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More Teens Lie, Cheat, and Steal


A new survey shows that more high school students are lying, cheating, and stealing—a reflection, it says, of the "entrenched habits of dishonesty" among young people.

The 2008 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth, released by the Josephson Institute of Ethics in Los Angeles, is the result of a survey of 29,000 students at public and private high schools throughout the country.

Sixty-four percent of the students said they have cheated on a test over the past year, with nearly four in 10 doing so more than once. Some 40 percent lifted information off the Internet and used it in an assignment. (click on the charts to enlarge.)

This, even as the students report that their parents emphasize the importance of honesty and hard work, and that they themselves believe that truthfulness and trustworthiness are important in personal and business relationships.

So what gives? An overwhelming majority of the students say that honesty is important, and don't necessarily believe that cheating and stealing will help them get ahead. Yet most admit to such behaviors.

The report doesn't give much insight into why, but could increasing testing pressure have something to do with it? Or perhaps teens see dishonesty in school as something entirely different from lying or cheating at home or at work. When they want something—good grades, a cool new gadget, or a way out of an uncomfortable situation—is dishonesty just the easy way out? Given all the news about the causes of the current economic crisis, and with prominent lawmakers going to jail for unethical conduct, are kids just following adults' lead? Granted, some of the teens might not have even taken the survey seriously—more than one-fourth said they didn't even answer the survey questions honestly! But since the survey began, the data have shown a solid trend toward the dark side.

At the risk of sounding like an aging, out-of-touch adult: What's wrong with kids these days?


As a now freshmen in college, I can honestly say that I cheated in high school. I didn't do it to be horrible becasue I actually didn't think it was that bad. Other kids my age were drinking every weekend and smoking in the bathrooms, so the only thing I had against me was cheating.

I did it to get into the college I wanted. I did it to get ahead in the class and not be "one of the dumb kids" because we all knew them in class too.

I guess you could say dishonesty is the easy way out. I was lazy in high school and I could have just studied. But kids cheat because it's easy. A lot of kids also just take after their parents in that way too, not saying I am at all.

For some kids, including me, senior year brought what my school called "senioritis" and all the seniors slacked. But you always had to pass that one last class, even though you knew you were ready for college. That's where cheating happens to come in, I suppose.

Now in college, I study my butt off. I try to attend all of my classes, which I can admit I didn't do my senior year in high school. And, I don't think you're an out-of-touch adult.

I have a breaking news story, people lie, cheat, and steal. This is not a new phenomena, but rather has proven itself as one of the few universal truths throughout the history of the world. I have personally hit this classic trifecta in my lifetime.

For the sake of conversation, let's suppose that this survey truly shows that lying, cheating, and stealing is on the rise among our youth. We must explore what has changed in recent years that may have caused this. Access to media and the internet has increased exponentially even in just the past three or so years. More children are carrying cell phones. Video games are violent. The aforementioned are all classic answers. I, now, propose something perhaps lesser though of and controversial.

NCLB has led teachers to delve further into the "teaching toward the test" style. Teachers are being suffocated with student performance on standardized tests, and their flexibility and creativity are hindered. This may cause educators to teach with less vigor and enthusiasm. The adage goes "attitudes are contagious", so if we as teachers are boorish in lecture, our students are less likely to take an interest in the material presented. Our capitalist nature in this country creates a personality in us to gain the greatest reward for the littlest amount of input. As a student, if you know you can get away with it, and you have no interest in material beside getting a grade, why wouldn't you cheat?

I am not blaming NCLB solely, or even as a major player, in the degradation of America's youth. That would be a very extreme accusation considering all of the influences they encounter outside of school. But, I argue, in the forum of education, it catalyzed the greatest change in the way education is conducted in the U.S. in recent history. If new reform measures are taken for the positive, and funding is offered to improve education in this country, I truly feel that cheating would dwindle. There is a direct correlation between education and income, and the same relation between income and crime. Therefore, if we better educate our youth, lying, cheating, and stealing, should decline. Perhaps new leadership will bring about education reform that attains the ultimate goal of such a measure--increasing the level at which the minds of our youth are enlightened.

I have an english medium school in pakistan. I am disapointed to check that my younger son age 14 years in in the habbit of stealing money and cell phone from the bags of teachers and guests. one day he stole a gun from my brother's office any suggestion in this regard shall highly be appreciated.

This is one of the most considerable issues for parents. Parents need to take specialized measures not for any further destruction. Parents can take a professional help to come out of the problems, and participating in various teens discussion boards helps parents to gain more knowledge on various teens issues. Parents can share their views with other parents and at the same time can get other parents suggestions.


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