Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cheaters never prosper, Cheaters never win.

If I sat down to write a posting on all the different ways that people cheat in life, I'd be here long past the alloted number of years we get for living. There is no area of life that someone, somewhere, at some time has not cheated at. It matters not at all if we use some synonym for cheat that sounds better: it's still cheating.

At a long ago teacher's meeting someone said that people feel about cheating this way: it only becomes cheating if you get caught.Talk about a self-serving attitude. And yet that attitude is seen all over. When a member of one of the frum communities had his cheating exposed and had to serve jail time for it, the comments were mostly along the line of "What a dummy! How did he let himself get caught?!" Not one comment about how wrong what he did was.

Cheating, and its closely allied cousin lying, happen even when there seems to be no advantage to the cheating. It certainly happens where people see an advantage in it.

Years ago the price tags on clothing were attached using safety pins. And routinely people would switch the tags from one piece of clothing to another, to get a cheaper price. Stores finally figured out what was happening and now attach the tags with plastic fasteners that can't be switched. Various fresh foods in the supermarket have small tags with their produce codes on them. And routinely you see people switching the tags from the less expensive produce to the more expensive produce. You check your register tape coming out of the supermarket. There is plenty of screaming if the store charged you more than the stated price of an item. How many people go back and tell the checkout person that they charged too little, and pay the difference?

Cheating on income taxes goes on to such a degree that it would take an encyclopedia to write about it. Cheating insurance companies is rampant. A doctor/dentist puts in a procedure that the company will pay for at a higher rate to get what he wanted for the less expensive procedure that he actually performed. And patients concur in this because it ends up costing them less out of pocket.

Spousal cheating of all types goes on all the time, and yes, in the frum communities as well. "What they don't know doesn't hurt them" seems to be the catch phrase. Summer is a particularly fruitful time for this type of cheating, particularly in the NY area, as many families go up to the mountains for the summer. Wife in the mountains, husband in the city: a formula that could spell disaster as far as cheating goes.

And then there is cheating in school, an area that affects me personally. Just how stupid do my students think I am? I, and many other instructors, now give unannounced quizzes and in-class writing to get samples of how the students are "really" doing. When a student who can't spell his/her own name correctly in class suddenly turns in a home-written essay worthy of an Alexander Pope, am I supposed to be impressed? (And just a little note to parents who "help" their kids with their homework: you might try writing in the tone and vocabulary level of your student. When a fourth grader turns in an essay with "vociferous" and words of that nature in it, the red flags go up.)

Something that I wrote while in graduate school was archived by the University and was available in the library. For purposes of the article I used my first name initial, maiden and married last name. It was on the article. Imagine my surprise when a student in one of my classes turned in a paper to me in which my own words were used, but not given credit. I turned back the paper to the student as an "F" with plagiarism as the reason. The reply? "Prove it." So we went to the University Committee that handled this type of complaint and the committee let the student speak first. Said student complained that I couldn't recognize solid scholarship when I saw it. Said student said that I was unfair to students who could think. When it was my turn to speak, I took out the archived copy of my paper and the copy I had made of the student's paper. I pointed out to the committee where the plagiarized material was. The student obviously lost, but I wish I could be a little less cynical in hoping that he learned something other than taking more care in which authors he cribs from.

When children see adults taking what those adults call a "little shortcut" then why should we be surprised that they cheat in school? As far as the kids are concerned, cheaters always prosper, cheaters always win. I know of no parents who have specifically told their children that cheating is permissible, that cheating is acceptable. But the kids are very quick to pick up on the "Do as I say, not as I do" actions around them. Calling it "fudging" doesn't make it a sweeter thing.

In this time period, coming up to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, mayhap a bit more thinking about cheating and how it erodes our spiritual well-being is in order.


Pragmatician said...

I can't agree that cheating in school is so bad, unexpected quizzes and exaggeratedly difficult tests are arguably unfair, what other choice to kids have but to resort to "unfair methods".

You also mentioned homework cheating.
Cheating wouldn’t be possible if the kids wouldn’t be inundated with homework to begin with, I know its besides the point but it's just another 'unfairness' which compels otherwise honest kids and future loyal husbands and wives, to feel ok about cheating.

G said...

"Cheaters never prosper, Cheaters never win."

With all due respect, that is a garbage statement.

It may sound good and feel even better but the facts simply do not bare it out.

Anonymous said...

G, the statement is not at fault. It's how we are supposed to be living. That cheaters are getting away with a lot and seem to be prospering doesn't mean that they should be doing the cheating. Besides, they are only getting away with it on one level. Yom Kippur is coming up. Do you think that God is going to overlook the cheating because the cheater was good at it?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately the world is full of examples of people who don't follow the rules and who prosper by it. And others see this and say why should I be the only sucker who isn't winning. This time of year we particularly need to remember the line from the old advertisement: We answer to a higher authority.

