Establishment of honor code to change culture of cheating

It is three a.m. You have a test in five hours and a formative worksheet for homework. You log on to Facebook and ask one of your peers for the answers to the homework so that you can focus on your test. Though this kind of response to cheating has become more natural than it should be, the establishment of an honor code by the School Improvement Committee (SIC), an extension of the HSSC, can gradually reduce the tendency to cheat.

The TIGERS values state that students should be trustworthy, responsible and independent. However, many students casually violate academic integrity at least once in high school. These students usually do not cheat out of inherent dishonesty; rather, they do it out of desperation and panic. The temptation to cheat is fueled by the fear of disappointing their parents, teachers and themselves. According to Dan Ariely, Duke University professor of psychology, cheating is also justified in our minds because it is human nature to look to others as a gauge for what is morally acceptable.

It is almost inevitable that cheating will increase in a grade-conscious environment. However, even small changes in the school policy can combat this tendency. In a study by Ariely in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), students were required to sign a statement before taking a survey: “I understand that this short survey falls under the MIT Honor Code.” Despite the absence of an honor code at MIT , no one lied on the survey because everyone was reminded of moral obligations.

Psychological analysis demonstrates that the use of an honor code to change our perceptions of cheating is more effective than the enforcement of strict rules and  harsh punishments. The SIC is considering the implementation of an SIS honor code as a way to decrease cheating. Because the SIC’s responsibility is to ensure that students do not shirk moral obligations, the honor code should be the SIC’s primary pursuit. This endeavor will provide a strong foundation for academic integrity and therefore motivate students to reconsider before succumbing to the temptation of cheating.