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A Nation Of Cheaters?

An SAT cheating scandal at a local (non-Queens) New York high school has put the spotlight on what could be a widespread lack of honesty and integrity among high school students sitting for the SAT. The NYT has the story:

“The main risk for a cheater is getting caught,” [said one student.] “Why wouldn’t you do it?”…

“Other students reported cases in which proctors left the room or fell asleep while testing was in session. According to a Stuyvesant senior, Marina Shneerson, students often post comments on their Facebook walls after the SAT such as, ‘Haha, Googled all the words on my phone.'”

Stuyvesant is one of the best public high schools in the country, with tough entrance exams and a culture of excellence.  If students there think cheating on the SATS is widespread, the problem is huge.

Stories like this tell more about where the country is heading tham many of the more dramatic news stories on the front pages.  This news is not good.  A country is only as great as its people, and a nation of cheaters is not a great nation.

With teachers in some schools actually cheating to raise achievement test scores and students feeling that getting into the “right” college is more important than personal honesty, it’s clear we can’t take the future for granted.

The existence of a republic of laws depends on the honesty and the competence of both voters and officials.  A country of liars, posers, and ignorant hustlers will soon be neither free nor rich.  Something has gone badly wrong, and without a moral recovery, the flames of liberty that have illuminated the annals of this magnificent republic must sooner or later gutter out.

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  • Mogden

    With all layers of government doing everything in their considerable power to subsidize and reward cheaters, criminals, frauds, incompetents, and fools, it is no wonder.

  • Richard

    Big government = small citizens.

  • Jim.

    After a good honest taste of the stew that is America — the mix of tradition, reason, and scripture — it’s hard not to come to one conclusion:

    Needs more Puritans.

  • Nietzsche

    Moral recovery? Whose morality? Yours? I’d rather deal with the honest cheaters than the two-faced preachers.

  • WigWag

    “A Nation Of Cheaters?”

    I guess those Stuyvesant High School students must have learned their ethics from watching American bankers. After all, they had a front row seat; Stuyvesant is located only a few short blocks from Wall Street.

    As a graduate of Stuyvesant High School myself, I know enough about history to know that the school was named for a man who came from a nation of cheaters. After all, Stuyvesant’s predecessor as Director General of New Amsterdam, Peter Minuit, cheated the indigenous inhabitants (who had no concept of land ownership) out of the island of Manhattan for a mere $24.00

    So all of us, including New Yorkers such as yourself, Professor Mead, are the beneficiaries of cheaters.

  • caveat bettor

    I know hundreds of Stuyvesant HS grads. Cheating has been s a significant part of the culture there for the last 3 decades.

  • J R Yankovic

    Excuse me, but haven’t there been long chapters of US history in which hucksters, posers and other enterprising,”get-it-any-way-I-can” self-promoters were not only admired but CELEBRATED? The “gilded” generation following the Civil War is one that comes to mind. A fairly small-government era if I read it correctly (though that same gov’t could be splendidly big, bountiful and generous when it came to Big Business: high tarriff walls, etc).

    Naturally I like Prof Mead’s emphasis for the most part. I also find it refreshingly unmodern (or is it PRE-modern?). But let me explain: For me the acme of modernity is faith in the power of technically “fool-proof” institutions, systems, procedures, etc. In short, mechanisms that run SO smoothly and dependably – or so the faith goes – as to obviate the need for moral character in their human components and clientele. And of course we’ve all seen, in our own times, how well these technically brilliant mechanisms – both public and private – have worked to neutralize (or is it facilitate?) natural human vice.

    But there may be a whole other dimension to the problem. As often as not, it seems to me, this country has preferred to take a “Nietzschean” path: To admire the “strength and integrity” of the successful bad over the weakness and inconsistency of the attempted good (after all, when attempted from the meager resources of our “fallen” natures, the good usually proves much harder to do). I mean, it would be nice if more smart Americans would use their boundless energy and enterprise to do the right thing, but hell, at least they’re doing SOMETHING, right? Not to mention being SUCCESSFUL at it? Maybe even (hushed tones and drum rolls) generating WEALTH?

    Wasn’t it the American-born poet T S Eliot who wrote in one place (and strongly hinted in many others): “It is better to do evil than to do nothing”? (And for the record, frankly I can think of hardly ANY of his classically-known British contemporaries making a statement even approaching that – H G Wells being one important exception I know, the “futurist” R G Stapledon possibly another, though not nearly as well-remembered as Wells or Eliot. But if you can think of any others your comments are welcome.)

