Every now and again I hear people talk contemptuously about the way liberals talk about justice. Well, this is the state of the country: David Callahan reports about the way one student justifies cheating, Why not cheat, he argued, given how many of America's most successful people cut corners to get where they are? Cheating is how the real world works, he said. Look at the politicians who lie or the sluggers who take steroids, or the CEOs who cook the books. The student also pointed to the hurdles he faced as he tried to get ahead: high tuition costs, heavy student loans, low-paying jobs without benefits. America wasn't a fair place for kids like him, so it made sense to try to level the playing field by bending a few rules.
A 2004 poll of high school students found that 59
percent agreed that "successful people do what they have to do to win,
even if others consider it cheating." Young people believe in honor and
value integrity; they also worry that living by these beliefs could
mean ending up as a loser. In justifying her cheating, one student told
a researcher: "Good grades can make the difference between going to
medical school and being a janitor." Few professors have a ready retort
to this logic....
Students may be cynical about what it takes to succeed these days, but they do care about fairness. And cheating is nothing if not unfair. Cheaters get rewards they don't deserve, like scholarships, admission to college or grad school, internships, and jobs. Cheating is the antithesis of equal opportunity - the notion that we all should have a fair shot at success and that the people who get rewarded are the people who deserve those rewards because they worked the hardest.