At Diamond Bar High School, like many other schools, cheating has long been stigmatized as a lazy and selfish way of making yourself feel better about your grades; a workaround for actual effort.
This school year, though, it appears to many that more students than ever before are taking advantage of the online learning format to cheat on tests. While this may seem absolutely unjustifiable at first glance, the extenuating circumstances at play this year mean that students may have more reason to cheat than normal.
The switch to online learning this year has greatly affected the academic and mental wellbeing of many students. Adding to that stress is the decline in their grades, making it difficult for students to resist the temptation to cheat on exams. Cheating also makes exams much easier, as you can fact check as you go, and it takes much less time and effort compared to studying and stressing over results.
It also does not help that many students were already in bad mental states because they have been stuck at home for over a year now. If a small grade boost is all it takes for people to feel better, at least until we can be back in class, there’s little reason for students to not take the easy route.
There may also be pressure at home from parents to perform well despite the weird circumstances of this year. The anxiety this pressure creates can make academics much harder for students who would otherwise perform well. For those whose parents have heavy academic expectations, cheating allows them to escape their parents’ scrutiny, even if it’s only temporarily, without taking on unhealthy amounts of stress.
In addition, while it’s unclear how much more common cheating has become this year, the general sentiment that it’s increased has created a self-perpetuating problem. Because students think their peers are cheating, they’re more prone to cheat themselves, especially on curved exams, if not solely to level the playing field. The more students that do so, the more incentive there is for others to cheat, which is a problem that can’t be solved with one individual’s integrity.
Many of the hardest classes have curved exams, meaning that those who choose not to cheat are effectively punished as the curve grows harsher. While it’s not an ideal scenario, the fact is that those who cheat are rewarded while honesty is punished.
Most importantly, the majority of those involved–teachers, students, colleges admissions offices–have already accepted that this year’s grades carry much less weight than previous years due to the discrepancies between each individual’s learning circumstances.
This year has been highly experimental and many students feel that they have learned much less than they normally would, whether it’s due to a noisy home environment, difficulty focusing, or circumstances otherwise out of their control. It is simply easier to cheat rather than to think of any workarounds for any inconveniences. This has led students to care less about obtaining grades through legitimate means. If grades are less important, then it’s clearly a relatively minor sacrifice if a few students cheat. After all, colleges will be focusing more on other years’ grades anyways.
While clearly there’s no legitimate excuse to cheat, there are many situations in which the justification for cheating in this virtual school year outweigh the negatives. As such, cheating has become the new normal in this online school year, especially for students who may be facing tough situations outside of school this year.