Could we go further?

In Colleen Wenke’s essay “Too Much Pressure”, she examines how cheating in schools has become more prevalent or acceptable and the reasons behind why this is so. She begins by giving the reader cited statistics showing cheating among high school students has raised dramatically during the last fifty years. Upset by this, she initially blames the school system for not instilling proper values in the students. Reflecting, Wenke recalls seeing cheating occur often while she was in high school. The teachers also knew that this went on but did nothing about it. Cheating was and has become the norm. Wenke sees this fact as a reflection of moral decline and the erosion of values but maybe not just in the school system. Although hard to fully accept, she cites Robert L Maginnis theory stating family, school, church, media and government are they key institutions that have failed in instilling morals and values, which in turn contributes to the increase of cheating in the classroom. “The fact seems contradictory. If my parents’ generation had such high morals and wouldn’t cheat, wouldn’t they teach their children the same? … -Wenke


I found this part of her essay to be most intriguing because my dad and I have had similar conversations regarding the role if institutions in the lives of African Americans. We discussed how the key institutions that kept the African American communities strong and together post slavery and during the civil rights era were family, school/education and church. But somewhere along the line these three factors are what are being neglected most in the African American communities today. Families are more broken and divided since fifty years ago so the guidance Wenke refers to is either not there or not being found meaningful, as well as the other  interrelated support systems (church and education). As a result, these communities are negatively affected the most by drugs, ill-educated and feel unwelcome by or neglect churches. These communities are worse than ever before and in my view are influenced mostly by media. Not the good media either, the media that rewards lying, cheating, dishonesty, money and the idea to take whatever means necessary to get ahead. “In this kind of society, morals take a back seat to how much you earn and how prosperous you are.” –Menke

I believe Menke could be on to something bigger that just highlighting cheating over the past generations. I believe it is possible to show how institutions, or lack thereof, affect or youth’s morals and values. If we take her idea of stepping back and looking at the broader picture, we might be able to prove just how powerful these institutions are. What do you think?


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1 Response to Could we go further?

  1. I too found Wenke’s argument about our parent’s generation very compelling. “If my parents’ generation had such high morals and wouldn’t cheat, wouldn’t they teach their children the same?” I agree with Maginnis who says that “the erosion of values is traceable largely to changes in institutions which have been traditionally responsible for imparting them to our youth,” These social agents of media, school, church, and government are promoting a decay in values daily as comfort and convenience are promoted. If you can get an “A” without doing the work, then why not ride off someone else’s coattails and soar high off of their hard work? Are parents the most responsible for educating their children about honesty or is it also the role of various institutions such as churches and schools? The core of American values has been formed from outside influences and has been overtaken from people who have no personal, intimate connections with us. We look to magazines, the internet, and television to tell us our worth rather than our parents and our educators. It is up to our parents and educators to get to kids first, in order to become the more prevalent influence in honesty. It is inevitable that children are going to see corrupt messages about integrity through the media, but if they are taught how to internalize such messages and learn from them instead of making them their own reality, Honesty is such a big part of life and being trusted as you age. It is important to value such a virtue at an early age. It is unacceptable for our nation to look at the results of the national survey conducted in 1997 in by Who’s Who in American High School Students, and just ignore the severe problem being admitted. I found some riveting statistics on their website:
    Statistics show that academic cheating among high-school and college students has risen dramatically during the past 50 years. The results of the 29th Who’s Who Among American High School Students Poll (of 3,123 high-achieving 16- to 18-year olds � that is, students with A or B averages who plan to attend college after graduation) were released in November, 1998. Among the findings:

    80% of the country’s best students cheated to get to the top of their class.
    More than half the students surveyed said that they don’t think cheating is a big deal.
    95% of cheaters say they were not caught.
    40% cheated on a quiz or a test
    67% copied someone else’s homework

    According to the results of a 1998 survey of 20,829 middle and high school students nationwide conducted by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, 70% of high school students and 54% of middle school students said they had cheated on an exam in the last 12 months. According to Josephson, the same question asked of high schoolers in 1996 prompted 64% to admit they had cheated. This demonstrates a 6% increase in only two years.

    We must not deny the grave state of dishonesty the youth of this generation tolerate and view as acceptable.

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