Cheating has become an epidemic in education systems all across the globe. Students cheat on anything and everything, from homework assignments to quizzes to standardized tests. To address this issue, many schools have adopted honor codes intended to cultivate integrity among students. While the honor code is hard to enforce and–as the name implies–relies heavily on the students’ sense of honor, if an honor code is accompanied by in-class discussion on the issue of cheating, it can positively affect the culture of a school. My current school has an honor code, yet I believe my school would be benefitted by increased discussion regarding the code to encourage students to adhere to the code and pressure their peers to do likewise.
The chief objection to the honor code is that it is difficult to enforce. When teachers do not trust their students, they may feel the need to spy on them to prevent them from cheating (Source A). In such cases, the idea of leaving a room full of students to their own devices seems utterly implausible, even with an honor code in place. After all, students will cheat even when the stakes are high. The University of Virginia’s honor code did not prevent a staggering 157 students from cheating, even knowing that they faced expulsion if they were caught. Yet in all cases, the first step to creating an environment in which teachers are able to trust students, in which students prevent each other from cheating, is by holding more discussions about academic dishonesty.
Cheating benefits nobody in the long run; it encourages students to get by through trickery rather than actually building competence. It even hurts the witness, who may see his own grades suffer as the result of a harder curve. While no honor code is infallible, having an honor code and educating students on the consequences of cheating is a necessary first step to building a culture of integrity on campus. In the University of Virginia scandal, it was a student who first alerted the professor to the cheating occurring. Cheating may be epidemic, but the path to ending it can start with just a few students who recognize its harm and will work to eradicate it. Thus, it is important for schools to discuss cheating and impress upon their students its wrongness.
On a large scale, honor codes are effective. Studies show that “students at colleges with honor codes–typically student-enforced–cheat less than their counterparts elsewhere do” (Source C). The most important feature of this is that the honor codes are student-inforced–more than failing, more than expulsion, what deters students from cheating is the disapproval of their peers and the actual risk of being reported.
The success of any honor code depends on “other students’ tolerance for cheating” and the establishment of “a culture that makes … cheating socially unacceptable” . If a greater portion of students are taught that cheating is unacceptable, if students are encouraged to end cheating among their peers, honor codes can be effective. But as Dirmeyer notes, the success of an honor code depends not upon its existence, but its perception among the students.
My high school would benefit tremendously from increased discussion on the honor code. As shown by Source E, few students are actually willing to report their peers for cheating; if this number increased even slightly the honor code might start to hold some actual value. Maybe by the time my friends take the AP Lang exam, they won’t have to position themselves to hide their answers from people behind them-as I did.
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