Honesty, integrity, and the cheating crisis in schools


Grayson Joslin, Editor

Honesty and integrity are two words that students hear administrators and teachers talk about all across America’s schools when they want to address student behavior.

What does honesty and  integrity mean and why is it so important in a school setting? What happens when a student does not have skills of integrity or honesty?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, honesty is “an adherence to the facts” and “fairness and straightforwardness of conduct”. Merriam-Webster also states that integrity is a “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values”.

Honest and integrity are two important value students need to have if they want to succeed in school and in life in general. Examples of these values in action are good student-student and student-teacher relationships built on mutual confidence and respect. People are not born with traits of integrity, and they must learn those traits as they grow and mature.

How can a student use these skills in a school setting? Students should follow their school’s handbook for the rules and the guidelines of the school. When in the office, students should tell the truth and not be misleading and placing the blame on another person. When in high-pressure situations, students should not try to “find the easy way out” and risk punishment, but instead stick to their morals and values.

What happens when these principles and traits are not present in students?

Perhaps the biggest example of lack of honesty and integrity in schools is cheating. Cheating has been a crucial issue facing teachers and administrators in schools across the nation. The Cambridge English Dictionary defines cheating as “to behave in an dishonest way in order to get what you want”. According to the New Castle High School handbook, “Both the person copying as well as the person knowingly providing information to, or doing work for, another student is considered cheating”.

Many students believe that what they are doing is “helping a friend” by just giving them answers if they are stuck on a question. That is not helping a friend, that is blatant cheating. Students need to learn that giving their friends the answers to homework is not an acceptable or ethical way to help a friend in class.

Studies show troubling data about the current state of cheating in schools. Research from the Educational Testing Service shows that more above-average students (students who are more likely to take AP and dual-credit classes) are being pressured into cheating. These studies also indicate that starting in middle school, students start to cheat more due to the increased emphasis on grades. The most concerning data from this research is that 75% of high school students have cheated.

The long-term hindrances that cheating causes outweighs the short-term benefits. NCHS’s cheating policy states that in the first offense of cheating, the student will receive a zero on that particular assignment and the parent is contacted about the incident. The second offense will result in a failing grade in that class for the period. The third offense will result in failure for the semester. In a student is in National Honor Society and they are found cheating, then their membership in NHS is promptly revoked.

It seems like students pass off cheating as something minor until they face the consequences. By cheating, that student has automatically voided the trust and honor that they have built with their teachers and their peers. If students are found cheating, then it could be put on their record. Therefore, students could have problems applying for colleges and scholarships. In college, the punishments are must stricter. If you cheat even once, then in most cases you are automatically expelled.

Right now, in schools across America, students are stressed about the competition of who has the highest GPA and the highest class rank. Within all of this competition and stress, students seem to have lost the true purpose of school: to learn. Students will do whatever they can to bump their grade in an AP class or to increase their GPA. Students should not bend the rules in order to achieve a higher grade. Students must let honesty and integrity reign in the classroom.