STOP the War on Children

April 15, 2011

Cheating and Feeling Good About It

By Dr. Karen Gushta
Cheating doesn’t pay. Or does it? Most students today apparently think it does. Even though most say it’s wrong, 59 percent admitted cheating on a test, according to a 2010 survey of 40,000 public and private school students.
By contrast, only 20 percent of students surveyed said they had cheated at sports. This may say something about what kids are learning through academics versus the standards that are still upheld in athletic competition. Commenting on this phenomenon, John Fremer, president of a private test-security company in Midvale, Utah, said, “…on average, one of the things they are learning in school is how to cheat.”
The annual survey done by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics also found that 61 percent of students reported having lied to a teacher about “something important,” and more than 80 percent said they had copied homework.
If what students are learning is how to cheat, it’s worth noting what they are not learning. In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, “The New Humanism,” David Brooks observed, “When we raise our kids, we focus on the traits measured by grades and SAT scores. But when it comes to the most important things like character and how to build relationships, we often have nothing to say.”
Since the Ten Commandments were removed from schools, the ninth commandment, which prohibits “bearing false witness,” is routinely ignored by students who are not being taught that the “lying tongue” is an “abomination” unto the Lord (Proverbs 6:16-17).
How does cheating affect students who do it? According to research published in the March Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the short-term benefits of higher scores seduce cheaters into developing inflated expectations for their future performance.
Reporting on this research in Education Week, Sarah D. Sparks wrote, “The Harvard-Duke research also showed that cheaters lied to themselves.” One of the doctoral students involved in the study said, “In our experiments, we find that social recognition reinforces self-deception… getting a high grade will lead ‘Alex’ to feel smart, and being treated as smart by the teacher will lead Alex to feel smarter still.”
Sparks commented that “the Harvard-Duke study adds to emerging research suggesting that the mental hoops that students must leap through to justify or distance themselves from cheating can cause long-term damage to their professional and academic habits.”
In other words, if you hire an employee who has cheated his or her way through school and lied to teachers, you should not be surprised to find that employee “cheating” by cutting corners and lying to you. As Dr. D. James Kennedy wrote in Why the 10 Commandments Matter, “Lies not only destroy people’s trust in us. They also label us as untrustworthy…. People do not trust a liar. How can they? There is always a question about a person’s truthfulness once he has been caught in a lie, and the stigma generally lasts a lifetime.”
Sad to say, however, many student cheaters do not see the gravity of what they have done, nor do they acknowledge the effects their actions have on their moral character. As noted above, parents have not been focusing on character. Rather, as author Colleen Carroll Campbell points out, baby boomer parents, teachers and media gurus have focused on increasing children’s “self-esteem,” resulting in a generation brimming with narcissism.
The rising generation excuse their rule breaking while claiming to be satisfied with their own ethics and character. The common view of today’s youth is, as The Josephson Institute found in their 2008 survey, “When it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.”
Nevertheless, there is no escape from the consequences of sin in our lives unless it is confessed and forgiven and renounced. As Dr. Kennedy wrote, “A lie is a very serious matter to God for the simple reason that He is truthful.”  Because God is truthful, His universe operates according to fixed and immutable laws. “If God’s Word were not absolute and firm forever,” Dr. Kennedy observed, “then neither would the laws of His universe be reliable and subject to scientific investigation. We would have only chaos.”
Likewise, when the words of men and women are not firm and governed by the standard truth, chaos ensues. Human relationships and societies based on lies and deception will ultimately disintegrate and collapse. And, lying has eternal consequences. Among those who will forever remain outside the heavenly city, as stated in Revelation 22:15 will be “whoever loves and practices a lie.”
Isn’t it time to set clear standards for truthfulness and develop a code of honor for students in our schools? Giving students examples of heroes who have stood for truth at the risk of their own self-interest and requiring students to adhere to a code of conduct that forswears cheating and lying would be a good addition to the standard curriculum in our schools.
And, while we’re at it, let’s post the Ten Commandments too. God’s eternal, absolute, moral law provides the best “character education” we can offer.

Dr. Karen Gushta is research coordinator at Coral Ridge Ministries and author of The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk. Dr. Gushta is a career educator who has taught at all levels, from kindergarten to graduate level teacher education, in both public and Christian schools in America and overseas. Dr. Gushta served as the first international director of Kid’s Evangelism Explosion. She has a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Education from Indiana University and Masters degrees in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico and in Christianity and Culture from Knox Theological Seminary.

The War on Children by Dr. Karen Gushta Request The War on Children: How Pop Culture and Public Schools Put Our Kids at Risk, by Dr. Karen Gushta.
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