their stored data to interpret and solve the information at hand.

  7. Christine Palidar on September 23, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Bible or no bible, one’s moral compass is at heart of this topic. In addition, I agree with many of the prior suggestions about student self esteem, engagement with the class and/or teacher are significant contributors. I also think we need to teach and test or students to meet today’s information and technology standards and practices so they will be successful in life, beyond the grade. If every kid google’s and finds the same article, and reference it, why can’t we ask them to relate that information to the topic/question? In other words, dive deeper to test understanding and their ability to find relevant information. Those skills are relevant today. The question remains, how to scale evaluation in a system of multiple choice.

    • Tim Elmore on September 23, 2013 at 10:53 am

      Christine, I believe the issues you’ve raised relate to what many believe is a necessary step, and that is an education reform. Somehow, we need to find a way to use the available technology, and integrate that into our education system because it is such an essential part of our society.

  8. Chris on September 23, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    It’s all relative! What really is cheating? People can reason out almost any scenario in their head and make it acceptable. The “phenomena” of cheating that you point out would probably compare with other moral issues that our society has declared morally relative. And with the speed of our technology and information capabilities, I wonder if what was once called cheating in the 1980s (when we wrote notes on tiny pieces of paper rolled up in our ball point pens), just doesn’t have the same feeling of cheating today (where the answers are on every search engine, iProduct, and WiFi connected instrument today). Perhaps the answer is lies in the type of assessment for this newer generation and not so much in the definition. We should never get soft with what is called sin, but we can get creative with how we assess skills and knowledge that prevent or curb cheating and make it feel like it once did.

    • Tim Elmore on September 24, 2013 at 10:13 am

      Interesting points, thanks for sharing Chris! I do agree that we need to get creative in how we assess skills and knowledge. Still, I believe we need to help develop our kids’ morals and values as the leading way to prevent cheating.

  9. Old man Joe on September 23, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    The quality of the seeds of ethics and morals planted in nourished and cultivated grounds for growth develop to establish the value of the harvest of self regulated behaviors.
    Planting sick seeds in poorly nourished and poorly cultivated grounds will reap low value harvests.
    When there is no right and no wrong, then anything goes.
    When there is no black and no white, then everything is gray or some other off color.

    • Tim Elmore on September 24, 2013 at 10:19 am

      Thanks for your comment Joe. I want to strive to help my kids and students plant clearly colored seeds, in order to reap a valuable harvest.

  10. Matt Palka on September 23, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    Quick anecdote. Last week on my college campus, I sat on a bench outside of Titchner hall and counted the number of students sitting around me. Out of twelve students, ten students peered into their own cell phones.

    I think that cheating is easier for students now because of the quick and efficient access to information. They’re more accustomed to technology and can easily find ways around roadblocks where they would usually take the old route. It’s easy and immediate, which unfortunately shrinks the length of the learning experience. It’s very tempting and easy for me to look up and answer and accept it, instead of learning why or how it is correct. Technology should be more of a tool to enhance learning than a crutch or way to avoid the actions with the best consequences in the long run. Cheating may be seen as a victimless path to students and a method of avoiding looking and feeling dumb, when grades don’t define intelligence at all. Do you think too much focus on grades and excelling in education pressures students to cheat too?

    • Tim Elmore on September 24, 2013 at 10:39 am

      Great thoughts Matt. I do think there may be too much focus on grades/outcome and not enough focus on the learning process. There is a satisfaction that comes with learning and then recalling that information that our students will never experience if we continue to only reward grade outcomes.

  11. Jehú Barranco on September 23, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    I have heard the excuse that in the real world, there is an abundance of information that the student can run to and knowing how to GET the information is more important than knowing it (having it memorized). It is for this reason that a lot of students don’t feel bad about cheating. How do you combat this idea?

