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Morality and Cheating in School

  1. Sep 14, 2005 #1
    I am a senior in high school and I have major problem with homework. My feeling is that the purpose of homework should be to educate, not to waste time. This year I am feeling overwhelmed with the workload of the latter. I do not feel that homework I am given adequately helps me learn the material expected to be known and is superfluous. I would love to simply say to some teachers "I can do well on your tests without your work!" and do so.

    Here is the dilemma though.

    In order for me to receive my "A" that I want when I apply to colleges very soon, I must comply and turn in that work. If I refuse to do what I'm expected to, I must face the consequences and I am not ready to accept them. So what happens is I copy, copy, copy. I copy homework from anyone that will give it to me.

    My question is: Do you think that copying homework is morally and/or ethically wrong? If you accept for the purposes of this discussion that the system of how homework is set up is wrong, are my actions wrong as well?

    I would say no. And here's why. I believe that the way my high school has put so much emphasis on rephrasing what's in the bold print of our books for half of our grade is a system which doesn't test real retained knowledge of the subjects. I would call this copying as well, just from a book, not a peer. So I think that if I honestly understand the course, giving the teacher what he/she wants to see by this method is ok.

    I waver back and forth on this topic, and I definitely see the other side to my argument. The side I hear most often is that when I submit a paper to my teacher, it is an unspoken contract that I claim to have done this work solely on my own, and that by copying I am lying to him/her.

    What are your thoughts on this?

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2005 #2


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    I see it as clearly and obviously morally and ethically wrong. Frankly, I don't see how your rationalization has any bearing whatsoever on this.

    And quite frankly, you simply cannot understand the material as well if you do not do the homework -- remember that the goal of your education is to learn, not to ace tests. Your ability to recall information is not the ultimate in learning: you also need to acquire an understanding of the material and be able to apply your knowledge.

    The more experience you have with a subject, the greater the depth of your understanding, and the greater your ability to apply your knowledge of the subject will become. As a bonus, this will also increase your ability to recall information about the subject.

    Furthermore, even if I've not convinced you that you should be aspiring to anything more than getting a passing grade, I have yet more ammunition!

    There will come a time when you won't even be able to do adequate work through pure memorization -- the ability to apply knowledge will not come automatically, and you will have to sharpen this skill to be able to do anything. You will be at a serious disadvantage if you have firmly entrenched yourself in the habit of avoiding homework when possible, because you will find it extremely difficult to make yourself spend the time to hone your ability to apply knowledge, particularly when it involves spending effort beyond attaining the superficial knowledge provided by memorization.
  4. Sep 14, 2005 #3
    Personally i do not think copying homework is technically wrong. If its the way you choose to spend your education then its up to you...especially in university where your paying for the course....if some other student is more than willing to let you copy(even for a small fee) then consider yourself lucky.
    if your only aspirition is to just get through school and to get ANY job...then i don't see why you should think of this topic as morally wrong.

    however if your an inspiring reseracher, then you should see it as being personally wrong. And i agree with hurkyl in that its another way of learning...if you feel uninspired and unchallenged then here is your chance at the start of the school year
    to ask your teacher for a separate project to do in class. Write a proposal and if they agree to it then your destiny is in your own hand and the grade you acheive is to your own accord. Some teachers are more than willing to challenge a student...if they dont' agree then head for the higher powers.
  5. Sep 14, 2005 #4


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    Okay, I'll bite. Upon what technicality is this assertion based? You write as if how he chooses to spend his education has some bearing on the morality of copying homework -- would you care to attempt to back that up?

    You write as if his aspirations have some bearing on the morality of copying homework -- would you care to attempt to back that up?

    Specifically, I would like you to explain why you think one's goals and desires have a bearing on the morality of an action. An act doesn't suddenly convert from being morally wrong to morally okay just because you think it's unimportant... :grumpy:
  6. Sep 14, 2005 #5
    You could look at it like this, although I am not saying its necessarily morally correct...

    In todays society, it doesnt matter how you produce results as long as you get results. Who does your average business owner want for the job, someone who will get the job done by any means necessary or one who will give up if they cant get it the "right" way...

    I am just explaning what I think some people my reason for not thinking it is morally wrong or even if it is something that can not have moral consideration applied to it...
  7. Sep 14, 2005 #6


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    And who here would like to have their car built by engineers who all copied homework all through college and got their lil engineering degree without really wanting to learn the "superfluous work"
  8. Sep 14, 2005 #7
    I dont think anyone would, but thats often the reality...The hard sciences are the only great exception in my opinion...
  9. Sep 15, 2005 #8
    Hurkyl - I have read both your posts and note your opinions.

