Alleged cheating threat understandable in Foothill’s environment


The recent cheating scandal that broke out in an AP class is no surprise. Credit: Lucy Knowles/The Foothill Dragon Press

Sean Anthony

The recent cheating scandal that broke out in an AP class is no surprise. Credit: Lucy Knowles/The Foothill Dragon Press
The recent cheating scandal that broke out in an AP class is no surprise. Credit: Lucy Knowles/The Foothill Dragon Press

A plague. A plague o’er the education system, a plague o’er the nation, a plague o’er Foothill Technology High School.

 During finals week, a localized outbreak of alleged cheating infected Foothill. Surprising? Wait until you hear who the perpetrators were.

 AP and honors classes are often seen as strongholds of the intelligent, “good” students, deemed academically superior, destined for success, bound for collegiate rigor and achievement, etc.

For this reason, it is quite shocking at first glance that such “great” students were the culprits of an apparently widespread cheating scandal. This is certainly no minor crime in academia. In fact, cheating at a university generally results in expulsion. At Foothill, it is often cause for a double zero and a “black” mark on that student’s permanent record. Whether such punishment has been decreed in this scenario, I cannot say.

This alleged academic dishonesty broke out in the junior AP US History (APUSH) class.

Now of course news picked off the grapevine is subject to bountiful embellishment or downplay, depending on the gossip’s cause. However, it seems clear that enough juniors in APUSH allegedly cheated on the final exam that the course’s teacher, Mr. Geib, had to throw out the test score.

It appears the outbreak was caused by one or more students circulating the image of a test taken by a prior year’s student. Whether or not every single student in APUSH received such an image —or opened it—is not clear. I have numerous friends who have told me they refused to open it.

Still, the intention of this article is not to guilt those students who succumbed to cheating.

The chance of, say, half the APUSH class being immoral students without a conscience is unlikely, and I wouldn’t doubt if most of these students are clashing with their inner critic right now.

 More likely is that the cheating is an indirect effect of the very system which punishes academic dishonesty.

 To cheat, or not to cheat? That is the question.

 According to Stanford University, “between 75 and 98 percent of college students surveyed each year report having cheated in high school.”

 These statistics are staggering, absurd, and downright infuriating.

 However, this statistic is much more telling when you look at the number of alumni who reported cheating in 1940: only around 20 percent.

 The numbers speak for themselves.

 How did it ever get to be like this?

Some may argue that the sole cause for this dramatic spike in recent years is due to the inundation of technology, which makes it increasingly easy for students to cheat on tests and circulate information.

 While this is very true and can be clearly seen by any current teacher or student in high school, electronic plagiarism, circulation, and cheating is only one effect of a deeper issue: social pressures and the education system.

It’s no secret that the difficulty, cost and perceived value of getting into a halfway decent university is exceedingly high in the United States.

While a 4.0 GPA used to be a ticket to the college of your dreams, the average person now needs nothing short of a 4.3 GPA to even be considered for universities like UCLA or Stanford.

The great irony of this situation is that Stanford, the school that reported the above statistics, is a prime example of the type of school which indirectly allows cheating in the first place.

Surely Stanford and related schools don’t directly “promote” cheating, but, by turning a blind eye to its omnipresence in high school and making it exceptionally difficult to get into the school, it’s nearly impossible for a student who’s not a savant or remarkable athlete to gain admission.

In addition, less than a 4.3 grade point average is perceived as failure in the eyes of such Ivy League or other prestigious schools. Less than a 4.3 is practically perceived as failure in the eyes of the student, in the eyes of academia, and in the eyes of society.

Fundamentally, most students delude themselves into thinking that their GPA is the one and only indicator of their future success in college, in their career, and in life.

 So then, if a GPA foretells the future of a student’s career, what is to stop them from cheating?

 Morality? What a naïve concept. Besides, the moral line is blurred. Is it fair that a student exhibiting integrity gets a lower test score than one who cheated?

 If success is so synonymous with greatness (which it seems to be, then integrity must be synonymous with weakness).

Gov. Christie’s recent bridge scandal in New Jersey shows us how politicians often exploit their power to get what they want.  Bangladesh’s factory collapse in 2013 killing over 1,000 garment workers was easily preventable and forewarned, yet the owner refused to renovate the cheap labor building.  Similar accidents continue throughout Bangladesh and other parts of the world.  FOX News relies on the exploitation of fearful “news” to maintain viewership.

Yet the encompassing theme here is that all of these incidents are brought about by people who are perceivably successful.

The recent scandal at Foothill involving APUSH students was not a one time thing.  Foothill Tech, a school with an exceptionally high emphasis on academic success, is just another brick in the wall of students willing to sacrifice anything for “success.”

 In the final analysis, I cannot pretend that cheating is purely vice.  As stated before, as soon as one student cheats, that person gains an unfair advantage over the others to the point it almost becomes equal for all the other students to cheat.  

Since there will always be a handful of students who cheat, this sticky dynamic will persist.

I understand that most students committing academic dishonesty aren’t aiming to become the spineless governor of New Jersey or an exploitative industrialist in Bangladesh. Most of us are simply trying to get into the college of our dreams, the college with high prestige, the college with that great engineering program, the college that would make our parents proud, etc.

The thing is, if you’re cheating to get good grades in a course that you can’t achieve an A in, fairly, you probably don’t deserve an A in that class.  Furthermore, if that helps you get into a “great” university, you probably don’t belong in that university.

Think about it, if you’re cheating so you can enter a school with extraordinarily intelligent peers, you’re likely to find yourself at the bottom of the food chain since you didn’t exactly “earn” your spot, and then what’s to stop you from cheating again?

Cheating becomes a vicious cycle, and ultimately it’s going to catch up with the culprit, as good as their intentions may be.

So, I think we should all, as students, ask ourselves these crucial questions:

Am I really willing to sacrifice my integrity to get into a college where I probably don’t belong in the first place?

If I get into that college, what is to stop me from continuing to cheat?

Will I be more satisfied in a place I feel I should be, or in a place I know I belong?

What do you think?