Why We Should Not Let Children Cheat in School
What is a society or a community? It is nothing but a system of mutual agreements concerning the exchange of ideas, goods and services. It is through
these agreements that society fulfils its purpose, which is the mutual protection and welfare of its members. The fairer the society, the more widely
these benefits are shared.
A cheat is someone who exploits a social agreement so as to reap its benefits for himself while avoiding the obligations and responsibilities that go
with them. In other words, someone who helps himself from the common stew-pot without contributing any ingredients himself.
Most societies can withstand a certain amount of this. The cheat prospers, but the rest of us do not suffer very greatly, because the pot is deep and
our loss is a shared loss, whilst the cheat’s gain is all his own.
If too many people turn cheat, however, helping themselves from the pot without putting anything in, the pot is soon emptied and everybody starves –
the cheats included. Sociologists have a name for this: they call it ‘the tragedy of the commons.’
The only way to avoid the tragedy of the commons, the destruction of society through cheating, is to ensure that most people do not cheat. It would be
better, of course, if nobody cheated, but that is not a practicable achievement. So we do the next best thing, and reduce cheating to a manageable
level. Thus society is preserved, but at a certain cost.
It is naturally disheartening and frustrating to watch a few rich cheats living like lords at our expense. But it is far, far worse to join them,
because in doing so we hasten the destruction of society and lose even those social benefits left to us.
No, we should not let our children cheat in school. Indeed, we should come down harder on school cheats than we do now. Zero tolerance of cheating is
impossible in society at large, but it can be achieved (or nearly achieved) in the microcosmic society of a school. And it is worth achieving it,
because people are far more easily conditioned and socialized as children than as adults. The time to instil principles of fairness and justice is in
childhood. The less we let children cheat in school (and coddle them with inflated grades and other corrupting influences), the more we reward honesty
and fair dealing among our children, the stronger and fairer society as a whole will come to be.
edit on 16/12/11 by Astyanax because: of the pot.