by Bryan Levin

As a high school student, I always see students glancing at peer’s test papers when they are desperate for answers.  You can always tell that a student is about to cheat when you see the puzzled look of frustration on his face.  While using quick glances at another’s test it is hard for the victim to realize what is going on.  If a student is able to successfully cheat and not get caught it becomes an addiction.  The next thing you know students feel that they never have to study for tests because they made sure that they will have a seat next to the smartest student in the class.  They start to always rely on “the smart kid” to help them pass the test and never think about what would happen if they got caught cheating.  A survey was conducted last March and a “whopping 95 percent of high school students say they’ve cheated during the course of their education, ranging from letting somebody copy their homework to test-cheating”, Rutgers University professor Joan Oleck reports.  The number is jaw- droppi ng and the need for its decrease should be a major concern nation-wide.
Now to answer the question of “Why do students cheat?” I found a very interesting response in an interview between Gary Niels and Robert Kennedy.  Gary Niels who is the author of a high acclaimed paper on cheating and Head of Winston Thurston School in Pittsburgh stated that the reason why students cheat is solely based on their “survival instinct.”  He goes on further to say that the survival instinct “triggers a need to ‘save face.’” He says that saving face can include saving yourself from your parent’s or teacher’s reactions to your grades. Saving face can also include “avoiding embarrassment; it can mean economic survival or a perceived pressure be it self-inflicted or inflicted by some other extraneous force.
Nowadays, college acceptance is the major instigator of this survival instinct” (R. Kennedy).  With the theory that everyone has their own survival instinct, it seems as if we are being compared to animals in the wild, doing what is necessary to survive.  The only difference between animal survival and the survival instinct that students have to cheat is that it is not a life or death situation.  This means that cheating should not be a n option even though this is what many turn to in dire need of help.  The biggest fear, in my opinion, than runs into ones’ mind is the fear of what our parents are going to say when they see a failing test grade.  Parents put so much pressure on their children to do well in school that sometimes the pressure makes them do stupid things so their parents don’t become disappointed.  Depending on how one does on a test the pressure either becomes bigger or smaller.
The blame is not, however, on our parents for putting pressure on us or the pressure of getting into one’s dream college, these are not excuses. The problem that is the origin to all of this madness is the lack of time management.  With many students having a lot of free time to themselves in prior school years, many find that this year there is more homework and projects that take up a lot of time.  I also hear about how many teenagers fight this change in their life and not allow themselves to adapt to the new demands of their increased work load.  Having a social life is what teenagers live for, and when they feel they are missing out on something; they want to find the easiest and quickest way to get their work done so they won’t miss a thing.  Once in a while we [teenagers] ne ed to tell ourselves, that taking the easy way out, as much as it works, will not prepare ourselves for the outside world.  In life there is not always a button that we can push to get ourselves out of a certain predicament.  Just think about being in a situation where you have no choice but to go through with it by yourself.  What will you do then?
Parents and teachers alike have to reminisce back to the times when they were teenagers and think back at how you always wanted to be in on the action and never wanted to be left out.  Think back to all of the times you did stupid things without even thinking about the consequences and then see if you still can’t understand why teenagers sometimes cheat on homework or tests.  The years of being a teenager are the years of learning on your own to prepare yourself for college and the real world.  If teenagers never made a mistake once in a while, they wouldn’t be ready for what is in store for them and for those who disagree and feel that the world is a perfect place, please wake up from your fairytale dream.


By Mr. Lakhaney

TOK Teacher

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