Why Smart Students Cheat

"Why do students cheat?" is a silly question, because the answer is obvious: to pass the test. Indeed, a lof of kids cheat because they couldn't pass the test otherwise, no matter how hard they study, but that's not the case in New York City's flagship public school Stuyvesant, where most kids are already very, very, very smart.

No, they have their own calculus on why they should cheat:

At Stuyvesant, the alma mater of four Nobel laureates, students say the social currency is academic achievement.

Although students enter the school knowing they are among the best in the city, they must compete with hundreds just like them. And, they say, the pressures only grow: they are convinced that they are bound for bright futures, yet not all are equipped for the work that entails. They are trained to hand in every assignment without always believing in its value. They described teachers as being relatively sympathetic, discouraging cheating, but not always punishing it as severely as school policy dictates.

All this makes for a culture in which many students band together, sharing homework and test advice in a common understanding that they simply have to survive until they reach their goals: dream colleges and dream jobs.

“I’m sure everybody understood it was wrong to take other people’s work, but they had ways of rationalizing it,” said Karina Moy, a 2010 graduate of the school. “Everyone took it as a necessary evil to get through.”

Vivian Yee of The New York Times has the story: Link


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When I taught high scool biology I'd some times give one of my multiple choice tests and grade them w/o putting any marks on the papers. I'd hand them back and tell the students I didn't have time to grade them. Then I'd give them the answers and have them grade the papers. A significant number of kids changed some answers and gave themselves a higher grade. Those kids all got zero for a grade and the kids that did not cheat got 100. What surprised me was that a few honor roll students would cheat. I told them that when they graduated and got any honors, I'd always remember they were cheats. I had many other tricks like scrambling questions and answers. I tried my best to teach that cheating was not worth it. Word spread quickly.
Do not cheat in Mr.O's class.
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