Apparently, cheating is rampant at New York's flagship high school that prepares elites for leadership roles (New York Times, "Stuyvesant Students Describe the How and the Why of Cheating." Other schools across the country may be in similar shape. If so, times are indeed very bad.
Students justify cheating by blaming the teachers, blaming the culture, and arguing that the greater virtue of collegiality and collaboration should win out over cutthroat competition. The article noted:
"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."
So the ends justify the means… How sad for these students to think that life happens at some "future" point at which they can then lead honorable lives as whole human beings. They are living a lie. We pursue false goals and wonder why we have such high suicide rates, alcoholism rates, divorce rates, and other measures of social alienation. We claim to value education but elevate grades over learning.
Standardized testing plays a big part of the cheating culture. Smaller class sizes and emphasis on critical thinking could help. De-emphasizing grades and emphasizing the life skill of centering and character might also help. What made me want to cry were the comments by teachers who said administrators sided with students and parents when cheating was discovered.
To all educators: please read this article and make sure you get through the posted comments.
[Thanks to colleague Bob Nicholson for forwarding this article.]