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Why Honor Codes Don't Work in Schools

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The Ineffectiveness of Honor Codes in Schools

Many schools preach academic integrity as a trait that all students should have. However, cheating has become incredibly prevalent in the modern world, which has led some schools to look into ways to prevent it. One proposed solution has been to implement honor codes that aim to stop cheating, stealing, and plagiarizing and promote integrity. Schools should not try to establish an honor code because cheating is impossible to stop.

Initially, cheating is inevitable due to the improvements in technology of the modern age. Specifically, the rise of smart phones has made cheating easier than ever before. According to a survey conducted at a small public university, 40 percent of students reported that they violated the existing honor code and had not been caught (Source E). Another article from an online publication piece found that “Research confirms recent media reports concerning the high levels of cheating that exist in many American high schools, with roughly two-thirds of students acknowledging one or more incidents of explicit cheating in the last year” (Source F). These are already large proportions of students, and this data was found before 2010 when phone technology was less advanced. Nowadays, most people have phones have the ability to send high-resolution images and access the Internet which provides “an inexhaustible source of information” (Source D). This means that cheating cannot be monitored as easily anymore since it does not have to be done in person. Students can easily send each other pictures of homework or just look up the answers online instead of having to copy off of a peer in class. This activity cannot be monitored since it would require teachers to oversee the activities of each student on their personal devices, which is an invasion of privacy. Thus, cheating is now impossible to stop since technology has transitioned it from a physical, in-school act to a wireless, out-of-school one that schools cannot control. Overall, honor codes should not be implemented since technology has made cheating impossible to prevent.

Furthermore, cheating is impossible to stop since students do not want to turn each other in. To be clear, students are reluctant to report each other for cheating due to the social effects it has. In the survey, it says that just 8 percent of students would report a peer for cheating (Source E). This low number is due to the consequences that turning someone in may have. When an honor code was established at a private school in Massachusetts, it was found that “[Students] feared that a mandate to confront peers would create friction and that a subsequent report could not easily be kept confidential” (Source B). In other words, student are afraid of having to report a fellow student because they do not want to be known as a snitch and face backlash from their peers. The people who they turned in would likely feel resentment towards them, which makes students feel that adhering to such an honor code is not worth it. Therefore, such an honor code system is ineffective because kids do not want to face the social backlash that comes from turning a peer in for cheating. All in all, an honor code system in schools would be useless because social consequences make kids hesitant to tell on each other for cheating.

On the other hand, some people say that honor codes should be implemented because cheating can be stopped. Foremost, they believe that the threat of punishment can stop cheating from happening. However, this is misguided because students will cheat regardless of the consequences. In an article from 2012, it said that “125 Harvard students “improperly collaborated” on an exam in the spring” (Source C). Another article about the University of Virginia found that “Since last spring, 157 students have been investigated by their peers in the largest cheating scandal in memory. Thirty-nine of those accused of violating the school’s honor code have either dropped out or been expelled- the only penalty available for such a crime” (Source D). These two instances show that kids will cheat regardless of the potential consequences that may arise. Even kids at Harvard, one of the most prestigious universities in the country, were willing to cheat despite knowing that they could be kicked out of school, and students at the University of Virginia cheated even though they knew that the punishment for such an act was expulsion. In other words, the fact that kids at some of the most prestigious schools in the country who knew the punishment for their actions still chose to cheat proves that honor codes do not effectively stop cheating. Thus, people who claim that honor codes should be implemented in schools are incorrect since these codes do not effectively stop students from cheating. To sum up, supporters of honor codes are incorrect since cheating occurs even if the threat of punishment exists.

To conclude, honor codes should not be implemented in schools because cheating is impossible to stop. This is because the rise in technological capabilities and the lack of motivation for students to turn each other in has made cheating unable to be monitored effectively. Although some may say that honor codes stop cheating, they are wrong since students will still cheat even if they could be punished for it. If schools really want to stop cheating, they should abandon honor codes and look into regulating student activity outside of the classroom doors to ensure that academic integrity does not become a virtue of the past.

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