Survey: Cheating, lying widespread among high school students

If Honest Abe Lincoln were still around, he might be shocked at the findings a survey examining the honesty (or dishonesty) of American high school students.

The Josephson Institute of Ethics surveyed 43,000 high school students in October, and found frequent cheating, stealing, and lying in the past year.

Cheating in school is widespread, the study says, with more than half of students admitting to cheating on a test during the past year, one-third of more than twice. One in three students admitted to using the Internet as a source for plagiarizing assignments.

Students also ‘fessed up to committing acts of theft last year, with 21% saying they stole from a parent or other relative, 18% from a friend.

Lying was also frequently cited, with 48% of boys and 35% of girls admitting that they sometimes lie to save money. Eight in 10 students also confessed to lying to a parent about something significant.

Nevertheless, 89% of students surveyed said that being a good person is more important than being rich, and 92% said they believe that their parents want them to do the right thing.

Perhaps not surprisingly, some findings might even be understated – some of the students might be lying on the study itself, says Michael Josephson, president of the institute. “In self-reporting, there’s a natural tendency to understate anything that could be embarrassing or negative. Roughly 25% of students confessed they lied on at least one or two survey questions.”

Josephson noted that the new survey results are slightly better than in the group’s last survey, in 2008, though it appears some students act in ways contradictory to their beliefs. Still, 92% of students said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character.

“We’ve become a culture of liars, and that’s the sad part of it,” says Josephson.

By Sophie Terbush, USA TODAY

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