Cheating Is Lying

Published March 1, 2000

Cheating by students is on the rise, with students taking their cues from adult attitudes, says Michael Josephson, who heads California’s Josephson Institute for Ethics.

A 1998 Institute survey showed that as many as seven out of 10 high school students have cheated on an exam. Middle school teacher David Summergrad of Wayland, Massachusetts, says students simply shrug off criticism of cheating with, “It’s no big deal–everybody does it.” But students get angry when he calls them liars for misrepresenting what they turn in as being their own work.

Summergrad likens their attitude to that of President Clinton, who was willing to confess to the human weakness of cheating on his wife, but not to the character flaw of being a liar. “Connecting cheating with lying unmasks the ‘sleight of mind’ that allows students to think of cheating as a justifiable way to act,” Summergrad wrote recently in Education Week.