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Study Shows US Students Lie, Cheat and Steal

Thirty percent of high school students in the US have stolen from a store and 64 percent have cheated on a test this year alone, according to a new survey that suggests Americans are apathetic about ethical standards. A Los Angeles-based ethics institute surveyed 29,760 students at 100 randomly selected high schools nationwide, both public and private. Some of the key findings include:

  • Thirty-five percent of boys and 26 percent of girls—30 percent overall—acknowledged stealing from a store within the past year.
  • One-fifth said they stole something from a friend; 23 percent said they stole something from a parent or other relative.
  • Cheating in school is rampant and getting worse. Sixty-four percent of students cheated on a test in the past year and 38 percent did so two or more times, up from 60 percent and 35 percent in a 2006 survey.
  • Thirty-six percent said they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment, up from 33 percent in 2004.
  • Forty-two percent said they sometimes lie to save money—49 percent of the boys and 36 percent of the girls.

A representative from the National Association of Secondary School Principals suggests social pressures prompt some students to cut corners and that today's competition and opportunities to cheat are greater than past decades. Do you think it's easier for today's students to cheat with advanced technologies, or do you think our ethical standards have gone the way of the typewriter?


Join The Conversation
Smilesp Smilesp 8 years
I know this study was about high schoolers but based on my experience I think cheating is worse in colleges. It amazed me how many of my classmates (and a lot of my friends) cheated on exams in college. I never understood it. They didn't HAVE to be in college...if they aren't interested in learning anything then why are they there?
Jessiebanana Jessiebanana 8 years
I did steal a bit in HS, but I was homeless for the last two years...not saying that made it right. I never did cheat in HS. I always felt that would set me up to fail in college. Reed isn't very standard and is conference dependent. A large part of your grade is what you say directly to your professor on what you've read and learned and a lot less of your grade is dependent on tests at my small liberal arts college, so cheating wouldn't get you very far. But to be fair I never had to, school was very easy for me. I liked it and I was "smart" so I didn't have to worry. I never told on cheaters, though 60-75% of my AP/Honors class did cheat. I guess I always felt the shared stress. College is competitive in a way it never was before. You can't just be smart you have to be the perfect student with great, not good, SAT's, extracurriculars you take leadership roles in, volunteer work, great grades, and the hardest classes even in subjects your weak on. I saw one of my classmates get yelled at and slapped in public by his mom when he asked if he could take regular Chemistry instead AP because he wasn't good at, despite the fact that he was taking AP English, AP Calc, AP Physics and AP Econ. She told him if he didn't have that extra point in his GPA UCLA and Berkeley would never accept him into their Engineering program and he would fail at his dream. It was harsh, but the worst part is she was right. Rigorous academia have left no room for weakness, despite the fact that your allowed to have a weak subject in college an not take at least one subject of classes. For some students it becomes what can you do if you can't if you can't be perfect and then cheating becomes habit or routine. For those who don't know AP/IB courses are college level classes for HS students. I hear the IB is harder, it is international so it makes sense. I also didn't know of a single parent who did teach ethics. I don't think we should be so quick to judge parents. At the end of the day teenagers make their own decisions.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
IMO, the shocking thing to me is how acceptable it has become. "I did it, it must be ok." We should be teaching our children that the best way to succeed is to work hard in school, and do it honestly. What we did in school shouldn't have any bearing on the acceptability of cheating
PiNkY-PiNk PiNkY-PiNk 8 years
not surprising at all. it happened at my school all the time. i've seen people, in college, whip out smartphones and google stuff.
krae85 krae85 8 years
shadow- I forged lots of absence excuses too! funny, I never thought of it as lying, just the piece of paper I had to have to skip class, lol
laurelm laurelm 8 years
Man all this and all the people who said they'd keep 10gs if they found it- is depressing me! Not surprising me, just depressing!
Myst Myst 8 years
I'm pretty sure all kids cheat at one point are another. Why is this news?
Shadowdamage Shadowdamage 8 years
I was pretty good though I became a master at forging absence notes to go roller-skating my senior year...but that's about all I ever did that was "bad", other than the requisite few drinks and coming in waaay too late and other stuff that was way more fun than I would admit, had I chosen to become a parent. :D
Frank-y-Ava Frank-y-Ava 8 years
I used to cheat all the time in high school. No biggie for me.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 8 years
Shadowdamage Shadowdamage 8 years
"US Study is Shockingly Un-Illuminating in its Obviousness"
geebers geebers 8 years
"Pressure to get good grades, but not pressure to learn" Exactly. I went to a specialized highschool (one of the science schools) in NYC. So it was by no means a bad school. Many of the kids were VERY self-motivated and I recall actually not cheating in my AP bio class- half the class was doing it- and there were half of us who refused because we actually felt it was important to learn the material rather than just get a good grade. But sometimes it just was not possible to be a moral student without feeling jaded. I know in retrospect I could have spoken up or said something but I was in highschool and too young to really care. :\ Anyway - nearly all of the students from my graduating class are highly successful and we all are doing well. We were lucky to be in an environment where learning was important but naturally there are going to over over-achievers who care only about getting the best grades.
