The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

Editorial: Cheating shapes culture of unhealthy competition

Jessica Wang
Outside Dobbins or in the Main hallway, friends huddle together in groups, exchanging information on an imminent exam. Most students would not consider this cheating, despite clearly violating the honor code.

A calculus test question for an English one, or an AP United States History multiple choice answer for the physics free response. Outside Dobbins or in the Main hallway, friends huddle together in groups, exchanging information on an imminent exam. Most students would not consider this cheating, despite clearly violating the honor code. Students may instead characterize such actions as simply helping a friend out, therefore rationalizing academic dishonesty and pressuring others to engage as well. 

The high-pressure, academic culture at Harker, where grades overshadow the importance of genuine learning, exacerbates the problem of cheating. However, the pervasiveness of cheating within the student body does not align with the mission of our school. The academically rigorous environment at Harker aims to provide an environment of learning and exploration; cheating undermines that goal and nullifies Harker’s promise to foster academic curiosity. 

Blatant actions like sharing test answers are clear violations, but many perceive ethical lines as blurred in areas such as peer editing and AI assistance. The boundaries of cheating have expanded in the digital age with the advent of AI technology such as ChatGPT. When teachers set clear boundaries and expectations, however, the responsibility lies with the student. 

New technology has created an environment where cheating seems more viable and enticing, since students often perceive cheating as a shortcut to success. Students who opt to study hard instead of cheating may feel frustrated when they see those who cheat scoring higher and potentially reducing their score on a curve. Even on assignments that aren’t curved, honorable students may still feel demoralized if they witness a classmate cheat to achieve a higher grade. Thus, other students in those classes experience pressure to cheat, creating a vicious, perpetuating cycle. 

Jessica Wang

To break the cycle, we must hold one another accountable for our actions. A primary concern is the reluctance to report cheating due to the stigma associated with being labeled a ‘snitch.’ On a Google Form shared with the Harker upper school community on Schoology on Dec. 4, 79.1% of 182 participants reported witnessing an act of cheating, 66% of whom have witnessed a friend cheating. Of these participants who saw someone cheat, 16% have reported an incident of cheating while 2% have reported a friend.

Administration should take practical steps to make reporting easier, ensuring that those who witness cheating can contribute to maintaining the integrity of the academic environment. Harsher penalties should be given to those caught cheating, and more rigorous test-taking procedures: stricter proctoring or more stringent security regarding technology could reduce the effectiveness of cheating. 

Instead, it seems as if we have normalized cheating. Of the 185 responses to the Google Form, 60.4% feel cheating has been normalized at Harker, and 62.1% feel it is not a problem that can be resolved. Students discuss test content with their friends, violating the Harker Honor Code. Our comfort with discussing cheating indicates its prevalence and normalization in the student body, something no longer taboo to talk about.

With more reports of cheating, students will have to face consequences for their actions, cultivating external pressure against dishonesty. However, fear of the repercussions of cheating should not be the sole reason students avoid it. For a sustainable long-term solution, we should instead aim to change the intense culture at Harker, where cheating is no longer seen as a shortcut to better scores, but instead looked down upon. To begin building such a culture, students need to reframe their view of their education as a process, rather than the means to an end revolving around a number on their transcript.

Cheating harms the community in more ways than a student’s individual learning. The campus becomes a place of competition rather than learning, with a lack of emphasis on hard work, prioritizing those who cut corners in their work. The student body as a whole becomes more toxic, seeing one’s classmates as rivals rather than companions, and fuels an atmosphere of frustration and resentment. 

As members of this academic community, it is our collective responsibility to contribute to an environment where honesty and integrity are upheld. Only with a unified effort from the whole community to reduce or eliminate cheating can the educational experience remain meaningful and transformative for each student.

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About the Contributors
Jessica Wang, Co-Opinions Editor
Jessica Wang (11) is the co-opinions editor for Harker Aquila and the Winged Post, and this is her third year on staff. This year, Jessica wishes to cover a greater breadth of content in the articles she writes and publishes, as well as improve on her illustration and photography skills. In her free time, she enjoys making up new instant ramen recipes (influenced by her YouTube Shorts content) and playing with her cat (of which she is unfortunately allergic to, but loves all the same).

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    Will GonsiorFeb 9, 2024 at 4:48 pm

    Everyone can benefit from an article like thi… wait does that say Dobbins? Like JK ALL DAY???
    sorry back on topic this is a great article. Makes me think twice about letting a friend copy my notes earlier today — not something I thought twice about, but I suppose I should have.