Education Experts: The Cheating Crisis in Our Schools

A glaring display of the cheating crisis in our schools is playing out today at Florida State University.

College athletes, assisted by university staff members, were caught cheating on online courses to maintain their academic eligibility. The NCAA calls this “the most egregious” cheating infraction in the history of college sports because of the large number of athletes involved.

According to the NCAA, FSU is guilty of three violations: academic fraud, unethical conduct, and failing to monitor its academic support services.

FSU is being pressed to vacate athletic victories in which the athletes involved in cheating participated. The 158-year-old academic institution, known for its Division 1 championship athletics, plans to appeal the decision.

Parenting and education experts Laura and Malcolm Gauld say cheating has reached epidemic proportions and the problem, as evidenced by the recent FSU incident, is not confined to low-achieving or unmotivated students.

“Our culture has become preoccupied with achievement,” the Gaulds explain. “Pressure for grades–to win parents’ approval, gain admission to colleges, and maintain academic and athletic eligibility–leads many students to cheat. While many students are pushed to succeed by a grade-based system that starts naming winners at an early age, students also feel pulled by a desire to get on a path that will keep them in the game.”

But there are serious ramifications to ‚Äòwinning at any cost,’ according to Laura including lack of character in students, and also the lack of self-esteem.

“Unfortunately, an environment that values only achievement can make it extremely easy for test scores and awards to lure good kids into a false sense of fulfillment. This is not the genuine self-esteem that is earned from the learning process–which includes mistakes and some hardship–and it can leave kids feeling empty.”

In addition to this pressure for external achievements, Malcolm Gauld identifies another debilitating grip on today’s kids, which is the result of a prevalent mindset in our homes, schools, and culture, that asserts that kids need to feel good about themselves all of the time.

“Applied to education, this mindset seems to say, ‚ÄòIf we make kids feel good about themselves, they will do great things,'” explains Malcolm. “But, in fact, it’s the other way around. When kids do well, and do it honestly, they will feel good about themselves.”

“Character is inspired, not imparted,” Malcolm continues. “We cannot pour it into our kids or our families. Self-esteem–real, authentic self-esteem–is essential, and once earned, it can never be taken away. Our children should graduate from schools with a healthy amount of it.”

Malcolm and Laura Gauld have led the way in character education at the Hyde schools for three decades. Their character-building schools have been featured on CBS’s 60 Minutes, ABC’s 20/20, PBS, the New York Times, and NPR. The Gaulds are also the award-winning authors of the parenting book The Biggest Job We’ll Ever Have (Scribner), and are recognized as one of the nation’s leading experts on parenting.

“In a character culture, achievement is valued, but principles are valued more,” says Laura. “That is, what you stand for is more important than merely how you stack up against others.”