A Cheater Never Prospers

A water bottle employed as a cheating device; who would have imagined such a stunt? However, as reported in a New York Times article this past November, a student at a high school in Westport, Connecticut, has added a whole new dimension to the cheat sheet realm. Leaning over to steal a glimpse of a neighbor’s answers, using the Internet to plagiarize a paper, or storing answers in a calculator have proven too mundane and often futile to this student. Taking on a more creative, yet equally offensive, ruse, this student stripped the label off a water bottle and wrote notes on the back. When the student repositioned the label, the notes were visible and magnified by the water inside. However, despite the scheme’s admirably imaginative nature, this surreptitious student was caught red handed and received a failing grade on the exam. Although the shrewdness and absurdity of the story made it an entertaining read, the article was significant, for it shed light on a dominant trend of the year 2003: cheaters and other lawbreakers, in virtually every segment of society, were caught and now await punishment. The journalist: from the end of 2002 to midway through the year 2003, Jayson Blair, a New York Times reporter, wrote 73 articles. Upon investigation, a little over half of these articles were proven to contain fraud, plagiarism, and significant inaccuracies. Consequently, Blair was compelled to resign, as was the paper’s executive editor, Howell Raines, and managing editor, Gerald Boyd. The sports hero: during the summer, Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers superstar, was accused of raping a 19-year-old woman. Although Bryant argued that the relationship was consensual, he currently remains on trial. The media mogul: Martha Stewart, the founder of a media conglomerate and a name familiar to many homemakers, is on trial for charges of insider trading and obstruction of justice. The entertainer: in November, arguably one of the year’s biggest scandals erupted. Michael Jackson was indicted on charges of sexual molestation of a minor and his Neverland ranch was invaded by police forces. Jackson was released on bail for a large sum of money and is awaiting trial. The tyrant: on the other side of the world, another startling capture took shape. Saddam Hussein, a notorious “evil doer” and leader of the ruling terrorist party in Iraq, was finally caught in December after many months of unrewarding pursuits by the coalition forces. This capture was an immense feat, instilling a sense of accomplishment and surges of celebration in coalition forces and peoples worldwide. The businessman: towards the end of December, the chief executives of Parmalat, an Italian dairy company, were accused of forging multi-billion-dollar bank guarantees. The company is bankrupt and the executives are presently under investigation. Although the Connecticut student with his clever water bottle and the famous figures noted above operate in different arenas, they all share the similar fate: being caught while allegedly breaking the law. Each person, in his or her own way, must have believed he or she was above the law, and not subject to the moral and legal rules that govern human society. The prevalence of disregard for the law was a theme of 2003, but so was the idea that cheaters and lawbreakers are caught and punished. This leaves our country looking at the year 2003 with a sense of accomplishment for ensuring that justice prevailed. Perhaps in 2004 we can look forward to a year in which ordinary kids, as well as superstars and business leaders, will be content to live and work within the rules of our society.