Cheaters never prosper

In my time in high school, I’ve been told about academic integrity probably around 20 times.

Each year, in each class, I have sat through the lecture and signed a paper saying that I promise not to cheat. It has been made clear that cheating is a high crime at New Trier.

This makes sense; cheating is a bad thing. The point of school is to learn, and cheating undermines the process. And even if you don’t agree with that, school still puts forth rules for you to follow, regardless of whether you want to or not. So for the school to tell us not to do it, and to punish us for it, is right.

But this article isn’t about the morality of cheating. What I’m more interested in is the fact that I think cheating is very understandable, all things considered.

Of course, not everyone does this, but I will say that a lot of kids probably do (not me).

I think it starts with what school means to us, as students. In very simplified terms, the way we look at school is that good grades lead to a good college which leads to a good life. A heavy course load and extracurriculars only help.

While this is probably not true, I think it’s a worldview that a lot of high school students have adopted. Once you’re in that mindset, it’s difficult to break out of it.

So, if grades are the first step to a good life, it’s unsurprising that doing whatever it takes to get them, moral or not, is the path that a lot of students take.

Weigh the immorality of cheating on a math test against getting into a top 20 school; you’re not going to believe which of those wins most of the time.

Sure, you can study, make quizlets, and re-read the textbook,   but when you need to do that for 4 APs in one night and write a memoir on the side, shortcuts become inevitable.

The pressure can be suffocating, and sometimes cheating looks like the only relief.

What then adds to it is that the work itself isn’t all that meaningful to students. Perhaps they may feel worse if they really thought that their homework was valuable or their calc test would make them a better person. But for most, that’s not the case.

It’s just stuff teachers assign. Another quiz with another scantron to fill out. When something lacks meaning, it becomes even more difficult to feel guilt when you’re undermining the value of the assignment. Who cares about how you get the points as long as they’re in the grade book?

The nature of how our education system works seems to make cheating inevitable. It’s just another symptom, no less common or more surprising than not sleeping; the only thing that sets it apart is the ethical question it poses.

As long as we put such an emphasis on the numbers that end up on our transcript, I don’t think teachers should be all that surprised when they see wandering eyes.

I don’t foresee our school-centered outlook changing any time soon, so I suppose the same can be said about cheating.

In conclusion, don’t cheat. But for all the cheaters out there, I kind of get it.