I wonder if it’s just me? Perhaps I have a sensitive conscience. But cheating has always surprised and deeply bothered me. When I ask people about it today, some agree, but many also shrug and say, it has always gone on. OK, I wasn’t born yesterday. I know and remember that some kids cheated on tests etc. But I don’t remember it being common, and I can certainly say that I did not cheat, and most of the kids I knew did not cheat. Frankly, I am too scared to cheat at things, and I am a terrible liar.
But consider some excerpts from an article by Bill O’Reilly in yesterday’s Washington Examiner wherein he details how, it would seem, that cheating is now quite a widespread phenomenon. He also ponders some reasons that cheating and other forms of lying are on the increase. As usual, the remarks of the author are in black, bold, italics, my remarks are in plain text red.
Ask any attorney or judge, and they will tell you that lying under oath is now the rule, not the exception, in the nation’s courtrooms.
In addition, the national cheating epidemic has exploded. A Georgia investigation alleges systematic cheating occurred at 44 public schools over a 10-year period. But it’s not the kids who were caught. No, the state says at least 178 teachers and principals did the deeds. It seems the remarkable improvements in student scores on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests were fraudulent. Educators doctored the tests in order to make their schools look good. They have all been fired.
While I do not know all the specifics about this Georgia case, I am convinced that some people justify cheating by cynically viewing the whole system as corrupt or unfair from the get-go. Thus, since things are “unfair,” it is not wrong to game the system. At least this is how I hear some people talk today, “It’s OK to cheat on my taxes since the Government takes too much anyway and they make the tax code so complicated that I can’t be bothered with it.” Well, perhaps both things are true, but of course there are legitimate ways to influence public policy short of cheating. But some say, why be bothered with a long term project like that? Just cook the books.
The key point is that the cheater justifies his behavior by cynically regarding the situation he faces as unjust. Now he can not only cheat, but even feel like a righteous dude as he does so. Perhaps some of the teachers resented Federal and State education standards, “No Child Left Behind” benchmarks etc. Perhaps they think that such things are biased against minorities, or that testing is an overrated tool, or that the bureaucrats who call for testing know nothing of education and are just corrupt themselves. Therefore I am have a right to cook the books. After all I’m just trying to protect people’s jobs and keep the funding going, and I’m only lying to a bunch of evil people with questionable political motives anyway….to heck with them! Or so the thinking goes.
I do not say this is case with everyone, in the Georgia scandal but it is not hard to imagine the thinking of our cynical culture seeping into the scenario.
Lying and cheating almost always come down to betrayal and are most often driven by selfishness. America has become a nation obsessed with immediate gratification. …. it’s a free-for-all of getting what you want as quickly as possible. Lying and cheating are considered by many to be useful tools on the road to accomplishment.
Yes, this would certainly seem to be another factor. There’s a kind of entitlement attitude that I shouldn’t have to wait or work hard or earn what I have. I should just be given it. Thus, tests and other hurdles are regarded, not just with impatience, but also with a kind of outrage. The outrage says, “Who or what is this keeping me from what is mine? Why should I have to qualify or jump thought hoops or wait for what I am entitled to?”
Thus, tests and qualifications, earned credentials, the paying of legitimate fees or taxes, and demonstrating one’s bona fides are all considered unreasonable incursions or delays from what is rightfully mine anyway. I want what I want, and I want it now, and thus I have every right to go around the system, and get what is mine.
Public schools have embraced secularism with a vengeance; therefore, Moses and his 10 Commandments have been banished.
Yes, the idea that God is watching or that we will have to answer to God is largely gone from our culture. I remember that, even though I wasn’t a very spiritual child, I was very powerfully motivated by the thought that God saw and knew everything I was doing. God was just on the radar and I had to deal with him.
I am not sure most young people grow up with this today in our secular culture. God has been “kicked to the curb.” Thus, if I get away with something, I really have gotten away with it. Or so the secular thinking goes. That God knows and I will have to answer to him for what I do would hardly seem to enter the mind of most moderns imbued with a secular, rather than a sacramental understanding of reality.
There are, of course, good people who understand that honesty is indeed the best policy if you want to live a worthwhile life. But their numbers are dwindling. In fact, a recent study out of the University of Connecticut says that an astounding 95 percent of high school students have admitted to cheating in the past year. Wow! I just know it wasn’t anything near this high when I was in school.
For a variety of reasons, our society now embraces and empowers scoundrels… In the 1960s, it was: “If it feels good, do it.” Today, it is: “If it looks good, steal it.” Or: “If it sounds good, say it.” Many of the moral boundaries that once elevated this country have collapsed.
Yes, our entertainment glorifies rouges, scoundrels, gangers, and a lot of bad behaviors. It’s the anti-authority thing and the “don’t tell me what to do” syndrome set to music and cinematic glory.
The “heros” live on the periphery and gain hero status by flaunting the norms and engaging in often lawless practices. The premise of most of this glorification is a deeply cynical view that the whole “system” is corrupt.
It will be granted that there are problematic aspects and hypocrisies in any society that need attention. But deep cynicism that there are any rules and norms to be observed has gripped increasing numbers who thereby rationalize their dishonesty and lawlessness as a kind of righteousness.
Too easily and uncritically we lionize those who flaunt or tweak the system, as we vicariously vent our own frustrations through their antics. “Yeah! Take that!” we tell “the man” as our hero flaunts and games the system and makes “the man” look foolish. But all the while we feed our cynicism that anyone has a right to the honest truth, to legitimate obedience, to legitimate taxes, fees and so forth. Then in arrogant self righteousness many can even congratulate themselves for cheating, stealing and lying. And not only can we personally adopt this attitude, but society as a whole can and does, increasingly, adopt it.
If society does not hold us responsible for deceit, why should we hold ourselves responsible? That’s a tough question to answer when students see their teachers cooking the books….
Examiner Columnist Bill O’Reilly, host of the Fox News show. The Full article is at the Washington Examiner: Lying and Cheating in the Home of the Brave
Photo from Urban Titan
Here is a “classic” film from 1984 in the cynical genre I mentioned. It is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Throughout the movie he lies, he cheats, he steals, he’s dishonest, and he’s “our hero.” The school secretary calls him “a righteous dude.” And of course all the authorities are cynically represented as unreasonable buffoons who deserve to be cheated against, and lied to. Please excuse the vulgarities, especially at the end, but I could not find a trailer without them.