“But Everyone Does It!”


At the gym on Wednesday I overheard a conversation among three people in their twenties. They were comparing ways that they cheated at college. One was particularly pleased with finding the answers for an exam  on-line. Her justification was that she needed a high grade point average to get into nursing school and she was doing poorly in two classes. I shuddered thinking of her as a nurse tending to me. What other shortcuts would she be willing to make?

As a college professor I used only essay questions on the exams I gave. I also allowed students to use the literature texts while they responded. There was no need to cheat, nor was there any way to do so. Critical responses to the readings could only come from absorbing the works and reflecting on them. I did discover that essays written for admission to the college were remarkably better than ones written in class. I assumed that in many cases someone else had done the work for admissions.

Only once did I encounter blatant copying. The essay written at home was so polished I knew the young man couldn’t have written it. Entering a few words into Google identified the actual author. I stapled the plagiarized essay to his paper and handed it back with a failing grade. I don’t think he had any idea that after years of correcting essays I had a pretty good sense of the abilities of most first year students.

When I heard the people at the gym justifying their behavior with the time honored “Everyone does it, ” I couldn’t help thinking of a common parental statement from my  youth. “If everyone jumped off a tall building would you?”

19 thoughts on ““But Everyone Does It!”

  1. If anyone copied my writings, he or she would be laughed out of town — unless they were already out of town, in which case they’re probably there of their own free will. Is this a great COUNTRY, or what?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t have the Internet when I was at school, so never knowingly cheated. If we ever used a well-known piece, or comment from someone famous, we were allowed to credit it in the glossary, as long as it was in context.
    I dread to think how Google has allowed below-average students to pass important examinations these days. Another reason to be grateful that I am old, and that I was brought up with ‘standards’.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. They are so blatant with it nowadays. I remember a student commenting on my series of blog posts about the hearing on Justice’s Corona’s impeachment before because she will use it in her class. The nerve. Fo all I knew, she might have copied some of the previous posts. As a student before, I preferred answering essays too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That is a very sad state of affairs Elizabeth 😦
    I don’t think people realize that when you’re a professional with many years of experience you quickly recognize deception when you see it 😉
    Bless you,

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I find it strange that young people haven’t come up with a better excuse than “everybody does it.” That reasoning never worked when I was a kid, so why should it work a generation later?


  6. And with us it was jumping under a bus. But the sentiment is the same – and a poor justification for any behaviour. I do understand that information gathering is very different these days and my niece (aged 20) and my grandsons are learning through very different methods to those I was used to. An argument is that because information is so readily accessible it is no longer necessary to retain it. I find that sad. And being able to turn to Google is not going to help that student nurse on the wards.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A whole generation will be up a creek when the internet crashes! I am grateful for actual books and the things I had to memorize. Without retaining information deep thinking is very challenging. Ah well. My age is showing.


  7. Fine, until for reasons of accounatbility any essay questions we set had to be accompanied by model answers and marking schemes, plus at the same time we had to set the resit questions and marking scheme. Then the students somehow got hold of a copy of the marking scheme.

    Liked by 1 person

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