Thursday, May 18, 2006


The New York Times (free registration required) writes today about cheating at universities.

Two things from the article:
  1. "`Some people put a premium on where they're going to go in the future, and all they're thinking about is graduate school and the next step,' said Lindsay Nicholas, a third-year student at U.C.L.A. She added that pressure to succeed `sometimes clouds everything and makes people do things that they shouldn't do.'"
  2. "With their arsenal of electronic gadgets, students these days find it easier to cheat."
So, the benefit to cheating is increasing, and the cost is decreasing. (OK, so #1 only says that the benefit to cheating is high, not increasing. But I can tell you from my experiences at the universities I've spent time at over the past 12 years, I have witnessed students being more and more concerned about maintaining grades and obsessing over resumes, job prospects, and future plans. So I'd certainly argue that the perceived benefit to cheating has increased.)

I guess we shouldn't really be surprised, then, to learn that cheating is on the upswing, and that schools are being forced to take more and more extreme measures to prevent it. I wonder, though, if this is heading towards a shift away from Honor Codes and towards active enforcement. And while some might mock Honor Codes as ineffective, remember the research described in Freakonomics about the effects of imposing a monetary fine on parents who were late to pick-up their children from daycare-- there were more late parents with the fine than with just the social pressure.


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