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Cultural trends show more students are cheating in school

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SALT LAKE CITY &mdash Several recent stories suggest more students are cheating these days. 125 students at Harvard were accused of cheating two weeks ago. One communications professor studies cultural trends, and she had one theory of why more students are cheating.

Professor Elsie Talfa says that people tend to associate cheating with the "slacker" students who get low grades, but she says higher achieving students are more apt to cheat and it's a mirror of what's happening within our society.

"You just want to be one step ahead," Talfa said.

Students say they feel a lot of pressure these days to be the best or at least get good grades.

"You don't want people to sit there and be like ‘Oh, you failed the test?' when they pass it and then give you crap about it," said Abby Langi, a sophomore in high school.

A 2010 Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics study shows 59 percent of high school students admitted cheating on a test during the last year, with 34 percent doing it more than two times. The study also shows one in three students admitted using the internet to plagiarize an assignment.

So what motivates the students to cheat?

[The students] are overwhelmed. They're stressed. They're entitled." -Dr. Kimberly Zarkin, Westminster College

Some suggest cheating has become easier and more widely tolerated within society.

"With the whole rise in all the information on the internet people are just saying ‘Why not use the resources that you have?'" said Rily Quinonez, a freshman at Westminster College.

Dr. Kimberly Zarkin at Westminster College says that students who are cheating are not lazy- most of them just don't see the assignments as worth their time.

"Really the ends justify the means," Zarkin said. "Which we saw in the Enron scandal, and which we saw in all the bank scandals. [The students] are overwhelmed. They're stressed. They're entitled."

And other students say that failure is not an option- especially when things look so grim for the economy.

"You read articles how graduate students aren't getting the jobs," said Andrew Hagedorn.

"If you don't get out of high school and even if you don't get into college, you can't get a good job at all," said high school sophomore Andreas Erlandsson.

With the case of cheating at Harvard, it involved a take-home final exam. The university believes students plagiarized because there were similarities in papers from over half of the class. The university has not yet held hearings on the allegations. It could take months to resolve this issue of cheating.


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