Reader feedback: Ethical failing

Re: Teaching the next generation to cheat, Editorial, July 7-13, Vol 9, No 26

I agree completely with this editorial, and this is based on many years of university teaching experience in Slovakia.

My students were stunned when I told them that no level of cheating would be allowed in my courses (and this ironically included a course in ethics), that the penalty for cheating once was a zero score on the project or test, and the penalty for a second time was being dropped from the course with a final grade of F, or zero.

In spite of this, students tried all the usual ways to cheat - from flagrant plagiarism to trying to see another student's answers to writing possible answers or clues to answers on various body parts (which sometimes offered some interesting displays).

It usually took failing three or four students before the seriousness of the threat sank in. And then the next term we'd start all over again with a fresh group, virtually all of whom had cheated previously and expected to continue cheating their way through school (and life).

Most sadly, when the course was over and the subject of my strict zero-tolerance policy on cheating came up with students, they freely admitted that they had always cheated, that they cheated in other classes, and so could see no reason not to cheat in life.

In this respect, as a teacher of philosophy, I considered myself to be virtually a complete failure as a teacher. I doubt that my no-cheating lectures and policies made one bit of difference in even one student.

One ought to feel both sad and concerned facing a society that not only condones but rewards those who lie, cheat and steal to get ahead.

Don Merritt,

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