Staying honest during HM Online during COVID-19


Julia Goldberg

“It’s 4.0 season.”
Maybe you’ve heard that phrase tossed around, or seen it on peers’ private social media stories. The three simple words are usually said in a lighthearted, joking tone, but nevertheless, they encapsulate a larger, extremely dangerous sentiment: HM Online is a golden ticket to a perfect GPA, if you’re willing to cheat to get it.
I want to acknowledge that students at our school are constantly under pressure to receive high grades. COVID-19 has in no way decreased this pressure. In fact, for many juniors, the uncertainty surrounding standardized testing has resulted in more stress over grades, as it seems that they may be some of the only trusted statistics we have to show colleges. Despite the College Counseling’s reassurances that statistics aren’t the full picture, it’s easier now than ever to fall prey to endless numbers and calculations.
I also want to acknowledge that HM Online has already given students more independence than we’re accustomed to, and it will likely continue to do so. For the most part, I believe teachers will work hard to adapt to online learning and modify their assessments to prevent the possibility of cheating, potentially by making exams open-note or changing their format. Every once in a while, however, teachers may simply trust us to be honest with our work. I don’t think this is ridiculous; rather, I admire the work ethic of my peers, and I think it’s totally reasonable for teachers to do the same.
Since we may very well see a heightened pressure from ourselves, our peers, and our parents to perform well academically combined with new ways of testing that allow for potential dishonesty, I think we need to take a step back before major testing resumes and remind ourselves of the importance of academic honesty.
Cheating, in general, will always dig us into a deeper hole. Many of us are constantly fighting to define ourselves as more than our grades, to separate our academic achievements from our self-esteem, but cheating reinforces the opposite idea. It promotes the sentiment that only the end result matters, and that any means to achieve those ends are valid. It also replaces any pride or satisfaction we could gain from learning with guilt.
I’m sure, however, that I’m neither the first nor the last person to have told you not to cheat. But now more than ever, I want us to hold ourselves to the highest of standards. Students and teachers alike are struggling to settle into their lives indoors and online. Our routines have changed, our environments have changed, and our access to support has changed. Much of what we’ve taken for granted in our lives was quickly uprooted a few weeks ago—and most of us had little to no preparation.
For many teachers and students, especially those who won’t have access to the same technology or stable wifi connections, those who have family or friends who are sick, or those who have other responsibilities at home, working is going to be significantly more challenging. And I’m sure those three groups don’t cover everyone who is attempting to overcompensate for their situation; other students may not be at home and thus may be unable to access their work, even more may simply not be able to concentrate in their bedrooms or working spaces. Maintaining a consistent work ethic, as we have during the regular school year, may take more time and energy for many of us.
We’ve all been told that we’re only cheating ourselves if we choose to cheat on tests, but in these next few months, I believe we’d also be cheating our peers and teachers. By cheating, we’re putting the students who remain honest at a serious disadvantage. As such, I hope we all choose to respect each other—and ourselves—instead of abusing this newfound trust.