State University of New York Institute of Technology
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Cheating: What's the Cause?

Of 11 stories highlighted in this week's Institue for Global Ethics news story roundup, 3 of them were about cheating on testing, each one on a different level of society: grade school, college, and professional life. In each case, the objective seemed to be to get a passing grade on a mandatory test. Failure to pass the test had serious consequences for the student/professional's career or future. While cheating at a grade school level may not seem terribly important, cheating among nuclear missile officers in the military could have dire, global-wide implications.

Because there were three stories on the same subject, I began to wonder about the prevalance of cheating, the reasons for it, and whether a common denominator could be found that could be addressed to reduce incidents of cheating.

My first question is whether cheating has increased in American society. From all appearances, this is the case. Next, I wonder whether people are simply desensitized to the wrongness of cheating as a means of getting ahead. Have we failed to pass along a desire to achieve based on one's own merits, and instead simply value succeeding at all costs? Are classrooms and offices failing to prepare students and professionals adequately, so that they feel they can handle the challenge of testing, and feel that they will fail unless they cheat? And finally, are tests too rigorous given the level of preparation, so that those being tested feel that the tests are somehow unfair?

If we could learn the answers to these questions, we might be able to find a common denominator that would help reduce the number of cases; but certainly until we do disover what motivates this frequency and severity of cheating, it seems that it will only get worse.

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