    Lastly, whatever we more righteous ones may condemn Americans for doing or failing to do over the past 15 years, let no one accuse the majority of them of not being EXTREMELY – in some cases self-punishingly – busy. I’ll grant you, in some instances the work wasn’t so much done WELL – i.e, with both eyes lovingly on the task at hand – as with one keen eye on the worker’s advancement (and who knows if their job future didn’t depend on it? – “If you ain’t movin’ up yer movin’ out”). All the same, personally I can’t think of any full-time work that’s harder, more round-the-clock, or – in the long run – more self-eviscerating, than self-promotion.

  • J R Yankovic

    (Shamefaced correction: The “Stapledon” mentioned in my last post was first-named Olaf, author of the early sci-fi novel “Last and First Men.” R G was a writer on British agrarian improvement and conservation [shudder to think where I pulled that one out of].)

  • WigWag

    “I know hundreds of Stuyvesant HS grads. Cheating has been a significant part of the culture there for the last 3 decades.” (Caveat Bettor)

    I seriously tend to doubt that but just in case, I should say that I graduated from Stuyvesant more than “3 decades” ago. In fact, when I attended, it was still an all male school; females were not admitted until the early 1970s.

  • higgins1990

    @WigWag: Seeing how you slam bankers and mention how our founders cheated natives, I can assume that Stuyvesant, besides condoning cheating, pushes a highly liberal agenda. Agreed?

  • Scott

    I think you’re right to be concerned about cheating but I think you’re wrong to write as though it’s a growing phenomenon. I know many current high school students and they seem to be about the same mix of goofs and earnest hard workers that teenagers always seem to be. The only difference I notice is that they work a whole lot harder than I did in high school. Sure, they know the cheaters among them and they pretty much figure that that’s their problem. They already know they can’t fake their way through life in today’s world.

  • WigWag

    “Seeing how you slam bankers and mention how our founders cheated natives, I can assume that Stuyvesant, besides condoning cheating, pushes a highly liberal agenda. Agreed?” (higgins1990 @ October 15, 2011 at 4:18 am)

    No, if you reached that conclusion, you would be in error. Presidential advisor David Axelrod is a graduate as is Attorney General, Eric Holder. But so is Fox News pundit, Dick Morris and Forbes Magazine columnist, Thomas Sowell.

    Liberal New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler is a graduate but so is former head of the New York Conservative Party, Serphin Maltese.

    The originator of the concept of a “clash of civilizations,” Samuel Huntington, graduated from Stuyvesant High School as did the man George W. Bush appointed to run the SEC, Harvey Pitt.

    Albert Shanker, the founder of the movement that established teachers unions in the United States is an alumni, but so is prominent Republican, Arthur Blank who cofounded Home Depot with Bernie Marcus. Blank now owns the Atlanta Falcons football team.

    Mostly the school is known for its science and math programs. Four living Nobel prize winners are graduates including: Joshua Lederberg (Nobel Prize for Medicine, 1958), Robert Fogel (Nobel Prize for Economics, 1993), Roald Hoffmanm (Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 1981) and Richard Axel (Nobel Prize for Medicine, 2004). Other prominent graduates with an expertise in science include string theorist, Brian Greene and the former head of the Human Genome Project (and current Director of the MIT Broad Institute), Eric Lander.

    Despite the school’s outstanding reputation in the sciences a number of talented artists graduated from Stuyvesant including actors: Lucy Liu, Tim Robbins, Paul Reiser and James Cagney and jazz great Thelonious Monk. While not a graudate, the wonderful Frank McCourt, author of Angela’s Ashes, taught English at Stuyvesant. I was lucky enough to have been one of his students. Sadly Frank died last year.

    For a more complete list of Stuyvesant High School’s famous alumni see here,

    Stuyvesant High School represents the “blue state model” at its best; it is a New York City Public School and its teachers are members of the United Federation of Teachers (a union founded by Stuyvesant alumnus, Albert Shanker)

    For decades, Stuyvesant High School was located at 14th Street and First Avenue in New York City. In 1992 the school moved to a new building in Battery Park City, a short 5 minute walk from the World Trade Center. After the terrorist attack in 2001, the school served as a command headquarters for rescue and recovery workers and students were not permitted to return for several weeks. Nine Stuyvesant alumni were killed in the attack and one, Richard Ben Veniste (a former Watergate Prosecutor) was appointed by President Bush to serve on the Commission investigating the 9/11 attack.

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