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[Susan notes: Pay attention to this letter. Watch the film 'Race to Nowhere.' It is way past time for parents and teachers to ask themselves some hard questions about their own conduct.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re Allegations of Cheating by Cellphone at Stuyvesant (news article, June 27): When cheating scandals like the one at Stuyvesant High School in New York come to light, parents and pundits alike profess their amazement.

All too rarely do we question whether the roots of academic cheating are in the very fabric of our competitive culture, a culture in which markers like the college one has attended, the salary she earns and the ZIP code in which he raises his family are seen as the markers of American success.

We're teaching our children that external, visible indicators of accomplishment are what matter most.

If we want to put a stop to cheating, we need to model the belief for our children -- in our homes and our classrooms -- that success will not be measured by a report card, a test score or an Ivy League acceptance letter but rather by a willingness to seek out challenges, to ask for help when they are uncertain, and to accept consequences when they have made poor decisions.

Until we demonstrate for our children that success lies in the process and not in the product of their work, we will encourage them to cheat. And we will continue to cheat them.

The writer is co-director and producer of the documentary film Race to Nowhere, about the pressures children face today.

Vicki Abeles

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