Cheating robs people of opportunities

Illustration by Parker Wilhelm

Let’s do a throwback. Previously, I wrote an opinion piece about plagiarism: copying others work and passing it off as your own. Plagiarism is a form of cheating — one of a multitude that occur more often than many would think.

Challenge Success, a group aimed at fixing problems in the way classes are taught, did a survey of high school seniors. When asked if they had cheated on an assignment or test, 97 percent said that they had within the last year alone, according to a Oct. 25 CNN article by Denise Pope. Of those students, 75 percent had done so multiple times in the same time frame.

This overwhelming majority refutes my argument that cheating doesn’t pay. From the looks of it, only large groups are ever caught because of the sheer numbers involved, like the entire history class at Harvard I mentioned in my previous article. I can hardly say that there is a real punishment for the crime of cheating when the hypothetical sword of Damocles hangs from the ceiling, rusted and dull.

That is not to say cheating is good, but let’s be real for a moment: the current dynamic is dynamic in name only. The only place where cheaters are punished is in professional baseball — after the fact. Take a look at every steroid user who was considered for the Hall of Fame. None of them are ever going to be voted in. 

Yet look at NASCAR and “Star Trek.” NASCAR has given us the old phrase, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying,” and in Star Trek, Captain Kirk is famous for hacking the simulator and beating the unbeatable “Kobayashi Maru.” He did so well he was given a distinguished service award as a cadet.

We have embraced cheating while denouncing it at the same time. This kind of mixed message, stemming from the classroom, is what Challenge Success hopes to change as they work to emphasize methods of learning, rather than test scores. 

Another piece of the puzzle is instructor apathy versus student apathy. Part of what is thought to encourage cheating is pressure to achieve rather than to learn. The question is more often “How are you doing in class?” as opposed to the more favorable “What did you learn today?”

This begs the question: What does cheating take away from us, since the consequences are hard to enforce?

It cheats us of opportunity.

When it comes down to it, parents can only encourage upstanding behavior from a distance. As students, it is up to us to overcome an instructor’s attitude toward the class since we are the only ones, ultimately, who control our actions.

So is cheating necessary? I would venture that some forms of cheating are more passe than inexcusable. Take jaywalking for instance. “Common sense” tells us that crossing the middle of a street when there is no traffic is OK. Finding a crosswalk is too time consuming when simply crossing doesn’t hurt anyone. 

The crux of the matter is whether or not cheating, even in its passe form, is still bad. Using this analogy, yes. Common sense just told you to meander through the street and hope no cars come. Cheating robs you of your chances to practice doing things right, but, more importantly, it robs you of your creativity.

Patrick White is a junior in journalism and mass communications. Please send comments to