Academic Dishonesty in a Modern Age

Nowadays, it’s easier to cheat than ever. 

It’s only to be expected, of course. With the Internet, mankind has access to more knowledge than at any point in human history- so, knowing what we know about human nature, it’s unsurprising to learn that people are using this for dishonest purposes. 

I’m not talking about in-class tests and quizzes, necessarily. Personally, I think homework is the greatest victim of the world wide web. Don’t know how to do a problem on Khan Academy? Use Mathway or Photomath! Don’t know what the heck William Shakespeare is talking about? Just look up an explanation. Don’t feel like reading Frankenstein? Use the Sparknotes summary. Don’t feel like conjugating your French verbs? Google Translate. Don’t know what to write about for your literary analysis essay? Watch a video of John Green analyzing it for you, and then write about that. It’s only a couple clicks away. 

And, while there may be a tendency to shake your head disapprovingly and mutter about the work ethic of today’s youth, this is a larger problem than just laziness. 

Let’s say, for instance, an AP teacher assigns a take-home FRQ for homework; the assignment is going to be graded. Student A and Student B now must both go home and do the FRQ. Student A knows that all the FRQs from previous exams can be found online somewhere, so they google it and find the answer key. Using the answer key, they answer the FRQ and get a perfect score. So what does Student B do? They know that other students will be doing this; if they were to try to answer the question honestly, without looking it up, they are almost guaranteed to get a worse grade. They are willingly putting themselves at an academic disadvantage. 

So let’s say Student B does the FRQ honestly, and when the grades come back, Student A gets an 100 and Student B gets a 70. Is the “moral satisfaction” that Student B receives really worth the potential loss in GPA?

Let’s consider another scenario. You come home from a track meet one night around nine. You have to shower, eat dinner, and do all your homework; you have fifty pages of Catcher in the Rye to read for tomorrow, some textbook work for your history class, studying for a computer science quiz, and on top of it all, you have some Khan Academy due at midnight. So, why shouldn’t you just open up Mathway and get the Khan out of the way? After all, you need to prioritize; you can’t waste time on some simple math assignment you probably know how to do anyway; you want to get to sleep before two. At the end of the day, you’ll get a 100 on the assignment, and you’ll get to sleep as well. 

I’m not defending academic dishonesty; I know it’s wrong.  What I want to do, however, is dispel the idea that students are cheating because they are ignorant or lazy. This new wave of academic dishonesty is a byproduct of the society in which modern students are being raised. Despite what we are told by schools about character and honesty, at the end of the day students believe (rightly, perhaps) that their GPA is all that really matters. After all, there’s no spot for a “character rating” on your resume. 

We are taught to prioritize; to take difficult, challenging classes; to work in the most efficient way possible; to use technology to our advantage. It is not so much of a leap to use that same technology to get homework answers in the easiest way possible. 

In today’s academic society, there is a Machavellian impression that the ends always justify the means; that the person who got the A-plus by cheating is just more clever than the person who got the honest B; after all, all colleges will see is the grade. It is the byproduct of the society that is less about learning, and more about scores; be it GPA, SAT, ACT, or AP. 

So how do we fix it? I have no simple answer. But we need to take a hard look at the environment in which students are being raised, and remember that how you get there is just as important as where you end up.