When children cheat

Parents and educators should not ignore this growing problem

Kids cheat. Not all of them, of course, but a majority of them, and more all the time. In a recent survey by the Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles-based ethics group, 64 percent of high-school students admitted to cheating on a test within the past year, and 38 percent did so two or more times. Those figures are up from 60 percent and 35 percent, respectively, in a 2006 survey.

Does this mean kids are less honest than before? Not necessarily. What’s changed is that pressures to achieve have intensified and kids now have more tools with which to cheat—the Internet, in particular. As one Maryland school district superintendent interviewed by the Associated Press put it, “We overload these kids today and they look for ways to survive.”

That’s no doubt true, but it’s no reason to overlook the fact that so many kids feel OK about doing something they know is wrong. In response, educators need to create classrooms in which learning is more important than having the right answers. And parents and school officials need to be more diligent in stressing the difference between original and borrowed work.

As the recent calamities in the financial sector have shown, even smart, successful people can create disasters if they lack ethics.