An Ethical Education

The word “Harvard” evokes many responses, including the phrases “Ivy League College” and “law and tradition,” among others. But rarely is the oldest college in America associated with cheating. Just a month ago, 125 students were caught cheating on the exam of a course called “Introduction to Congress,” according to the September 14, 2012 “New York Times” article “Song of the Cheaters.” According to “Song of the Cheaters,” “Cheating along the Charles…is nothing new.” Although young adults are not known for making the most logical decisions, it’s quite alarming that cheating is so rampant at a college like Harvard, which prides itself on its commitment to academic excellence. Harvard students are losing sight of the purpose of college. Rather than attempting to obtain a meaningful education that will affect the rest of their lives, they have become obsessed with results and have sacrificed knowledge. Even more alarming is the fact that the Harvard students involved in the cheating scandal were unable to understand what they had done wrong. According to “Song of the Cheaters,” one perplexed student was astonished that he or she was implicated by “sharing notes.” These students not only fail to realize or acknowledge that they have cheated but also don’t comprehend that cheating will hinder them in the long run. Although getting a law degree from Harvard may look prestigious on a resume, the most important factor in maintaining a steady income and having a successful life is not the name of the school you go to, but the experience and knowledge that you obtain from it. By cheating, students are throwing away the wisdom that was offered to them in order to tidy up their paper applications for graduate school applications or future employment. The students, however, cannot be entirely blamed for this.Because of Harvard’s nonexistent honor code, students are not made aware of the importance of truth and honesty in the quest for excellence. Of course, they realize that if they are caught, cheating will bring about negative consequences. What students don’t understand is that their dishonesty will actually hurt them in the long run. These cheaters also have an unfair immediate advantage over students who don’t cheat. This is a problem that Harvard can remedy. As society becomes more competitive, students are increasingly resorting to cheating and academic dishonesty to achieve success on paper. Harvard needs to make sure its students understand that grades are not everything and that other, more important factors such as experience, competence and sound character are just as essential to success in today’s world. Rather than installing menacing proctors who watch students’ every move during an exam, Harvard should become more proactive by showing its students the long-term consequences of cheating. The entire school community, teachers, parents and students should work together to establish an environment that promotes the true intentions of a college education. Michael Michiue is a two-year Upper from New York, NY.