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Leadership's Future: Cheating Is OK

by Miki Saxon

According to Donald McCabe, a professor of management and global business at Rutgers University, 95 percent of high school students say they’ve cheated during the course of their education, ranging from letting somebody copy their homework to test-cheating. There’s a fair amount of cheating going on, and students aren’t all that concerned about it.”

“The professor has been surveying cheating practices among college kids for 18 years and high school students for six years. He says he’s surveyed 24,000 high school students in 70,000 high schools, grades 9 to 12. His findings? Sixty-four percent of students report one or more instances of serious testing-cheating, which include copying from someone else, helping someone else cheat on a test, or using crib notes or cheat notes.

In 2002 17-year-old Alice Newhall was quoted in a CNN article on cheating, “What’s important is getting ahead. The better grades you have, the better school you get into, the better you’re going to do in life. And if you learn to cut corners to do that, you’re going to be saving yourself time and energy. In the real world, that’s what’s going to be going on. The better you do, that’s what shows. It’s not how moral you were in getting there.“”

Colleges are no different, with MBA students leading the pack. 56 percent of MBA students admitted to cheating…  In 1997, McCabe did a survey in which 84 percent of undergraduate business students admitted cheating versus 72 percent of engineering students and 66 percent of all students. In a 1964 survey by Columbia University, 66 percent of business students surveyed at 99 campuses said they cheated at least once.”

MBAs lead another pack; see if these names sound familiar: Jeff Skilling (MBA, Harvard). Joe Nacchio, (MBA, NYU), Richard Fuld, (MBA, Stern), John Thain, (MBA, Harvard), the list goes on and on.

Do you see a pattern here?

  • It’s OK to cheat in high school to get good grades to gain entrance to a good college;
  • it’s OK to cheat in college to gain entrance to a top grad school; and
  • it’s OK to cheat in grad school to insure access to a good job, especially on Wall Street; so
  • it must be OK once you’re working to cheat to improve your company’s bottom line.

Cheating is good business in its own right directly or in the sub-strata of plagiarism.

Google offers 1,620,000 results for “how to cheat in school,” 605,000 for “how to cheat on a test” and another 562,000 for “how to cheat on tests,” not to mention the more than 3,000 “how to cheat” videos on YouTube.

Meanwhile, on the plagiarism front, “school papers” returns a whopping 22,600,000 results.

Take a good look at the numbers and you’ll see that religion, spirituality and cheating seem to happily co-exist.

“The University of California at Los Angeles’s Higher Education Research Institute reported that 80 percent of students show high degrees of religious commitment and spirituality. The new data comes from a survey conducted this past year involving 112,232 first year students attending 236 various colleges and universities.”

All the ethics courses, integrity lectures and moral preaching that go on aren’t likely to change decades of successful cheating—mainly because it works getting people where they want to go.

Cheating isn’t new, but the casual acceptance of it as a viable life strategy has radically changed.

So what do we do now?

Your comments—priceless

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Image credit: flickr

7 Responses to “Leadership's Future: Cheating Is OK”
  1. BharathNo Gravatar Says:

    I would also like to bring to your readers attention that there is wide spread plagarism by professors in Indian colleges and universities. They write text-books which are entirely plagarized from texts from the western countries ! A lot of people seem to be aware of this , yet nothing is done about it. When one interacts with some of these professors, one gets the impression, that at least some of these ‘authors’ do not even seem ot realize that what they are doing is wrong ! This seems to be to reflect on the very nature of Indian society. When the ‘educated’ ‘professors’ dont see the lack of ethics in copying a book, then what could be the level of ethics of the vast majority of less literate people in India?
    Professors do not understand how unethical it is to use/buy/ possess pirated software in the universities computers or their personal computers. They do not see how it is wrong to photocopy entire books ! How do you expect students to believe idfferent? Many professors have argued with me that India is a poor country, that there are not enough funds and it is not wrong at all to photocopy texts or have pirated softwares. That Bill Gates will not become poor if software is copied.
    For ethics to become a part of life and society, the Indian society (and all societies) should undergo massive changes in so many spheres. And I strongly believe ethics should start at the top (politics, policies, politicians, the rich, the educated, the privilaged) and then those at the bottom (the common man, the poor, the uneducated, the illiterate, etc) will change.

  2. Miki SaxonNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi Bharath and welcome to Leadership Turn.

    I’m not knowledgeable about the situation in India and although what you describe is sad state of affairs it’s not a surprising one. Most countries have stories similar to Robin Hood that makes it OK to steal from those richer than you if it’s for the good of those poorer than you. And these days if you enhance your reputation or make a few bucks doing it so much the better. (It would be amusing to see how those same professors reacted if something they created was treated the same way:)

    It would be nice/better if there were ethics at the top, but I believe that waiting for it to happen before cleaning up one’s own act is a cop-out.

    If a person at what you define as the top murders another does that make murder acceptable to those at the bottom?

    If people at all levels cleaned up their own backyard and kept their own personal space ethical (not just legal) then those who did not would stick out like a sore thumbs no matter where they fell economically.

    There are role models for doing the right thing all around us. By leading an ethical life we can look at those who don’t no matter who they are, curl our lips in disgust and know that we are the better person.

    In the end, we are each responsible for our own actions no matter how we rationalize them.

  3. Ed OrellNo Gravatar Says:

    I feel that in the end this lack of integrity will erode your soul and manifest itself in self destruction
    Ed Orell NAA 561-853-2174

  4. Miki SaxonNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi Ed, I doubt that will happen. Before guilt can erode anything the individual needs to see the action as wrong.

    And if by self destruction you are saying that cheaters will take their own life I can only hope you are very wrong.

  5. BrockNo Gravatar Says:

    I’m not sure about cheating’s “soul-erosive” properties… but it definitely shows us that people are becoming more and more ok with using other people’s work as their own. It’s sort of like pirating music. Tons of people are guilty of this, but very few are caught; and for that reason alone, we seem to justify it as okay. It’s the “well everyone else is doing it” and “It’s not like it’s hurting anyone really” excuses being rolled up into one simple justification. Maybe schools will tighten the leash, hopefully before our souls are eroded beyond repair.

  6. Miki SaxonNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi Brock, I think parents need to start a lot earlier than school. And it’s not what they say, it’s what they do.

    Kids definitely have a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ mentality, so if parent/adults say one thing and do another forget it.

    It also seems to be tied into the meme MAP that is so prevalent at all ages these days.

  7. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] has been and is currently an acceptable solution for addressing difficult situations by 95% of students, so what makes anyone think that the solution will change when that 95% is working/running our […]

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