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In U.S., cheating runs rampant

Publication Date: 2013-05-12

This is from the Sante Fe New Mexican, May 12, 2013. Richard block makes the observation, 'I have never heard anyone ever mention that education has intrinsic value, that it enhances the quality of our lives, makes life more interesting and fulfilling.' When you relentlessly posit education as a product--not a value-- cheating results. And of course we live in a society that goes after the little cheats will continuing to reward the big cheats.

By Richard Block

Frankly, I am bewildered that there is so much curiosity as to why there is cheating in schools and how to address this as if it were an isolated problem ( Exploring the culture of cheating, April 15). To me it seems blatantly obvious.

Ours is a culture of cheating. Banks cheat customers, taxpayers, government. Advertising -- the most cynical of all aspects of the culture -- is built on considerable misrepresentation (cheating). Corporations cheat the public, the customers, the government. Cigarette companies lie. Virtually every element of the culture is based on cheating. And that cheating comes without any ill consequences. No one from banks or corporations ever goes to prison; there is no "truth in advertising."

In school, the focus is all on grades, not on learning. The entire focus of and on education in this country is on how it will help students make more money -- get better jobs -- the more degrees, the more money. I have never heard anyone ever mention that education has intrinsic value, that it enhances the quality of our lives, makes life more interesting and fulfilling.

We do not have, in this country, the regard for education and learning that is integral to the countries of Europe, Scandinavia, Japan and also Russia and China. These countries value learning for its own sake as well as for material advancement.

Even President Barack Obama -- when he referred to the "importance of education" --put this in terms of education as a product, not a value, as a product that will lead to better jobs, more money. In short, our values are completely fouled up. Why wouldn't young people in schools feel that cheating is no big thing? Remember the lesson of the film Breaking Away; after the local cyclist is knocked down by the Italian bikers, he says: "I didnât know -- everyone cheats." "Now you know," his father replies to him. It is endemic in America, a part of the very fiber of the culture. Kids learn this every day of their lives.

We never question the system â" our system â" itself; we take it for granted as an immutable âgiven,â as if it were a product of nature and inevitable instead of what it is, a human construct. Every political/social/economic system has within it serious faults, weaknesses, failings. Cheating and greed are integral elements of our system; this is inescapable. And we never accept this. We think of and approach our societyâs problems â" failings â" as apart from the system rather than as a part of our system, systemic.

And then we tell ourselves all kinds of self-deluding fantasies about how it doesnât matter âif you won or lost, but how you played the gameâ (Grantland Rice). The truth can be found in an anecdote about Joe Kennedy taking his sons to the Harvard-Yale football game. Harvard lost, and as the Kennedys were leaving, one of the boys said, âbut it was a good game.â His father stopped, looked at him sternly and said, âThereâs no such thing as a good game that you lost.â

If George Washington ever did say, âI cannot tell a lie,â he was, of course, lying.

Richard Block resides in Santa Fe.

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