This week, I am blogging a four-part series on the cheating epidemic educators are seeing in our schools today—both in K-12 and higher education. Yesterday, I offered five reasons why I think we’ve seen a rise in cheating students. Surveys reveal that three of four students admit to cheating on tests or assignments. These students are not necessarily bad kids or troubled kids, but they’ve been conditioned to cheat by our culture. Many kids tell me each year: “Everyone’s doing it.” But how could they? Are teachers not paying attention? Have parents failed to develop a conscience in their kids today? If so, what do we need to do to rekindle their conscience? Let me offer three vital ingredients we must build into our kids to accomplish this.
Cultivating a conscience in students
As I interact with students about cheating, the first observation I notice is how acceptable it has become. Their conscience is numb. Cheating is familiar territory for most kids I meet. Even expected. In an effort to better understand cheating, scientists have concluded that it’s motivated by three realities in society today:
- Fear of Loss – We don’t want to lose something we feel we deserve.
- Creativity – We’ve become innovative in finding loopholes to help us do it.
- Observing dishonest behavior – We gain permission from other cheaters.
Consider the facts. Each of these triggers has expanded over the last thirty years. Kids feel entitled to better grades. Kids now possess creative ways via technology to help them cheat. And due to the push to gain an advantage, they give each other permission to cheat. It’s actually contagious, just like jay-walking or yawning.
Here are three ingredients to cultivate a conscience in students:
1. Empathic relationships.
Students are more prone to cheat when they are self-absorbed. When all that matters is “me” I don’t care much about what happens to others. I am open to cheating someone else for personal gain. The trait of empathy furnishes us with compassion beyond our own needs and wants. It allows us to feel what others do and care about needs beyond our own.
2. Ethical standards
Students are prone to cheat when they’ve never developed a set of values or moral standards to live by. If parents have failed to give them a sense of right and wrong, expediency rules the day. We will do whatever we have to do to get what we want. Pragmatism replaces principles. A set of ethics that provide students with a compass to make decisions by can be a self-image booster and a guardrail on their path.
3. Expanded perspective.
Students are prone to cheat when they only see the “little picture.” In other words, if I cannot see past my own little world, if I cannot see how my cheating affects others, I may see nothing wrong with it. I believe we must expose students to real world scenarios that illustrate how deception can negatively impact others; how a small bad choice can have a negative ripple effect on the people around me.
Tomorrow, we will dig further into this issue of morals and ethics. For now, let me hear from you…