by Noah Corman ’19
The anonymity used throughout this article allows students to more freely discuss this subject, because it may be damaging to a student’s social status if they are interpreted as drawing more attention to cheating or implicating classmates.
Some students overwhelm themselves with AP classes and extracurriculars. Others want to get a leg up on their peers. These are the commonly advertised causes that are thought to push students to cheat on assignments. The aforementioned two causes overshadow a lesser-known but nonetheless common reason for academic dishonesty: a lack of desire to learn.
“If the person doesn’t care, then they have no incentive to do their own work … they’re just going to find the easiest way to do it,” said an anonymous junior. “For most things, since most things aren’t [just for] completion, the easiest [way] is cheating.”
When students enjoy learning, they are achieving an optimal school experience. When this is not the case, forced participation compels people to find the most efficient way to move through a task. Enjoyment tolerates inefficiencies— reading the whole chapter instead of skimming the text, for instance—but boredom does no such thing. It allocates time and effort to activities the student deems more appealing, leaving less time to do work with integrity.
Those who appreciate learning and the content will read the books, do the research, and find the time to thoroughly complete the work for a given class. Those who see the class as burdensome will put in less effort.
“If you really do love learning, then you wouldn’t cheat,” said an anonymous freshman. “If you really like biology versus if you just want to do well in that class . . . [that student] won’t care if they get A’s or not.”
Classes that fail to click with students pave a path for academic dishonesty. Although interest varies greatly from one subject to another, concern about grades remains relatively consistent. Students want to graduate, but they face the obstacles of four years of English and math as well as three years of social studies. When they do not appreciate one or more of the required subjects, they turn their attention to staying afloat grade-wise.
Students and teachers alike more often attribute drops in integrity to excessive homework and high expectations, labeling it a result of stress. Perhaps no one has noticed the influence of apathy because this workload masks it. AP teachers can see the hefty study guides, the quiz scores, and the cheating, so it is only natural to connect visible phenomena to said cheating.
“The workload is so high [students] resort to that,” said AP Physics teacher Gina Martin. “I think the cheating I see is a response to an academic stress . . . As they go on, I think it becomes a learned behavior.”
This makes the direct cause even tougher to zero in on. A student might carry their cheating habits from middle school to Sherwood, where the stress of their AP courses imply that they are taking on too much too soon. Rather, the reality could simply be that school was never very interesting them in the first place. Both factors play a role in students potentially developing into cheaters.
“Lack of engagement, to me, is not a reason to cheat,” said AP World History and Sociology teacher Joshua Kinnetz, who expressed concern that students use boredom and apathy to justify cheating.
To avoid tumbling down that particular slippery slope, students need to find a way to engage themselves and take on an appropriate workload. Hoping for the administration to spice up classes and limit homework is impractical. Alternatively, cultivating a love for knowledge could drive academic dishonesty out of our school, in turn planting the seed for a student body that better upholds Sherwood’s core values.