    The problem I have with the way my school system has set up homework is that it not thought provoking nor worth while for true understanding.

    I agree completely. I think that the education system I have found myself in is completely about spitting out the right answer instead of really understanding it.

    I also feel however that if one honestly comprehends all of the given material for a homework assignment, then it doesn't serve a purpose to do the assignment. For instance, I am in an AP Calculus class. The other day my teacher gave us a trig review where we converted angles from radians to degrees, reviewed trig inverse function, etc. Now if I understand the material, should I have to do the homework?

    My frustration comes with the fact that my teacher doesn't care if I understand or not, she just wants to see my paper with work. So let's say I honestly understood the material for the first semester and did not do any of the homework, but aced every single test because I really knew it. I would receive an F for the course and any college I apply to wouldn't care if I told them I really knew Calculus, they would look at my grade!
  10. Sep 15, 2005 #9


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    If you really know the material, the homework should be a breeze so just do it. Plus once you start doing the homework, you'll start realizing how little you actually understand.

    How is the homework when you actually do do it yourself?
  11. Sep 15, 2005 #10
    Good point. The assignments I've done for Calc have been a breeze. The thing is, once I get to a section that I don't know, I plan on doing the work to learn it. The homework doesn't test whether I know the information or not, the tests do, or should. If I was failing the tests or felt I honestly couldn't understand, I would work my butt off to comprehend the material. I plan on being a math major and doing TONS of homework and any other kind of work in college.
  12. Sep 15, 2005 #11
    Hurkyl what is the difference betwen copying homework, asking someone for 80% help, for 60% help for 40% help? 20%help? asking no one help at all except a reference book. What about group studies to do homework? AT what percentage of copying or asking for help does it become wrong? I'm sure you've been a TA...and a student has asked you for 80% help which means 80% copying...asking for what step to look, and then getting most of the answers outta you. Or even different students approaching for differnet steps of the same question.

    Now going back to the issue of whether copying homework is morally wrong. I see it as the education system is suppose to teach you...but what if it doesn't? Or what if it doesn't challenge you? OR what if, what it teaches you is useless to where you want end up as a career, like learning shakespeares for english as oppose ot scientific writing?? Then what? you wasted all that time doing homework for nothing, when you could have been learning other things. I understand that high school is suppose to make you a generalized well rounded person, but in all reality its a rather useless concept.

    From my own experience I spent all my high school doing homework. THen in my first year of university...for the first half to 3/4 of the semesters I repeated most of what i did in 2nd last year of highschool( itook all my science OACs in gr12) while most of my classmates and resmates were partying and copying homework ALSO they need outta province students to catch up. Did i think it was wrong to copy at the time? YES. did i get angry when someone asked for my help for a complicated question yes. Do i regret doing all those quesiotns myself no...because i learned to learn by myself and do more questions then asked..because i like the challenge.
    BUt to see most of my friends struggle with the homework and see them now...those courses were and are useless to them now,majority don't even use that knowledge.
    And i personally should have been spending most of my homework time learning programming for the reserach that i wanted to pursue to get myself into grad school.

    So i think the "morality of copying homework" would be a relative opinion.
    [1]Students know the consequences of copying homework
    [2]Students should learn to decide on a career path in high school
    [3]When they choose a path, they should do the homework that comes with it.
    [4]If the homework is unchallenging OR useless...they should attempt to ask the
    prof for more challenging work(or projects) like i had done and many intelligent students that i new had done.
    [5]if they are unable to do these projects then they know that they should go back to doing the homework then copying it.

    In your posts you address the PLUS'S of doing homework but not the topic of "is it moral to copy homework"...and who is this morality associated to?
    Is it a general qeustion?
    Specific to the individual?
    Specific to other students?
    or to the schoo;?

    If its the individual, then its their choice. If it was usefull then they will regret it later.
    If it was not then they won't. If they should choose to learn out side the box go for it.

    Is it to the other students? These students will gain the knowledge/behaviours that you spoke of and see it as a failure to those who wish to copy and not as them being morally wronged.

    if its the school? They have consequences when a student is caught cheating. If a student doesn't get caught then the system is flawed or the system needs to improve its curriculum to make it more challenging.

    If its in generality? i see it as a choice coming back to the student. If they need it they will do it and learn it. If they choose behave in the manners that you had posted then they did themselves wrong, but they chose to take that path.

    Ultimately if a student wants or needs to be challenge I think the education system should tell them that the option always exists, inlieu that they satisfy the knowledge requirements of that course...its like taking a entrance exam to skip some first year courses.

