Sunday, April 5, 2009

Why Not Cheat?

When it comes to schoolwork, why not cheat?
Essentially, there are two sorts of reasons. The first involves looking out for number one. The other has to do with doing the right thing. Let’s examine them both.

Looking Out for Number One

If you are smart, you won't cheat because the potential costs far outweigh the likely benefits. This is not a moral argument. The point here isn’t that cheating is wrong, though it is, it’s that cheating isn’t smart.

Sometimes students cheat because they don’t realize the seriousness of the consequences if they get caught. Don’t make that mistake. Few things enrage educators more than cheating and they often take serious measures against students who are guilty of it. They include:

• Double weighted zeros on the test or assignment
• An informative phone call to parents
• Course failure
• A letter of reprimand in the student’s permanent record
• Compulsory community service
• Expulsion from a program
• Expulsion from school

Another selfish reason for not cheating is that it stifles the development of the cheater’s own human potential. In other words, cheaters cheat themselves of their own possibilities as persons. That’s pretty basic.

Here is a final selfish reason not to cheat. Often it only postpones the inevitable. Let’s say you cheat your way through a math course. Your lack of actual skill will typically catch up with you in the next math course. In other words, cheating usually only postpones the inevitable. Plus, as time goes by, the odds that you will be able to keep cheating your way through get slimmer and slimmer.

Ethical Arguments

The Judeo-Christian tradition offers one well-known ethical argument against cheating. “Thou shalt not steal,” states the commandment. And since you are getting a grade you didn't earn, cheating is stealing.

An additional ethical argument against cheating is that it produces unfair and unjust consequences. Justice requires that each person gets what he or she deserves. Sometimes deciding what people deserve isn’t easy. But that's not the case with a cheater. He or she didn’t do the work and their honest classmates did. Therefore, the cheater doesn’t deserve the same grade.

A further ethical argument against cheating is that it involves using others to advance a personal goal without regard for their rights as human beings. People aren't things and should not be treated as if they were.

Finally. in deciding what is morally right it's helpful to consider the total good that will come from our action as well as the total harm. With cheating, the total harm outweighs the good. What is more, honest effort provides greater benefits to a greater number. Therefore, cheating is wrong.

You’ve seen there are two kinds of reasons not to cheat. The first involves looking out for number one. The second involves ethical considerations of right and wrong. The combined force of both arguments suggests cheating is a bad idea.

Psychological research reveals that when people have a chance to reflect on a moral issue, they are much more likely to behave in accord with their consciences. Give yourself that opportunity.

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