Saving the World One Teen at a Time - Column on Parenting Tweens and Teens

Cheating on Homework to Get Ahead in Life.

by Abby Margolis Newman


Has your teenager ever cheated on a test or copied someone else's homework? Chances are much higher than you might think, according to a new documentary, "Race to Nowhere," which explores the academic pressures today's high-schoolers face.


I watched the film with my two older boys, Jonah (16) and Aaron (15), a sophomore and a freshman in high school. Jonah is at a private school in San Francisco, while Aaron attends public school here in Marin County, CA; I wanted to get their perspective on the movie, to see if this reflected their own experiences.


In the film, Denise Pope from the Stanford School of Education says, "In our study, less than 3% of the 5,000 students surveyed said they have never cheated." High school students interviewed in the film shrug their shoulders when the topic is raised - many of them readily admit to cheating, and they don't even seem ashamed of it.


"Race to Nowhere" is the brainchild of Vicki Abeles, a mother of three from Lafayette, CA who saw the pressures her own kids were feeling at school (even as young as fourth grade), understood something was terribly wrong with the American educational system, and wanted to figure out exactly what. So she traveled from California to Indiana to New York, interviewing high school students, teachers, parents, school administrators, psychologists and other experts - and the message she received was loud, clear, and sad: our educational system is hurting our kids.


Abeles found many students in American high schools feeling intense pressure to be perfect academically; to take multiple honors and AP classes as college application resume-builders; to get admitted to the most selective colleges in the country. And this competitive environment was creating kids who were stressed out, buried in homework - and cheating just to tread water and not fall behind their peers.


When the part about cheating came up, my jaw dropped. "97% of kids cheat?" I said, aghast. "97%?" My boys, to my horror, looked just as blase as the kids in the film. "Mom, it happens," said Jonah. "I've had kids ask to copy my history homework." Neither boy would admit ever cheating on a test - and I believe them - but they said it's common practice for kids to take shortcuts on homework by getting "help" from friends, especially when it comes to homework that feels like busywork. "At some point," said Jonah, "it makes more sense to get some sleep, or to work on something where we're really learning." Aaron observed, "Teachers feel like they need to give more homework to make their class seem more important."



Good article regarding the new methods of studying of the students!


Great article, Abby! Good thing you've got some good boys and won't have to worry about them... xox


Abby - don't know if you know this but in NA from 8th grade on kids are assigned summer homework and tests. Honors/AP classes (math, science, lit) all require summer tests (with a scheduled due date), quizzes, and reading assignments. I've seen my kids stress all summer long about the deadlines hanging over their heads. That being said, two years ago at graduation I heard EVERY honored speaker, including the valedictorian reference in their address. I don't think kids are embarrassed about using the internet or other resources to "help" solve their problems. From what I hear, it's not just in high school, but college as well....not surprising. Am sure many of our leaders both in industry and politics cheat on a regular basis - whether it be padding an expense account or bringing office supplies home. Sadly, it's our culture.