Trusting environment gives students chance for integrity, not academic dishonesty

John Park, columnist

“Helga and Claus are partners for a project on the causes of the Great Depression. Helga has no research to support her arguments and makes up false sources, while Claus uses legitimate information. The pair compiles and turns in the project.”

We all went through the anti-cheating spiel on the first day of classes. This likely involved pretending to listen to the teacher read the academic honesty guidelines, signing a contract and completing a worksheet about how Helga, Claus and other fictitious students violated a policy.

According to Dean Ronald Bean, teachers and administrators make clear what constitutes academic dishonesty through discussions described above and enforce their own anti-cheating policies in order to promote integrity and prepare students for the future.

This is because at the collegiate level, the consequences for cheating are magnified and in future occupations there are often no easy ways to get around work. Bean believes that teachers have had different experiences with dishonesty in their careers and this influences their policies to prevent cheating, whether it be collecting phones or putting calculators in press-to-test.

However, I believe that if teachers minimize the temptation to cheat too much, students will never have the choice to be trustworthy or not. Science teacher Jordan Pasqualin explained that integrity cannot be developed if students are never put in situations where they have to choose to act with honesty or dishonesty.

Teachers should place more trust in students in order to form a mutual sense of respect.

On one of my physics tests, my calculator ran out of battery as I was solving my last problem. I asked my teacher at the time if I could borrow a calculator, and he told me to wait and use a classmate’s calculator once they were finished with the test.

My teacher likely knew that I could have easily checked my answers with the numbers in my classmate’s calculator. Yet, he gave me the opportunity to exhibit integrity, and I respected his decision to give me the benefit of the doubt.

I believe that an environment of trust engenders not only a sense of responsibility in students to be honest and uphold the teacher’s trust, but also a motivation to put forth their best effort.

An environment that restricts this mutual trust, on the other hand, creates distance between students and teachers. From a student’s perspective, this may place him or her and their teacher on opposite sides in the context of learning; when in reality, they are working together.

As Jeannie Logan, instructional supervisor of the Social Studies Department, explained, teachers would much rather help a student before they get to the point of cheating than administer consequences.

However, the responsibility must not be placed solely on teachers. Students should strive to trust teachers and their motives as well.

If we perceive that teachers are out to get us or believe that what they are teaching is irrelevant, we will be more inclined to find an easier way out. Just like how excessive suspicion can hurt a romantic relationship, a lack of trust between student and teacher is not constructive and will not help decrease the prevalence of cheating.

Simply answering a question out of obligation about Helga and Claus cheating is not enough to combat academic dishonesty at South. Conversation between students and teachers should extend beyond the technical aspects of cheating.

More genuine discussion about teachers’ motives behind certain actions and measures in addition to more opportunities for students to display integrity will create an environment of trust that will turn students away from the path of Helga and Claus.