There is a lot of pressure regarding higher education, as we are all intimately aware. Whether it is the pressure to get into college, pressure to stay in college, pressure to make the most out of college or pressure to “succeed” (whatever that may mean), sometimes students and their parents resort to desperate measures to accommodate the system.
Karin Klein, of The Los Angeles Times, writes about a high school sophomore in San Mateo County who was caught cheating – plagiarizing another student’s essay – in his Honors English class. His father is taking the case to court because, while he does not deny that his son cheated, he believes that the punishment of being demoted from the Honors English class to a regular sophomore English class is too harsh and will damage his son’s chances of being admitted to prestigious universities. He cites a school rule that says cheating will not result in punishment until the second offense, but the school counters with the fact that all honors students sign a contract at the beginning of the year that promises expulsion from the Honors class if the student is caught cheating.
As much as I understand the desperation and fear of not getting into college, I cannot take the father’s side in this scenario. I noticed that some of the top people in my advanced high school classes would often be the biggest culprits of cheating and plagiarizing, but they never faced consequences. The school’s decision to follow through with their contract is a good example to other students. It shows not only that punishments and consequences do occur for dishonesty, but also proves to parents that the pressure they place on their children to achieve good grades can be counterproductive and misplaced. School should be about getting an education, not a grade point average.
If the student found the Honors English class so demanding and unmanageable, perhaps he should have taken regular sophomore English anyway. Advanced classes are not for everyone, and they seem to simply increase the competition among ambitious students.
His father, meanwhile, is only drawing more attention to the matter than if he were simply to accept his son’s punishment. Whether his son even wants to remain in the Honors English class or what his plans are for college is not mentioned at all in the article. The school will still allow him to participate in the International Baccalaureate program next year, so he and his family should be grateful that the school’s decision will not completely eliminate him from the competitive pool of college-bound students at his school.
It is unfortunate that the student will be forced out of the program and that his plight has become so widely known, but ultimately, cheating is not a good habit to get into. UC Irvine has a very strict policy on plagiarism and cheating that is shared by every professor and teaching assistant in the beginning of every class, every quarter. In fact, cheating seems to be one of the worst and most frequently committed offences at this institution. Many students who get caught cheating may have carried these habits from high school. The consequences for such acts only get more strict the further you go in education, so perhaps it is fortunate for this young student that he learns his lesson now.
His father should also recognize this and what effect reentering the Honors English course may have on his son’s grades and social life at the school. It is difficult to come to a consensus on what counts as right or wrong, but I think it is safe to say that cheating should not be condoned or let off.
Karam Johal is a second-year women’s studies major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.