Within the past two decades, dishonesty within American society as a large has been on the rise. It has been a common cultural practice for individuals to be dishonest. This dishonesty is evident in many areas of life and extends to much more than cheating within the realm of academia. Dishonesty, according to the author David Callahan, is no longer practiced by criminals and individuals with questionably character, it is now commonplace.
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He feels that it is so commonplace that it is not recognized as morally repugnant. He attributes acceptance and the prevalent practice of dishonesty as a side-effect of the competitive economic climate in which we live. His argument is that in order to be competitive, it is essential for individuals to cheat. He sites examples such as Enron and WorldCom from the business sector and sites the prevalence of cheating in the educational system, sports, the news as well as individuals who partake in deception by stealing services such as illegal cable. He is of the opinion that it is necessary for individuals to cheat as cheating is so prevalent that it precludes honest individuals from excelling in society (2004). This certainly is a pessimistic view of the necessity of cheating but one can clearly see the point being made here.
Another reason why academic dishonesty may be on the rise can be attributed to the fact that the requirements for obtaining employment has increased over the course of the past two decades. In the past a high school education was seen as ideal for obtaining gainful employment. This has since changed. Currently in order to obtain employment which is capable of enabling an individual to self-support, one needs to have a college education (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2003). In so doing, the pressure to obtain a college education has increased and many individuals feel the need to cheat as a means of obtaining the necessary degree. This does not justify academic dishonesty but it does explain it.
Additionally, the Internet has been utilized as a powerful tool for research. In so doing, many individuals have published full papers and placed them on the Internet for public consumption. This makes it easier for academic dishonesty to occur and forges the establishment of a very grey area which leaves much room for the interpretation of what constitutes academic dishonesty. Many students are unclear as to the actual scope of academic dishonesty.
Zernike (2002) asserts that since academic dishonesty is on the rise, many institutions of higher learning have resorted to very high tech methods of detecting plagiarism while others are resorting to utilizing codes of conduct with regards to academic integrity. She sites The University of Maryland as one of the institutions requiring students to sign an honor pledge and Trinity College in Hartford as one of the institutions requiring its students to sign a “student integrity contract.” She even sites Cornell University as one of the institutions which requires its students to take courses on ethics and academic integrity as a part of their graduation requirement.
The notion that cheating is an integral part of American society is one that is extremely unacceptable. I feel that there is a need for integrity on the part of each and every individual. The fact that it is commonplace is one that does not justify it. In an effort to prevent cheating especially in academia it is important for individuals to realize that morality is a necessity within any society. I think that both high-tech and low-tech methods are necessary in order to minimize academic dishonesty.
It is necessary for professors to utilize high-tech tools such as Turn it in to detect plagiarism as well as utilize tools such as honor codes as well as formal classes on academic honesty. In addition to the utility of the aforementioned tools, institutions of higher learning should establish a system of stronger sanctions for individuals who engage in Academic dishonesty. This system should include an automatic “F” and possible expulsion in cases where there is blatant plagiarism and in cases where there is unintentional plagiarism a formal class may remedy the situation.
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Callahan, David. The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans Are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead. New York: Harvest Books, 2004.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Report Shows Effects of Education on Employment of Welfare Recipients.” Administration for Children and Families. 2003. Web.
Zernike, Kate. “With Student Cheating on the Rise, More Colleges Are Turning to Honor Codes.” The New York Times. 2002. Web.