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At the root of cheating

The Editorial Board

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Every school year begins with an advisory focused on academic integrity. We read, discuss, and sign individual copies of our school’s honor code. Unfortunately, for many of us, our commitment to academic honesty ends there. Many students spend as much time trying to game the system as we do working. As the front page article about new testing measures reveals, checking phones in the bathroom during tests, using Shmoop and Sparknotes for essay ideas, and paying tutors to crank out “original” essays are all common strategies for getting the “highest-quality” work done in the least amount of time. Students even resort to skipping school when healthy just to avoid taking a particularly stressful assessment.

We can’t pretend that Horace Mann’s cheating problem can be pinned on a small group of “immoral” students. Rather, widespread academic dishonesty reflects the systemic pressure that students face to attain perfect grades while simultaneously participating in diverse extracurriculars and cramming for standardized tests. While parents, teachers, and peers continue to emphasize the importance of students’ college prospects, the pressure to cheat will only continue.

Cheating isn’t just bad for the school: it hurts students’ education as well. The most important things we learn in school are not lists of French vocabulary or calculus formulas, but the abilities to study, collaborate, think independently, meet deadlines, and take ownership of our work. While getting a “bad grade” on a test is always disappointing, it provides valuable feedback about study habits, enabling us to improve in the future. We believe that it is more important for students to try their best, learn time management, and take pride in their schoolwork than to get a B+ instead of a B on that one test. Though the stakes for each assessment may feel high in the moment, getting a slightly better grade is not worth sacrificing the learning opportunities that we are lucky to have.

Until we address the underlying pressures that push students to cheat, students will continue to find new ways to evade the system in order to obtain better grades. While we recognize the school’s efforts to curb cheating and plagiarism, these measures are not a solution to the greater problem. We need to re-examine students’ motivations and shift our priorities away from grades and towards learning.

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Horace Mann's Weekly Newspaper Since 1903
At the root of cheating