When Teachers Cheat

  Once upon a time, teachers had to keep a watchful eye for crib-notes, answers scrawled on palms, and glances at other students' tests. But a recent scandal in New York City found that teachers and principals helped students cheat on their tests, and it tells us that parents may have to keep a closer eye on the very people we trust to teach our kids. Instead of educating our children, some in the education establishment are teaching kids to get ahead by breaking the rules. Ed Stancik, the investigator who looked into the scandal, described it as "a man bites dog story.... The teachers are cheating on the kids' tests." Stancik's 17-month investigation found that 47 educators in 32 schools helped students cheat by pointing out their mistakes and giving them correct answers. In one case, the teacher even wrote out a paragraph-long answer on the student's test herself, in her own handwriting. We all know why students cheat, but why would teachers betray their own profession in this way, not to mention their students? The best explanation seems to be that student achievement influences salaries and school funding. According to Stancik, "Their purpose was to improve their own reputations and further their own careers by creating the illusion that they were doing a good job." Most teachers are conscientious and committed to their students -- admirably serving in a noble profession. But some teachers and principals obviously concluded that if they couldn't raise test scores the old-fashioned way, they would make sure the students got the right answers, the wrong way. Unfortunately, the response from the education establishment is as outrageous as the scandal itself. Amidst claims that the investigation was a political witch-hunt were startling suggestions that teacher- sponsored cheating is the inevitable result of raising standards. David Baez, director of bilingual education in Buffalo, New York proclaimed that the School Board should "realize the harm they are going to do these kids with these higher expectations." Imagine that, inflicting harm by raising standards. Well, the real harm being done to these kids is that they are being taught that cheating is acceptable. Last year, a survey by "Who's Who Among American High School Students" reported that 80 percent of the country's best students admitted cheating to succeed. They said cheating was not "a big deal," calling it a "victimless crime." This increase in cheating highlights a disturbing trend. Surveys show that 90 percent of adults admit lying and committing relatively minor infractions of the law, like running red lights and parking in handicapped spaces. There was time when social stigma used to keep cheating and public dishonesty in check. But no longer. The Bible says that teachers will be judged more strictly because of their influence in the moral formation of their students. And when teachers themselves encourage dishonesty, it's no surprise that students' moral standards drop precipitously. Not all of us are teachers, but we all ought to keep in mind what a powerful influence our own example sets for our families and our friends. And we should certainly make sure our own schools are not holding only our children to a high standard, but our teachers as well. Because our schools should be places our kids learn to be better students, and better people.


Chuck Colson


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