"It's not the dumb kids who cheat," one Bay Area prep school student told me. "It's the kids with a 4.6 grade-point average who are under so much pressure to keep their grades up and get into the best colleges. They're the ones who are smart enough to figure out how to cheat without getting caught."
There's so much wrong with that kid's thought processes that I have a difficult time knowing where to begin. I guess I'll start here: if you think you're going to do well at Stanford if you have to cheat to get in, you're probably not smart enough to go there in the first place. And if you think you're too good for UC Davis instead of UC Berkeley, who the heck wants you around, anyway?
I know cheating is rampant, even at my school. I remarked to my 6th period yesterday how "amazed" I was that their quiz grades overall were so much better than my other two pre-calc classes, both of which are before lunch.
I cheated in high school, and I'm not proud of it, but let me explain how I did it. Our physics teacher had tunnel vision, and not the greatest vision, either. He had two versions of each test, and odd numbered test and an even-numbered. Our rows were lateral, so the people on either side of you had different tests than you had.
Three of us who were pretty bright sat in the back row. We would each do our own tests, then swap tests and do the other version! Then, keeping in mind the teacher's tunnel vision, we would compare work to see who had the correct answers! When we agreed on the answers to both versions of the test, then we could pass those answers to others.
Let me restate that: in order to cheat, I had to take two tests in a class period where everyone else only had to take one.
It's not something I'm necessarily proud of, but at least I actually had to know the physics, and know it well, in order to cheat. I did find that cheating for myself often required enough work and risk that it was at least as easy to learn the material on my own. I didn't have to cheat because I didn't know the material--I did extremely well in school. If I was going to cheat for myself, it would be to save time--and often it took less time, and it was certainly less risky, just to learn the material on my own. And if you had to chat on this quiz, you'd have to learn it before the chapter test anyway (unless you planned on cheating there, too).
We didn't have AP classes at my school--no college credits, no inflated GPAs, and no belief that we were entitled to go only to the "best" universities, however "best" is defined. This entitlement complex is out of hand, and it's parents, my own generation, who are responsible. If you allow your kids to think that they're disappointing you if they go to Sac State instead of UCLA, then you, parents, own a large share of the problem.
But students, you know right from wrong. I did, too, and I regret my cheating. I'm glad that West Point instilled in me a greater sense of values than that which I already possessed, and I'm proud of what I accomplished at West Point without cheating. Besides, if you try to justify what you're doing by saying "everyone does it", you're helping drive the arms race that you're stuck in.
You really need to look at the bigger picture.
I don't expect to change anyone's mind with this post, but you know I'm right. And I want that thought to haunt you as you make your Faustian bargains to get into Stanford.