Cheating as defined here is about copying another’s work from a test or other student work. It includes plagiarism on essays or similar projects. Cheating is not uniquely wrong, but one of many behavioral issues teachers must face.

Cheating in Elementary School Should be Managed Differently

Teachers of the very young should spend class time discussing rules and consequences — character education has a place in the elementary curriculum.

Student backgrounds and family dynamics will yield varying degrees of honest behavior, and school may offer unique exposure to societal norms and expectations for students.

Implying that cheating is somehow uniquely “bad” is probably not justified, as there are many behaviors that can grow into crimes with consequences in the adult world that are worse than cheating. Cruel or aggressive children may become dangerous adults, for example.

Also, children can readily understand that aggression causes fear and pain — the consequences of cheating are ethical matters requiring the development of a moral compass.

Remembering that some dishonest behavior is normal for young children is important.

Remembering that dishonest behavior is common among adults helps teachers understand that the temptation to cheat is insidious.

Explaining that cheating belongs to a class of behaviors known generally as dishonesty may help children understand. There are numbers of stories and books that draw on dishonesty as a theme. Such literature can offer a good foundation for character lessons.

Why Children Cheat

In most homes cheating and dishonesty in general acquire increasingly significance as children grow. Still, deceitful behavior is not viewed with equal importance in all homes.

Some parents may talk openly of unethical acts that they committed to put food on the table or to exact revenge for something they felt was unjust.

School places new responsibilities on children that can encourage cheating. Over-emphasis on grades and standardized tests can cause students to believe that their worthiness as people is determined by scores and percentiles. Indeed, standardized tests have taken on such importance that administrators and teachers have been guilty of assisting students by giving or changing answers.

Schools often spend days preparing students for standardized testing — posters appear on walls, notices are sent to parents, teachers offer practice assessments, etc.

These procedures make students a part of the success — or failure ­— of an effort perceived as much more than a simple test.

Cheating is endemic in society. Children hear adults at sporting events accuse players and referees of cheating, and professional athletes themselves have been frequent models of dishonest behavior. Perhaps the wonder is that there are honest children in our schools.

Some agencies and individuals blame the increasing emphasis on testing that came with the No Child Left Behind Act. Surveys show an increase in cheating since implementation of NCLB, but placing blame on it alone is naive.

And what about consequences? Read in part 2!