    • Tim Elmore on September 24, 2013 at 1:23 pm

      While I do believe it is important to gain problem-solving skills (getting and applying information), we also need to master the art of configuring that information in our own brains. If we do not practice using our stored data to figure out a problem, those muscles weaken and we lose the ability to solve a problem without running to another source for help.

  12. Cindykenkel on September 24, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    If I recall, the percent of students who say they have been caught cheating is extremely low. Seems like it was less than 5%. Until students start paying a consequence for cheating; they will continue to do it. As faculty, we must take our role in curtailing this behavior seriously and actually address the issue when it occurs.

  13. Brian Musser on September 24, 2013 at 6:43 pm

    I was having a similar conversation with a faculty member at my university recently. The comment I would make is on the shift in the locus of morality. The peer group now defines morality. Institutions and following institutional rules are morally neutral if not wrong. So when it comes to cheating assisting your friends is a moral good and following the institution is not. So I would say that most students not only feeling cheating is okay but it is actual good to do when they are doing it to help others.

    • Tim Elmore on September 26, 2013 at 7:13 am

      Wow, powerful thoughts. It is alarming to think that students have developed their own moral code, yet it makes sense how cheating would be “okay” if it is about helping others. As educators, we must develop creative ways to get through to these students. Brian, have you or other faculty come to any solutions about actions steps to take at your University?

      • Brian Musser on September 28, 2013 at 12:59 pm

        I don’t think I have many answers to the question. But I think it is ironic that we teach students to develop/generate their own value you system and then become surprised when that value system is different than ours.

        • Brian Musser on September 28, 2013 at 1:03 pm

          Moral relativity and value making gives very little room for the argument against cheating. A value finding culture in which we try to discover rights and wrong instead of create right and wrong is needed.

        • Tim Elmore on September 30, 2013 at 9:02 am

          Hmm, ironic indeed. Perhaps, we need to expose our kids more to other mentors, men and women of character, and other role-models instead of allowing the media and celebrities to influence our kids’ value systems. Just a thought.

  14. Elizabeth on September 25, 2013 at 12:26 am

    If all this information is correct, which I don’t doubt it is, then teachers must be willing to reevaluate their assessment techniques. Obviously every teacher can’t spend their time investigating or laying traps for cheating students, but if there is more spontaneous discussion in class or pop quizzes that really test the students knowledge I believe students could be more motivated and stimulated to learn for real without cheating. Also, a teacher could take a class period for study groups before a test and observe carefully how well each student is grasping the concepts and then see if their performance in the assessment lines up. Just an idea.

    • Tim Elmore on September 26, 2013 at 7:28 am

      Thanks for your comment Elizabeth. Multiple choice testing did not even begin until 1914 as a result of a national crisis. It was a way to process a growing number of college applicants quickly, yet was not intended to be a tool for learning. I believe there is far greater impact that comes from short-answer questions and thought-provoking concepts.

  15. Amy on September 30, 2013 at 11:13 am

    The biggest question we must ask is why has the percentage increased? Cheating is certainly wrong, but why is it most people have come to see it as a necessity? Could it be that we are so inundated with new information that kids don’t know even how to study or what to study? All of us living in this world are constantly getting distracted by everything that is competing for our attention. Are today’s educators understanding the needs of this generation? Kids today need teachers not to tell them information but to help them know what to do with that information, or why it’s even helpful for them. Most could make the argument, I could just google this; why do I need to know it? First of all, we need to tell students that cheating is wrong, and let them know there will be consequences for it. We must also help students find value in actual learning to go beyond being dependent upon someone else.

    • Tim Elmore on October 1, 2013 at 2:52 pm

      Great thoughts Amy. I also, wrestle with many of the questions that you expressed. I believe we all live in a world, cluttered with noise and distractions, that we never even allow ourselves the chance to solve a problem without asking our “lifeline” for the answer. I hope to get to a point where our education system capitalizes on both independent and dependent approaches regarding technology because both are essential for developing our future leaders.

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Is Cheating Normal Now?