An Open Secret

The cheating epidemic at NASH is one we all choose to ignore.

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photo by Julia Poppa

Cheating, in all its forms, is all too common in NASH's competitive environment.

As a junior who is almost finished with her first semester, I’m already looking forward to the next year and planning my classes. I recently decided that, during my senior year, I will challenge myself by taking as many AP classes as possible. While some may say it’s a daunting, impossible task that guarantees hundreds of hours of work and lots of tears, I have a solution!

I plan to rely on all of the fun, neat little tricks I have learned from my fellow classmates this year. Of course, they all are extremely smart, talented scholars with absolute, impeccable integrity, so I’m sure all of their tips will help with the tests.

If I need some help with my AP Calculus test, I can just write some formulas and answers on the inside of my calculator’s cover. I’ve seen so many peers do this, and no one’s ever said anything, so it has to be okay, right?

If we’re taking a test online and the teacher isn’t paying attention, I can easily slip a notecard beneath my computer! Whenever I feel unsure of an answer, I can slyly check beneath my laptop, and like magic, I know exactly how to get a 100%.

The options only get better if an online test isn’t on the Lockdown Browser. I’ll be able to pull up a Quizlet in another tab or even have access to all my notes on Google Docs. Apparently, if a teacher isn’t worried that I’m cheating, it’s my free pass to do whatever I want. It must be their fault for putting so much trust in a group of teenagers.

I have also learned that, if there’s a substitute teacher in class on test day, I can take complete advantage. Don’t submit that Blackboard test when the bell rings — shut your laptop, take it to a quiet place after class, check your answers with your notes, and then submit. It’s far more effective.

Perhaps the most helpful trick I learned in recent months works particularly well for girls. All I have to do is wear a skirt to school the day of the test, write all the information on my upper thigh underneath the fabric, and glance at it whenever I feel uncertain. The best part is, this method is foolproof! If any teacher suspects that I’m cheating, they cannot ask to look under my skirt. I’m guaranteed to get away with it.

I’m so thankful that in today’s educational environment I’m able to academically challenge myself with the certainty of success. After all, my peers have shown me the way in only a few months.

This school truly is a special place.

——

Alright, I’m done. I hope you all realized that was completely satirical. I’m not a cheater, and sure, I guess some of my peers may actually be honest and hardworking. 

However, there is a dark truth behind every one of those scenarios. These things happen daily all over NASH and probably at a lot of other schools, too. Cheating, in all its many forms, is an epidemic, and while most of us know it’s happening, we don’t seem to be doing anything about it.

A recent study found that, nationally, more than half of high school students have admitted to cheating on a test before. Almost three quarters have copied a homework assignment, and 58% have plagiarized a paper.

Now, those numbers aren’t pretty, but the culture of our school has somehow managed to make them even worse. Here, cheating isn’t something that half of the kids have done once or twice. It’s a common occurrence.

This is largely because, in today’s cutthroat, competitive academic environment, cheating almost feels a completely normal thing to do. Kids laugh about how they didn’t read their assigned novel for class and joke about how often they copy off another student’s test without being caught. It’s treated with a haphazard sense of acceptance, because everyone here knows to play by only one rule — do whatever it takes to get to the top.

It’s like an odd social experiment gone terribly wrong. Put a ton of kids in a building, flash the grand prize of an Ivy League education in front of their eyes, and see exactly how far they go to get it. Watch how many sleepless nights they are prepared to endure, how many friendships they are ready to toss aside, and how many morals they are willing to sacrifice.

It’s treated with a haphazard sense of acceptance, because everyone here knows to play by only one rule — do whatever it takes to get to the top.”

Trying your best and doing everything you can to get a good grade is understandable. But there’s something out there that’s bigger than all of this. There’s a world beyond testing and GPAs and Harvard applications. And, call me naive, but I like to think that world matters enough that it needs some of the integrity so many kids are throwing away in high school.

To be clear, I am not pretending to be on some moral high ground when it comes to this issue. Just like everybody else, I’ve certainly been tempted to cheat before. It seems so easy to look up an answer when a test isn’t on the Lockdown Browser, and it’s hard to get through a novel for English when you know you can just look up the Sparknotes. Honestly, the reason I haven’t cheated yet is probably because I think it’ll come right back to bite me. I’d feel terribly guilty, have a stomach ache all day, and confess later. At heart, I’m a people pleaser who follows the rules, and that does not make for a good cheater.

Of course, I could be the bigger person and ignore everyone who cheats. Besides my few classes that have curves on the tests, it may not technically be my business, but the sheer lack of principle frustrates me. When I work hard — whether it be studying or actually reading the novel for English — and someone else simply breaks the rules and gets a better grade, it hurts. And then, as if they won some prize, my peers practically brag about their dishonest efforts.

I’m not expecting much to change, because the kids who cheat are the ones who are always going to go to extreme lengths to get what they want. An editorial, a teacher making a threat, or a stomach ache or two won’t likely change that. 

But maybe I’m hoping that we stop turning our heads. That we pay attention. That we weigh our decisions more heavily. That we decide, every once in a while, to place hard work above the final result.

I know the world isn’t fair, but shouldn’t we be trying our best to make sure it is? Shouldn’t we at least pretend to care about doing the right thing?