You walk into your classroom a few minutes early and no one is there, but everyone has left their belongings, including backpacks and wallets. Do you take a small amount of money from each of your classmates, maybe just a quarter from each person? Nobody would ever notice — it’s just a quarter, after all. But of course you don’t. No one at Deerfield would even think about doing that. We don’t take what’s not ours.
Yet many students at Deerfield gain an unfair advantage on graded assignments or tests by cheating. No matter how you look at it, cheating at Deerfield is widespread, whether it’s plagiarizing a foreign language translation or getting a hint from a friend about what’s on a test, whether it’s cheating on a term exam or on a seemingly meaningless pop quiz. Big or small, it’s all cheating, and it’s all pretty much the same thing as stealing quarters from your peers.
It’s a pretty basic concept: Just. Don’t. Cheat.
At its core, Deerfield is an academic institution. Cheating dilutes this education for every single student. Teachers base their lesson plans and tests on their assessment of how the class is doing with the material. When a teacher sees that most of the class is struggling with the material, we would hope that she or he might choose to slow down or plan extra review time. But when students cheat, they compromise this process.
We are at Deerfield at least in part to get into college, and grades are a big part of that. It’s not that I agree with this unforgiving numerical approach. (That’s a topic for another opinion piece.) It’s merely a fact of life that we are all competing for the same spots at the same colleges, and grades are an important quantitative way we are assessed in relation to one another. Given the suggested median of 89 and many curved classes, your grades impact the rest of the class. Grades at Deerfield are only meaningful because they are relative to one another. And by cheating, you are raising yourself up by putting everyone else down. Cheating is not a victimless crime. Your actions hurt those around you.
Over time, all together, it matters. It’s the difference between no curve and a 10-point curve in a class, the difference between cum laude and just missing the cut, maybe even the difference between an “Accept” or a “Defer” from your early decision school. When you cheat, you are stealing from your peers. It may be just a quarter at a time, but it’s still stealing.
Cheating on a single assignment in a single class might not affect anyone drastically. But what gives you the right to take something that isn’t yours? You didn’t earn those points. They’re not yours to take. Let me say it again: They. Are. Not. Yours. To. Take.
We all have nights when we wonder if we’re going to finish our work. We all walk into tests unsure if we’re going to pass. We all face confusing essay prompts, short stories that don’t make sense to us, math problems and science labs that seem to go in circles.
As Deerfield students, we share in a common experience: we all struggle here. Every single one of us. By cheating — by taking away a bit of your struggling, by easing your workload — you circumvent the very thing that binds us as Deerfield students, the willingness to sit with confusion and sometimes even fail. You are taking the easy way out as your classmates sit studying during all hours of the day and night, as your classmates consider and debate and think — as your classmates do the hard work that is learning.
Deerfield, you are better than this.
If you are aware that cheating is occurring in your class, alert a faculty member. It’s easy to do the right thing. Yes, students might get in trouble. But they got themselves in trouble by cheating. You’re just the messenger.
And if you’ve accidentally acquired an unfair advantage on an assignment (for example, you overhear someone discussing the answers to a test you haven’t taken yet), tell your teacher immediately.
If you’re still not convinced, if my idealistic anti-cheating propaganda has fallen flat and you still think it’s worthwhile to cheat, ask yourself whether it’s really worth the risk. Is getting a few extra points on a test really worth the possibility of a zero on the assignment, a three-day suspension, and college notification? You need to look no further than the Honor Code of (insert the name of your first-choice college here) to know what colleges think about cheating. Spoiler alert: They despise it.
As Dr. Hills said during our December 13 school meeting, “You are enough.” You do not need those extra points to validate your place at Deerfield. Do not risk your entire future (and the futures of those around you) for them.
Perhaps you’re still not convinced. Maybe you believe everyone is cheating, so you have to as well just to be on an even playing field.
But I’m not, and I want my quarters back.