Consequences should be harsh for everyone

Stuti Upadhyay

Ever since I was in first grade, my teachers have been reminding me and the rest of my class not to cheat. It’s the usual talk, the one we’ve all heard a million times: “You’re only cheating yourself. It’s not worth it. It’s morally wrong.” Usually, as soon as the cheating talk starts, I zone out. As students, we’re all constantly exposed to cheating, and we’ve been exposed to cheating for years. At this point, it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal.

Because of this, it’s always a shock when teachers actually do catch someone cheating, and the consequences seem unreasonably harsh. An automatic zero. A letter to your parents. A talk with your teacher or admin. A black mark on your transcript. A lot of the times, the consequences seem extreme to us because students understand better than anyone how hard other students work.

Many times people cheat when the circumstances are dire. You need a high A on the test to get an A in the class. You were out all of yesterday for a baseball tournament. You have three different tests on the same day. So, for the longest time, I thought that schools were way, way too harsh about cheating and not nearly understanding enough about what students go through.

It wasn’t until sophomore year of high school that I realized that what my teachers had been saying all along was true. Cheating is really bad. And it’s really not worth it.

10th grade, for me and a lot of my peers, was quite the jump from freshman year. We were struggling, and I felt like I was drowning in the waves of the infamous MVHS pressure and competitiveness. Everyone was constantly talking about, fretting about and cheating for grades, and since many people were struggling, the conversations often turned bitter.

Till about halfway through sophomore year, I had never really blatantly cheated, but I would sometimes tell my friends about difficult test questions or listen if someone was talking about a test. One day, before a physics test that I needed a good grade on and was apparently quite hard, I decided I was done. I could ask for hacks and maybe do a little better, but I would only stress myself out even more. Instead, I decided to trust my abilities, and I haven’t remotely cheated since. When people asked me how hard the math test was or what was on the literature quiz, I would say nothing but a mellow “it’s fine” or “don’t worry about it.” And conversely, I stopped asking people about tests completely. Yes, I still cared a lot — too much, to be honest — about my grades. But I realized that cheating doesn’t make much of difference grade-wise anyway, and I was just so sick of constantly worrying about my grades.

It was only after I stopped cheating that I realized how much cheating can negatively affect students, teachers and the overall school environment.

Cheating drives wedges between students. It’s really not fair to the person in first period who studied hard to get a worse grade than someone who just asked for answers in sixth period.

Moreover, cheating ruins the accuracy of assessment. Although we often forget it at MVHS, tests aren’t just a large amount of points in the gradebook; they’re a way for teachers to understand how well their students are grasping concepts. If we just blatantly cheat on our assessments, we are actually misleading teachers and preventing them from improving the way they teach. Not to mention, the whole point of tests is to study and understand the concept, and cheating keeps us from working hard to really learn the material.

Not to mention, cheating is morally wrong. I can say for a fact that I am proud of myself for not cheating anymore, and I’m proud of myself for earning my grades through my own work (even if they’re not great grades). As a student, I want to be proud of myself when I get a good grade, and I can’t do that if my grade is courtesy of my friend in third period.

On a larger scale, cheating does nothing but worsen MVHS’ already overly academic environment. If we all stopped cheating, we could actually focus on learning rather than being purely grade-oriented. Devaluing those three extra points we could obtain from frantically grilling our friends at brunch will help us keep grades and their importance in perspective.

And because of the plethora of negative effects that come with cheating, it’s actually incredibly important that the consequences of cheating be equally harsh regardless of who cheated and what situation they’re in. Consequences are necessary to help students understand that cheating should not be taken as lightly as it currently is. And even though it may seem unreasonable to punish kids who are stressed or extremely busy, if it helps us students realize that a .4% grade boost is not worth compromising our character as people, then every consequence of cheating is worth it.