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Study: Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater

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The next time you find yourself thinking, "kids will be kids," think again. Survey results released yesterday by the Josephson Institute on Ethics suggest that kids who cheat in high school are far more likely than non-cheaters to lie to their spouses, bosses, and employees when they grow up.

The results are based on a 2008 survey of nearly 7,000 people in five age groups: 17 and under, 18-24, 25-40, 41-50, and over 50. The study found, first of all, that younger generations are far more likely to behave dishonestly than older generations—or at least to admit it to researchers. Among high schoolers, 64% said they had cheated on an exam in 2008, 42% admitted lying to save money, and 30% copped to having stolen something from a store.

The study also found that, regardless of how old they are now, people who cheated in high school were three times more likely to lie to a customer (20% vs. 6%) or inflate an insurance claim (6% vs. 2%) and more than twice as likely to inflate an expense claim (10% vs. 4%) than people who never cheated in high school. The high school cheaters were also twice as likely to lie to or deceive their boss (20% vs. 10%) or lie about their address to get a child into a better school (29% vs. 15%) and one-and-a-half times more likely to lie to spouse or significant other (35% vs. 22%) or cheat on taxes (18% vs. 13%).

If that's not reason enough to boost character education efforts in schools, here's another: A growing number of studies are beginning to suggest that some character education programs can improve kids' academic achievement, too.

4 Comments


Cheating is repeatedly studied and reported year after year in a large number of venues. But never with any recognition of the driver; bell curve grading--tests can't be too easy, must have hard questions.
We are doomed by our own traditions: our measures focus on differences, never outcomes. We wring our hands over high drop rates and never ask: what are the dropouts capable of learning. There by, we completely ignore our two basic choices: Hold time constant and achievement will vary. Hold achievement constant and time will vary.


Since cheating is so widespread why doesn't someone look into the cheating taking place during research? I can't believe that some of the studies done on learning have reliable research. Being a Math person, I always know that I can take any result and make it fit my research or ignore the data and find other data that supports my desired results. This again just goes along with the related story about the standards being determined by people with financial gain involved.

It would be interesting to research how, if any preparation, teachers give in the areas that would help prevent some of this...like note taking, paraphrasing, and properly citing sources...I think it would be quite interesting. While cheating is cheating, teaching them how NOT to teach is just as bad.

It seems to me that it all goes back to the methodology used in the actual teaching. When learning is fun and engaging - students actually do learn. That means rote memorization of facts need to be thrown out the window. It might work for the test - not remembered after (or might not be remembered at all - even for the test). Tapping into multiple intelligences means knowing your students. I realize this is atypical for many teachers. It's important for us as educators to use today's tools - podcasting, Second Life, Twitter, Facebook. This is the technology students enjoy and it CAN be used pedagogically. There are ways to engage students and increase learning - it just takes a little effort to put the pieces together - and cheating might just become a thing of the past.

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  • Mary-Ann Ferree: It seems to me that it all goes back to read more
  • David Humpal: It would be interesting to research how, if any preparation, read more
  • Roy Vicich: Since cheating is so widespread why doesn't someone look into read more
  • James L. Sherrill: Cheating is repeatedly studied and reported year after year read more