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Yehudis Rabinowitz

Prof. Matthew Decker

ENGL 101A- 31266

April 6, 2017

Our Cheating Society

In the essay Too Much Pressure, by Colleen Wenke, the world of cheating in the

classroom is brought into a new light. She views the cheating through a pinhole, and skates over

the societal influences on the students. Her essay shows students have accepted a culture of

cheating. She ignores the blatant public examples of cheating in the hierarchy of the culture from

the president to Congress to sports stars and businessmen. She focuses instead only on common-

place cheating occurring in school settings and the lack of punishment for this cheating. She

doesnt take into account that students are only copying what they see in the media and the many

ways contraband answers get smuggled into testing environments.

Wenkes essay explores the school environment of cheating, and the general acceptance

from the teachers of the students academic dishonesty of their students. The students in question

have invented various ways in which to cheat, from copying homework to giving out copies of

the exam (Wenke 565). She then goes on to detail some of the numerous ways students were

caught cheating, ranging from answers etched on pencils to merely discussing the test. She uses

the grade boosts these students get as a segue to discussing school, and the academic mindset of

the schools, when her parents were enrolled. Her discussion with them leads her to delve into

researching the topic of cheating and its ever-growing presence in the classroom setting.

Wenke then continues to support her hypothesis with handpicked sources strongly

backing her claim. One source, by Robert L. Maginnis, a policy anlyst for the Pentagon as well
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as a published researcher, strongly attributes the rise in cheating to the degradation of the values

schools used to hold dear (Wenke 565). Further analysis and research uncovers that schools have

changed the way they test their students. Schools have gone from goal-oriented environments to

grade-centric environments, and because of these changes nearly all students, roughly 98 percent

(Wenke 566), cheat. This is also because the idea that cheaters dont prosper or have a good life

has been dispelled. Cheaters now prosper and have great lives -- our current president being a

great example -- but this creates a black hole, the students are sucked into beliving that the

cheating does not hold sway over their future. The students see others putting in less work and

getting better grades, and they feel cheating is a required tool to get ahead in life. This is why

administrations have a difficult time reprimanding and punishing cheaters. At the end of her

essay Wenke bombards her readers with a barrage of questions with unsatisfactory answers: Is

our society teaching that this is the only way to get ahead in life? Does obtaining status and

power make you good? and the answer she provides is a nonanswer: Schools are drifting away

from emphisising learning and are emphisising grades instead. She then ends with the

definitive statement: Only then will cheating decline (Wenke 568).

Wenke makes a very rational argument, yet she keeps alluding to the societal influences

of the students without delving deeper. She cites the key institutions holding sway over the

students as school, family, media, church and the government (Wenke 565). However, she only

skates over the idea and fails to identify how strongly these organizations influence the students

willingness to cheat. In 2016 the University of Texas published an article written by Robert

Prentice, a lawyer who focuses on regulatory oversight and ethical decision making, about a

study done on bridge players, and they found that not only was cheating common, but bridge

players had largely resigned themselves to living with it (Prentice). This a similar situation to
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the students it was also influenced by outside sources and improved because of them. The article

discusses how online forums allowed winners to discuss how to improve, but more sinisterly

allowed cheaters to discuss the best ways to cheat. This was all shaken up when anonymous

forums opened up to expose those perpetual cheaters (Prentice).

Just as the students thought they could get away with the cheating, so did the bridge

players. This was partly due to it being relatively easy for cheaters to avoid any serious risk of

being detected and partly due to the desire of governing bodies to avoid any risk of being sued

for making false accusations (Prentice). The fear of being sued is very real for organizations,

such as schools, who rely on a steady stream of donations and/or public funding to keep afloat.

When a school is threatened with a lawsuit the schools try their best to accommodate the

accusing party because they do not have the funds for a legal battle. This is the same as the

bridge organizations, who rely on membership fees. If too many members are repeatedly accused

of cheating, they will gain the reputation of a disreputable establishment and their membership

fees will dry up.

The bridge cheating problems can be fixed the same way as the student cheating: the

true solution is for the game to develop a firmer cultural commitment to ethical play (Prentice).

This commitment needs to come from those playing, not from those coaching. The classroom

commitment needs to work the same way. The change needs to be from the students and not the

teachers. The students need to consider their own ethics and not the corruption around them. If

the students are instilled with their own senses of moral right and wrong, then when their peers

pressure them into cheating, they will understand the ethical problem, and want a clean moral

slate more than a grade boost. Unfortunately, this has not happened yet, and students still

struggle to put their morals above their grades.


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This is a sad reality, but this is the reality the students are living in and as a Newsweek

article by Chris Loschiavo so eloquently put it: the students [see everyone] from politicians

cheating, to corporate scandals such as Enron, to the steroid scandal in major league baseball, to

the NFLs deflategate our students are surrounded by dishonesty (Loschiavo). And this

dishonesty prevails because of the dishonesty that is surrounding the perpetrator. It is a cycle that

will not end until the students own morals hold more sway than the corrupt morals of the society

they live in. When these morals outweigh the need for a better grade and students stop allowing

their environment to hold excessive sway over their decision, then and only then will there be a

decline in cheating, in the classroom and beyond.


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Works Cited
Loschiavo, Chris. Why Do Students Cheat? A Dean Explains. Newsweek.com. 24 May 2015.

Newsweek. 28 March 2017.

Prentice, Robert. "Ethics Unwrapped." 2016. ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu. 4 April 2017.

<http://ethicsunwrapped.utexas.edu/our-cheating-culture>.

University of Texas. experts.utexas.edu. 2015. Web. 9 April 2017.


<http://experts.utexas.edu/robert_prentice>.

Wenke, Colleen. Too Much Pressure. The Brief Bedford Reader. Ed. Jane E. Aaron,

Dorothy M. Kennedy, X.J. Kennedy, and Ellen Kuhl Repetto. Boston: Bedford/St.

Martins, 2012. 564-8. Print.