Grown and Flown in Today’s Wall Street Journal: Cheating in School

Last Fall, in the wake of a number of high-profile cheating scandals, Grown and Flown examined cheating in school.  We were surprised by some of the facts we uncovered. Technology, academic pressure and changing attitudes have increased the incidence of cheating in school and made it even more important that parents discuss this issue with kids from an early age.  It was our good fortune that The Wall Street Journal found us and included us in an article this morning entitled “How Could a Sweet Third-Grader Just Cheat on That School Exam?”

In this wonderful piece, Sue Shellenbarger finds that cheating is tricky parental terrain “The line between right and wrong in the classroom is often hazy for young children, and shaping the moral compass of children whose brains are still developing can be one of the trickiest jobs a parent faces.”  Shellenbarger found that rates of cheating rose as kids moved into middle school and high school and thus the conversation needs to start when school begins, as early as kindergarten.

Shellenbarger concludes her article with some of our thoughts about recognizing the situations our kids find themselves in and giving them advice that has the ring of truth.  The Wall Street Journal article can be found here.

Last fall we argued that the conventional wisdom surrounding cheating which suggests that we need to tell our children that cheating is wrong, that cheaters will probably get caught and certainly never prosper, was incorrect.  In this as in all parenting activities it is important to retain credibility.

By telling our children that classmates who cheat will get caught and will not benefit by their deceit, we will simply be seen as naive and hopelessly out of touch with the 21st century classroom.  Our kids don’t think cheaters fail to prosper, they think we fail to understand.

So this leaves the moral high ground; it is a tough place to stake out, a tough place to stay but ultimately, as parents, we know it is the right place to be.

The phrase I used with my kids was, “Take the D.”  If it is a choice between cheating and getting a lower grade–take the D.  I tried to convince them that they would rather face my short-lived disappointment with a poor grade than my devastation, humiliation and sadness at my failures in parenting and their faulty moral compass. I let them know that far from going to bat for them, if they were found to be cheating, I would let them burn in the fires of both their school’s and our home’s disciplinary hell.

So the conversation about cheating needs to begin early and happen often and it must be just that, a conversation, because situations and ethical dilemmas that we never faced will confront our kids every day.  It will ultimately be one of the most important conversations we will have because it touches the heart of everything we hope to do as parents in raising good people and good citizens.

Our original piece, Cheating in School: Start the Discussion Early can be found here.

Graphics Credit: WSJ, 5/15/2013

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