Knitter of shiny things said...

I feel like many plagiarism issues could be solved with citing one's sources (and actually analyzing them as opposed to just quoting them). You'd think that people would know better at the college level. Besides, it's fun to have a nice long bibliography that shows that you've read every book on the subject.

Anonymous said...

Pragmatician I think you are rationalizing here, and you aren't the only one who does this so I'm not singling you out specifically. Kids in school are forced to cheat because they get too much homework and surprise quizzes and hard tests are unfair? That's the kind of reasoning that lets everything in life be somebody elses fault and never our own. We are never responsible for our own actions or inactions. So of course our only choice is to cheat. I don't think so.

As a general comment, sure there are plenty of cheaters who are prospering. We all see them around us. But because they seem to be able to beat the system doesn't mean that the system isn't a good one and that we shouldn't be following it. Maybe we need to spend a lot more time pointing out the examples where the cheaters got caught. Cheating/lying/looking the other way is one element of the mortgage crisis and the financial institution crisis we are facing today.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons that people cheat is because they can. Doesn't make it right but some people or groups are pretty much waving a flag that says come and cheat me. When a professor gives the same exact test every term he is just asking for someone to cheat on that test because he is making it really easy to do so.

In college I was really angry in the classes where cheating was made so easy because my grade and that cheater's grade were the same but I knew I worked for mine. It didn't seem fair or right that my A and the cheater's A were going to be seen the same by someone outside, like a future employer.

Anonymous said...

There are 2 people involved in cheating. There's the one who cheats and the one who is cheated. The cheater wins and the one who didn't cheat loses. So what do you think the lesson is that the one who didn't cheat learns? We're supposed to live by the rules and I know that those who don't cheat can take the moral high ground, but the practical result is that the cheaters get to win. Like Jake said the cheaters get the grades for the things they turn in, cheated and all. So yeah, I help my kids with their school projects. Just have to hope that my help is better then some other mother's help.

Anonymous said...

Oh man if I am reading the meaning right in some of these comments are we not reading the lo sahsehs right. We don't get to choose whether to cheat or not based on whether or not there is an advantage in following the law or not.

So when these people are going to say the al chaits on Yom Kippur are they really going to mean it? Are they going to be saying I'm sorry I cheated but it was just too good a deal to pass up? Or are these people going to figure that they will say al chait because there is an advantage to it but they don't really mean it, like all the other cheating that they do.

concernedjewgirl said...

In college I was always afraid of plagiarism charges and to g-d forbid be thrown out of my program. I always quoted every book I touched. Better get a lower grade for lack of creativity then to have all dreams and ambition squashed!
In life at the stores I haven’t always been perfect. I will admit that in the past when something rang up at the register as cheaper than what it was on the shelf I didn’t rush to change the price. Yet, if the clerk made a mistake in the stores favor I was quick to point that out. Once I realized what I was doing, I changed my behavior. Case in point, last week at bed bath and beyond the lovely store person didn’t scan one of the purchases I was making, I stopped her and made her do it. She was kind of taken aback that someone would actually point out that they didn’t pay for something. She thanked me profusely and charged me the price. Note this store is in a predominantly NON-Jewish area. So I guess it’s not only our cultural flaw, but that of a more societal issue.

ProfK said...

Just thought I'd throw this into the discussion before I leave for work. Years back when I was teaching high school I gave a test to my classes. It wasn't a surprise test, it was on material we had studied and reviewed. After I collected the tests I found this comment written on the top of one of them: "This test was only fair to those who studied." I've kept a copy of the test for years now because that comment sums up a lot of the attitude towards cheating that I see in school. It's a shortcut for doing what you are supposed to do because it is easier and you don't have to make any effort.

mlevin said...

I have a few comments; first I think it's insulting to believe that store owners of yesteryears did not know that people switched safety pinned tags. They just didn't have an alternative.

Second - just because 4th grader used "vociferous" doesn't mean he cheated, it could simply mean that he learned to use a thesaurus. My daughter's friend thinks she is so smart, she uses thesaurus in all of her written assignments. I remember reading a few of them on occasion. Yes, it sounded fancy and all, but half of the fancy words just weren’t used properly. Had my 4th grader used a thesaurus, and picked a wrong word, I would have advised her on a better word from the same selection in thesaurus. You would have thought that my child cheated.

Third – I know plenty of parents who teach their children to cheat. They teach them to lie, too. Their children get punished for being too honest in certain situations.

Fourth – “cheater never prosper” is not always true. Big cheaters, like those who do it on large scale eventually get caught and suffer for it. They end up losing everything, plus their reputation, plus freedom. But if you’re talking about small things, i.e. doing part of child’s homework, or not disclosing all income for taxes these things are not caught.

