Cheating — and other academic stories

“Roughly 62 percent of undergraduates and 40 percent of graduate students admit to having cheated on written work, according to the latest figures from a long-running national survey by Clemson University’s International Center for Academic Integrity. The infractions range from cut-and-paste copying to buying a custom-written paper from an essay mill.”

I was astonished when I read that in The Chronicle of Higher Education last year. Maybe you college editors weren’t. At least I don’t see much about cheating in student media today. I think it’s a heck of a story, and I think it can lead to exploring why your readers even bother to go to college in the first place.

First, how many students on your campus would read or watch a story quoting students speaking frankly about whether they cheat? My prediction: A lot. You might have to grant anonymity to some sources to get accounts like this “Why I Cheat” piece in a California  high school newspaper. But I would say this is a classic case of when to allow anonymity — when you can’t get important information any other way.

Second, you could document investigations and punishments on your campus and compare it to research by the International Center for Academic Integrity. The center even keeps up with recent newsworthy integrity cases.

Third, you could dig into the attitudes about college that make cheating routine for some people and unthinkable for others. Among the many troubling trends documented in “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses” is the belief of many students that learning doesn’t have much to do with college anyway. Some regard the diploma as a sham that they need to get a “real job.” It’s not much of a leap for them to see cheating as just an easy way to play the game. (I highly recommend the book. It’s a starting point for a long list of good stories.)

And the cheating may not stop at graduation. Harvard psychologist and ethicist Howard Gardner  has published research showing young professionals often are willing to take ethical shortcuts, figuring that they will behave honestly after they’ve safely established their careers.

Perhaps many attitudes about college will affect students years into the future. If you believe college is a sham, is that also how you will see your employer, your government, your society? Will anything ever truly deserve your full attention and effort?

There is no particular reason you should be interested in my opinion of all this. I hope you’re interested in the views of students on your campus. Get out there with notebook, camera, hashtags, etc., and see what they think.

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About adviserdavid

Student media director, Georgia Southern University

Posted on August 23, 2012, in Ethics, What to cover. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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