Ethical Issue: When Teens Cheat
What are the obligations of a Jewish supplementary high school in raising the ethical level of its students? How do we hold our students to a higher standard while trying to explain all the cheating going on by education professionals? How do we prepare the next generation to succeed in college and beyond?
With these questions in mind, what happens when a teacher notices that a student may have plagiarized material, or copied from a friend?
The first time a teacher came to me with this I struggled with the questions above, adding a few more: can we confirm evidence of cheating? How can this transform into a learning experience? How can I make sure the parent(s) is(are) on board? In what ways can I work to ensure that this student really changes? How can I create an accepting environment for the student but not the behavior?
I am actually grateful that these issues arise in a Jewish context, because it gives me a unique opportunity. Working with teens on ethical conduct is exactly what we should be doing. For me, it is part of the ‘value added‘ of the supplementary school experience. Our response to cheating is a test for us, and students will remember what we do. We can reference Jewish texts to support advice when we help students navigate through this. Those texts should also inform our behavior. We can give them skills to self-adjust and offer moral support along the way. Plagiarism is a serious offense, especially in college, and we can give them a foundation of Jewish ethics to lean on.
This is tough stuff, but doing any less in today’s times creates more moral murkiness. I believe we are preparing the next generation to become leaders which requires us to respond quickly and appropriately especially when the road ahead will be even more challenging.