Fifth – my children’s fifth grade teacher was wonderful and great, but she gave way tooooo much homework. In addition to all regular work she also expected a book per week. So, we cheated. My kids read a few books during summer and used them for book per week assignments. Also, when she’d have over 30 long division or multiplication examples, I would simply make her do random three and the rest give to my husband.

Sixth – Allen – mortgage crisis has nothing to do with cheating. Everything was 100% legal. It has to do with stupidity and greed. Stupid people agreed to high mortgages without any forethought of the future and stupid people kept on giving mortgages and collecting commissions/salaries without realizing that sooner or later it’s going to be their own jobs on a line because things as they were just couldn’t go on forever…

Lion of Zion said...


"They teach them to lie, too."

you mean like, "oh no, my parents don't have a tv at home."


i think i've made this comment before, but professors too can be guilty of plagiarism in their class presentations and handouts

Anonymous said...

Yasher kochach Prof.

חותמו של הקבּ"ה אמת

Cheaters who seemingly prosper = רשע וטוב לו

רשבּ"ג אומר על שלשה דברים העולם קיים,על האמת

Anonymous said...

Yes, people cheat. No, it is not right. Yes, some get away with it every time. No, it is not right. Because isn't that the point of the posting--just because you can do it and get away with it doesn't make it right? Lots of rationalization going on that it doesn't matter if it's cheating on something "small" like homework.
MLevin, don't know if you see the irony but you say you know plenty of parents who tell their kids to cheat, and that has to include yourself. You're telling them to cheat when you do their homework.

mlevin said...

Leon - This is life. As a parent I made a decision that my child needs to have decent sleep and play. The point of homework is to practice/go over what was learned in school. Doing 30 long division/multiplication problems would take a very long time. She grasped the concept and had some practice. Enough. Many parents chose to fight with the teacher, but it didn't accomplished anything. She's stubborn.

Also kids have off days/weeks. They are either sick or have other things going on in life. Reading books in advance solved the problem, again that teacher didn't want to hear about off days/weeks. This is children we're talking about not army.

In the real world we have sick days and coffee breaks and deadlines. We are not expected to perform full speed as long as work is presented properly and in timely manner. In school, that teacher did not want to hear any excuses.

If you run your own business and get swamped with work you hire someone.

My children knew that their job in school is too learn. Those who cheat on tests (ie cheat notes or copy) never learned the material.

When I speak about parents who teach cheating and lying, I'm talking about cheat sheets, practicing copying off neighbors, practicing looking straight into ones eyes and lie. And then these people brag about it.

Lion of Zion said...


i understand the debate over more vs. less homework, and i'm not saying i would act any differently than you, but you are rationalizing cheating for your kid. is there a difference between doing long division problems for your fifth-grader or her copying her friend's calculus assignment in college? and there is no analogy with the businessman, who obviously makes up his own rules regarding how he conducts his business (as long as it is within the parameters of the law). when you enroll a child in a school you and the child agree to an unwritten contract.

although perhaps this is a good argument for the anti-homwork camp, i.e., too much homerowrk that parents will inevitably be doing for their kids ends up teaching them the wrong message

mlevin said...

Lion - I never claimed it's not cheating, but I see nothing wrong with what I have done. (side note, I don't see occasional copying of calculas homework assignment as wrong either. When I was in college we did not have to submit our calculas homework, because the whole point of it was to practice and apply what we learned at the lecture. If you don't get it, you approach a friend or a teacher. There was no aganizing over incomplete homework.) The whole point of school is to learn... I am against cheating that is done instead of learning.

Anonymous said...

Once you say that there are exceptions to the you can't cheat rule you're letting yourself in for some real grief. Who gets to decide when cheating is ok or not? Under what circumstances? When? Getting yourself into the cheating habit, even if it is for what you think are really small things or unimportant things or things that you feel are unfair, like too much homework, gets you accustomed to the idea that cheating is ok, and ok in all circumstances. The child who gets used to cheating in school is going to apply what he's learned from that cheating to other areas of life as he grows up.

If you think that there is too much homework and that is unfair, then try and change it by speaking to the teacher or principal. And if that doesn't work, well who ever promised that life was going to be completely fair?

mlevin said...

"Once you say that there are exceptions to the you can't cheat rule you're letting yourself in for some real grief. Who gets to decide when cheating is ok or not? Under what circumstances? When? "

What about Yakov who cheated his brother out of the Brochah? Well, Moshe's mother cheated and hid her newborn son from authorities... Well, what about Spanish Jews who pretended to convert and left peacefully a few years later? (i'm not talking about those who remained in Spain, but those who left within the next few years? What about people in USSR, without cheating the system they wouldn't be able to afford anything, but milk and break?

Cheating is not a black or white issue, there are times and places for it.

Disclosure: I am not advocating any of the following: cheating on tests, stealing other's work, spousal infadelity or selling national secrets(unless you have information that will prevent terrorist attacks).