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Ethics survey: Two-thirds of students cheated on a test this year

I’m still waiting for the study that goes beyond asking students if they cheat and seriously investigates why.

Until then, all we can do is speculate about what’s powering a rise in cheating revealed in a recent survey of almost 30,000 high school students. From an Associated Press article, some results of the survey:

  • Cheating in school is rampant and getting worse. Sixty-four percent of students cheated on a test in the past year and 38 percent did so two or more times, up from 60 percent and 35 percent in a 2006 survey.
  • Thirty-six percent said they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment, up from 33 percent in 2004.
  • Forty-two percent said they sometimes lie to save money — 49 percent of the boys and 36 percent of the girls.
  • Despite such responses, 93 percent of the students said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character, and 77 percent affirmed that “when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.”

The real numbers are probably even higher: About a quarter of the students admitted they’d answered some survey questions dishonestly.

So what’s going on here — Are public figures modeling bad behavior for children? Are schools and families failing to inculcate strong values in their students? Are kids responding to greater pressure to perform by looking for shortcuts? Are there just too many opportunities to cheat in a world dominated by standardized tests and Internet tools? Or are kids less embarrassed to tell the truth than they used to be about their cheating ways?

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