Cheating has always been associated with a negative state, and while it still is, many people who view cheating as wrong are cheating, but in their mind, they are just advancing themselves. So what’s happening? High school and college students alike are cheating, whether it’s plagiarizing a page to a whole essay, baseball players are on performance enhancers (steroids), attorneys are overstating their hours worked, and corporate fraud in even the highest executive level. Judging from the kinds of problems, there are some particular reasons why cheating has increased. New and heightened pressures, temptation, “everyone seems to be doing it”, and larger rewards for winning since a sense of fairness is gone. Cheating now has a new connotation, the rewards are great, the chances of being caught are rare, the punishment never seems harsh enough and the very accomplishment of cheating seems to be rewarded.
While cheating is newly a big problem in the United States, it is not a new problem in general. In the book, The Cheating Culture, author Callahan summarized a practice in Ancient Greece, “In Ancient Greece, the Olympic games were rife with cheating. Athletes lied about their amateur status, competitions were rigged, judges were bribed. Those caught were forced to pay fines to a special fund used to set up statues of Zeus. Greece ended up with a lot of statues of Zeus” (Callahan 15). Unfortunately, it’s not a matter of statues now and cheating has become such a part of American life that it is prevalent everywhere. From government to religious institutions, from schooling to sports to medicine, it is almost assumed that everyone cheats, or will cheat, if given the mere chance.
The growing divide between the wealthy or winning class and the poor is part of what is contributing to the rise in cheating. Callahan referenced shocking statistics in his book that could freak anyone; one that grabbed my attention was that “the top 1 percent of Americans now holds nearly 40 percent of all household wealth” which is “more wealth than the bottom 90 percent of households put together” (Callahan 67). Those numbers seem out of this world, how could the top 1 percent singly possess the amount of the bottom 90 percent combined? One has to remember that the so-called “bottom 90 percent” also includes the top 50 percent, or even the top 20%– still dominated by the top 1 percent. The citizens of the United States in particular seem to be infatuated with money, luxury and worldly possessions. Why is it more now, than ever? Maybe it is because everyone is watching the celebrities, Donald Trump has filed Chapter 11 over 9 times and is currently a billionaire, the majority of rappers make loads of money, and spend it ridiculously on the twenty television screens in their H2 Hummer that gets 8 miles to the gallon. These people are portrayed to have no worries because of their supposed financial security. People cheat because they think it is the way to obtain what they want. If one desires a pair of Chanel sunglasses, the typical action would be to go to the store and purchase them, however the new ‘get-ahead American mind’ looks at it in the sense that, if they steal the sunglasses, then they won’t be out the $400 it would have cost.
High school students are being pressured all of the time. They want to get into a top tier college, however that requires good SAT scores and an extraordinary grade point average—not to mention a lot of parents have high expectations that are sometimes not realistic. Students sometimes relate not getting a good grade or passing a test automatically to not getting into a good college and inevitably having no choice but to work at McDonalds. Even farther on the scale, resumes are being lied on. All of these lies are now viewed as getting ahead instead of what they ultimately are, cheating.
Tax evasion by the rich is widespread and when the rich fail to claim the correct amounts, the average taxpayer has to come up with the extra money to cover the shortfall. Lying or fibbing on your taxes sounds so harmless, but it’s not! When one lies, an honest person gets pushed out of what they deserve.
The same concepts are seen in Major League Baseball. A couple of players start doing steroids, they are the ones who are hitting all of the record-breaking hits and runs, and all of a sudden—competition is fierce because the playing ground is not level.
Reporters and journalists, whose work is their writing, have been caught plagiarizing and fabricating stories. They are doing all of these unethical things just to get ahead and be the best, by far. It seems as though that is what everyone is trying to be, the very best. However, they are trying to accomplish this feat by cheating. Cheating is overall diminishing trust and loyalty throughout the United States, and compromises our value sets. When the going gets tough, one has to stop and evaluate their situation; can one go on being ethical, and not cheating, or is the chance of them falling behind in the scheme of things to risky? For more and more honest people, they are realizing that if they do not start cheating like the others, then they will be left behind.
While Callahan’s book The Cheating Culture is a good one, the cheating issue is so straightforward that his book seems to constantly talk about the same issues every other chapter, baseball players, high school students, CEO’s, lawyers, all lying and cheating their ways to the top. The good news is that Callahan put forth some ideas, or suggestions for improvement. Callahan’s first suggestion is to invest in education and job training to make sure that everyone can compete in the post-industrial economy. Secondly, to make work pay off by increasing the minimum wage and making sure it adjusts with inflation. Third of all, greatly expand access to higher education such as college, trade schools and graduate school. Fourth, reassure citizens by reducing their insecurities such as health care, dental plan, etc. Lastly, monitor where political influence starts and ends.
Once again, cheating is overall diminishing trust and loyalty throughout the United States, and compromises our value sets. The Cheating Culture ultimately has to do with integrity, and our country as a whole has lost touch with that concept. Everything has turned competitive, which leads to lying and cheating. This needs to be addressed and punishments must be increased. Ask yourself this, in order to save yourself a little extra money, would you cheat on your taxes? Would you cheat on your taxes if the chance of being caught was equivalent to being struck by lightning? Many people view it that way, and that is why all of these fearless money gatherers are doing what they are doing today.