CoralAmber CoralAmber 8 years
I was just having this conversation over Thanksgiving with my boyfriend's little sister. Lots of students cheat in high school. Why? Pressure to get good grades, but not pressure to learn. Every kid in class is doing the same math problems and chapter questions. Teachers either don't pay attention, or actually leave the room during tests. The kids doing their homework don't care if their friends copy, it's part of the social experience of high school. All the teachers know that certain kids couldn't pass the class on their own, but there are too many kids to give many individual help. So what are the options in the eyes of these kids? Stress themselves trying hard and still do badly, making their parents mad and having to take the class over? Or copy their friend's answers and do decent?
Colleeninator Colleeninator 8 years
I never cheated on tests, but I did copy answers on monotonous and pointless homework assignments (the kind that have either a right or wrong answer, not free-response ones). At my school, everyone pretty much worked together on everything, like "I'll do the last five, you do the first five, she'll do the third five" etc., then answers were swapped. It's just how we did homework there, and it was totally accepted by everyone, even the teachers. But the stealing? Eesh. And that last one is so vague. Lie to save money?
liliblu liliblu 8 years
Where did you guys go to school? There will always be people willing to cheat to get ahead. This is nothing new. But there were serious consequences for getting caught when I was in school. Reading some of these comments makes me grateful for the many hard working and caring teachers I had.
geebers geebers 8 years
I cheated a few times - and it was because I felt that teachers looked the other way and the cheaters got higher GPAs for cheating while the rest of us who actually didn't cheat looked like we were less studious. Not saying it was right but that was how it was. I blame the teachers for that one- because they obviously have no idea who is benefiting from their teaching at all. I also did use the internet for research and the internet was a new thing in school- so the rules were definitely far more lax than when I got into college when it came to citing and plagiarizing. That being said- I never shoplifted but I knew plenty of kids that did. Shoplifting and stealing are crimes, cheating is a grey area. So while I don't excuse any of these behaviors, i think the fact that so many kids steal and don't face any consequences is disturbing. Some kids grow out of it and learn but not all of them do.
indielove indielove 8 years
krae: That happened alot at my school too. You don't have to be smart to do well in school. You just have to suck up to the teacher, find a good strategy for cheating, and you're GOLDEN, baby. nya: American kids(in general) are spoiled. Too many are fine with just getting by.
bluepuppybites bluepuppybites 8 years
I did all of that in high school. I got caught stealing. (That was fun) We did it just to see if we could. I never cheated on tests but we copied each other all the time for assignments. Lying I really didn't do that just got me in more trouble. I did however give vague answers and didn't supply all the details to the story.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 8 years
I went on a stealing rampage for about a month when I was in High School. I turned out fine. Even returned a $10,000 pair of diamond earrings I found a few years later. I think some kids want to test boundaries, see what they can get away with. My parents were perfectly involved, our home life was plenty structured.
Michelann Michelann 8 years
Zeze, I think you're right about why kids cheat in high school. First of all, they don't feel like they're hurting anybody (and I guess they're not). And secondly, it doesn't really matter too much if you get caught. They're not going to kick you out of public school. Honestly, I don't appreciate cheating, but I'm far more concerned with the numbers of people stealing. I knew way too many people in high school who shoplifted (and a few who still do it).
zeze zeze 8 years
Ok, I'm speaking on the cheating in school only, I don't know anyone who has ever shoplifted - but I don't really think it is the parents in this case. I think it is the school environment - no one takes it seriously. In high school school work and ethics were not connected - b/c of how dumb teachers were (in retrospect, they were not dumb, but didn't care) we got to do what we wanted an no one said anything (and I went to a private school - compared to my public school friends I had it hard). The ethics of "cheating" never carried over, generally speaking, most of the kids were not liars, cheaters in other things (relationships, money - like if some one lost a $20 they got it back, and even sports)- yes sports were taken more seriously then class work. For example, now, with university education as far as I know all of them have left the cheating behind b/c they take this stuff more seriously and have more respect for the work/professors) - so I think it is more the high school environment and system is such a joke that no one cares enough to wonder about their ethics.
Michelann Michelann 8 years
One-fifth of them are stealing from their friends? That's awful. How do they not get caught?
krae85 krae85 8 years
In high school most of the kids in the top of my class were cheaters. they'd all cheat on homework and tests together, it was really annoying because I was never okay with that. I can't believe that many kids steal stuff! scary.
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 8 years
Hehehe indio I agree. The quality of my 3 and half hour drive back home with my dad after every school term was dependent on how many As I got.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I'm with Stephley on this one. I'm betting the percentages are much higher. This is the kind of society our school systems are creating. Do what you want, as long as you are successful. If you have to be a bit "creative" in the learning process, then remember the phrase "cheat to win".
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