Cheating in School
“Absolutely no cheating will be tolerated in this class.” This phrase (and variations of this phrase) is well known to students; the phrase appears in bold, italicized, or underlined font in almost every high school class syllabus. Cheating is generally frowned upon, whether it be cheating in a game of cards, or “cheating through college.” The definition of cheating is clearly a broad one. Cheating is defined on Wikipedia as “an immoral way of achieving a goal” which is “generally used for the breaking of rules to gain unfair advantage in a competitive situation.” By default, this definition of cheating already includes many instances of cheating, such as cheating in sports, games, relationships, and academia. Academic cheating can include cheating on exams, plagiarism of essays, or cheating on homework. These are the forms of cheating that are intolerable in classes, according to syllabi.
All throughout high school, I never understood why cheating on homework was made into such a significant issue. After all, homework assignments aren’t an accurate representation of the knowledge of a student; exams, on the other hand, are the true test of knowledge. Every day, I would notice students around me cheat on homework. Someone would ask a classmate to copy a physics worksheet, while another would be frantically copying math homework before the start of class. I would constantly see students using Yahoo! Answers and Chegg to find answers to homework assignments. Cheating on homework assignments seemed to be the norm. Yet, cheating on assignments was often discouraged by many teachers.
One day, a friend and I were discussing this very topic. He informed me that one of his teachers caught two students cheating on an assignment. Apparently, the worksheets of the students were so similar there was no doubt that one student copied from the other. The teacher, after realizing this, decided to give her entire class a lecture on “cheating” on the very next day. She furiously explained that cheating was wrong. She told the class that when she was a student, there was never a time that she cheated; her assignments were her work only. My friend explained to me that he looked around the classroom. He observed the faces of the students as the teacher continued her rant. To him, the class seemed somewhat unresponsive. They were clearly unimpressed with the idea that their teacher had gone through her school years without cheating once. This description of the students in my friend’s English class made me realize that most students don’t have a problem with copying assignments from one another. They don’t see this task as an immoral one. In fact, I haven’t met one person in my life that hasn’t cheated on homework at least once in his/her life.
A student has several options when it comes to successfully completing a course and earning a high grade, similar to the options he would have at a buffet. The student could, for example, choose to go to the taco bar. He would need to have the time and patience to create his meal, by carefully assembling the various components of his perfect taco. This student chooses to spend time and effort making sure he fully grasps the purpose of homework assignments. In order words, this student completes homework assignments the way they are meant to be completed: without cheating or copying. However, the student could just as well have picked a doughnut at the buffet. It makes a perfect snack for someone on-the go. This student doesn’t have time at the moment and chooses to copy his assignment from someone else, instead of completing it on his own. The student would most likely get hungry later on, since doughnuts don’t serve as proper meal. In this case, the student must go back to the buffet for seconds, and even thirds. Students that don’t spend the time doing assignments when they are assigned have to pay the price later on. They must learn the material through different methods (i.e. watching YouTube tutorial/educational videos), since they couldn’t devote the time to completing homework properly. In other words, students can still learn and comprehend the material of a class, without having to complete homework assignments. After the student has eaten, the student must have the long-awaited dessert. The happiness he receives from the dessert depends on his happiness he receives from his meal. If the student is satisfied and happy with his meal, he will look forward to the dessert. On the other hand, if the student is unsatisfied (i.e. he hasn’t eaten enough), then he won’t be able to fully enjoy the dessert; he will be thinking about the food that he didn’t get to eat at the buffet. Similarly, the happiness a student receives from the end result of a final examination is determined by his satisfaction with the amount of time and effort he spent preparing for the examination.
It’s easy to see that there isn’t one correct option when it comes to dining at a buffet, or doing assignments. The purpose of the student is to eat enough so that he is satisfied with his meal; a student could learn through homework assignments now, or the student could learn through other methods later. The only thing that matters is that the student honestly completes his exam. Homework assignments have one and only one real purpose: to prepare students for exams. All students don’t learn the same way, but homework assignments force students to learn in a certain way. Some students might find the assignments to be useful and practical, while others may see them as more of a hassle. Since assignments are generally a significant part of the overall grade, students have no choice but to complete them, through one way or another. Forcing everyone to learn a certain way is like forcing people to choose the same food item at a buffet (a slice of pizza, perhaps). The pizza may be suitable for those who genuinely enjoy pizza, but it’s not a good option for those that are dieting or have food restrictions due to health issues.
I’ve had several classes in which homework assignments aren’t required. In my Organic Chemistry class, there are dozens of practice problems that are posted online. Although we are technically given a grade for these problems, we aren’t required to complete the problems correctly. The problems serve to aid those that feel that practice problems are essential to understanding concepts and doing well on examinations. This system allows students to prepare for exams the way in which they are most comfortable; students that don’t find the homework to be useful can choose to not complete the homework.
At this point, one might still argue that cheating on homework assignments is unjustified. One might believe that cheaters shouldn’t receive the same grade as those that actually complete assignments honestly. Although this is true, this ideology is the result of a flawed education system. In American schools, homework is overemphasized. As a result, students receive too much homework that is more of time-waste than anything else. In other countries in the world, such as India, homework is almost nonexistent in high school. The only thing that is emphasized is exams. More time is spent preparing students for exams than assigning homework assignments that really don’t serve a purpose. Since students in India aren’t given homework, they have more time to spend preparing for exams. While some may choose to complete problems from a math textbook for example, they aren’t forced to do so. In essence, the only thing that should matter is that students learn; ultimately, that is the only purpose of school. All in all, cheating on homework assignments shouldn’t really be any issue, because the actual tests of knowledge are, of course, tests.