    Lastly I remember asking a friend if he wanted to cheat off me for first year chem(they were suppose to scatter identical test editions but we ended up with the same one) because he was struggling so bad. But he ended up taking the high ground and said thanks for the offer but I gotta do this myself...he failed but he learned a good lesson.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2005
  13. Sep 15, 2005 #12


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    If nothing else, it lets the teacher know you understand the material... but more importantly...

    This is a very good example, because it leads directly into a very good example I have from my experience as a tutor.

    I have known many people who were fairly smart, and of whom nobody would question that they understood trigonometry fairly well. If you presented them with 2 sin θ cos θ and asked them to simplify it, they would have undoubtedly been able to come up with sin 2θ.

    These same people will be working on a more complicated problem, say an integral. After doing a bunch of steps, they will eventually get something like [itex]\int \sin \theta \cos \theta \, d\theta[/itex], and suddenly become stuck, despite the fact they could easily handle [itex]\int (1/2) \sin 2\theta \, d\theta[/itex]. Or, they might be working on a problem and wind up with something involving sin² θ cos θ and again become stuck, despite the fact they could proceed if they had (1/4)(cos θ - cos 3θ).

    I, on the other hand, have done a LOT of trigonometry problems. (mainly due to the fact that for a time as a kid, it was all the interesting mathematics I knew existed), and these sort of transformations are second nature.

    You see, the real question is not whether you can answer questions like:

    Prove that sin² θ cos θ = (1/4)(cos θ - cos 3θ)

    or even whether you can answer questions like:

    Simplfy sin² θ cos θ in a form that doesn't involve multiplying trig functions

    but whether you can recognize circumstances when this sort of knowledge can be applied. This ability comes from practice manipulating the functions -- simply fiddling with them until you can say "yah, I get it" and prove identities on tests is not sufficient.

    You have indicated that one of your problems is that your homework simply takes too much time. I would then posit that you do not understand the material to the point where applying your knowledge is almost automatic: if you did, then it wouldn't be taking you too much time. :biggrin:

    (P.S. I'm not speaking as a goody-two shoes who always did all of his homework: I have fallen into the very trap I described in an earlier post, and have found it difficult to teach myself new topics that I find very interesting precisely because I never really developed the patience to work through enough problems. In advanced studies, at least in mathematics, it is very easy to feel like you understand something, and then *bam* you're totally lost and have no idea what's going on, and it's precisely because you did not do enough of the problems to build sufficient familiarity with the material, despite the previous feelings of understanding)
  14. Sep 15, 2005 #13


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    As for morality, just because you think the easy route gives the colleges the information you think they want, that does not make it right. Not succumbing to these sorts of rationalizations is part of what it means to be a moral person. You either do the work to get the good grade you want, or you don't do the work and suck it up and get the bad grade.

    neurocomp: any copying is wrong, and any help is good. I should specify that help does not mean getting someone to tell you how to do the problem.

    Then it's still immoral to cheat.

    Yes, their choice to do the moral thing or not.
  15. Sep 15, 2005 #14
    How you justify your future is how you will live your life. Not only is cheating ethically wrong, but your heart will suffer from it. If it doesn't, your existence will.
  16. Sep 15, 2005 #15
    I thank everyone for their input, and I do find myself leaning towards some alternative options that you guys have suggested. I think I might ask my teacher tomorrow for more challenging homework on future topics. Thanks guys.

    I have one last complaint about the way high school grades are structured. I have AP classes where homework is a third of the grade, class work/participation another third, and tests the last third. That means that one could do all of the homework and classwork, receive a 50% on all of the tests, and make a B! I just don't agree with that.
  17. Sep 15, 2005 #16


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    Well take it up with your teacher. All teachers normally are the ones who dictate how their grading works. And what exactly is so wrong with that? Its tough getting 100% on all your classwork and all your homework... which normally also means that your smart enough to do well on the tests anyhow.
  18. Sep 15, 2005 #17
    You are correct, but the problem is homework and classwork at the high school level are more of a completion grade. I do think it takes a strong work ethic to do all of your work, I just feel that my education system lacks testing of real knowledge adequately.
  19. Sep 15, 2005 #18


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    That's your teacher's problem. They make the homework. At the end of the year, tell them they suck and should go back to school themselves :rofl: :rofl:
  20. Sep 15, 2005 #19
    copying homework is not cheating. It is a form of learning.
  21. Sep 15, 2005 #20
    I'll do that. Haha. :biggrin:
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