An Act of Dishonesty to Gain an Advantage

You are only cheating yourself – Mrs. Sloan

The first time I heard this phrase was in Mrs. Sloan’s 6th grade History class, my first year of middle school. It was vernacular for all the middle school teachers to talk about cheating, against cheating, and to denounce cheating. Mrs. Sloan in particular, was the leader of these teachers against cheating. Mrs. Sloan constantly reminded us that cheating was the lowest point of desperation that we could ever reach academically. A loss of trust, sensibility, and respect from your society, your teachers and friends; basically academic and social suicide. If the First Amendment did not exist, separating church and state, Mrs. Sloan would have most positively called cheating a sin. What was admiring about Mrs. Sloan was that she could influence the majority of the other middle school teachers to believe in her ideals. She was the Samuel Adams of the case against cheating among these teachers, creating a sense of nationalism, which was almost as strong as The Sons of Liberty; someone she would have been proud to resemble (she was obsessed with the revolutionary war.) In their determination to eliminate cheating at a moral level among the students, teachers translated their moral jihad much as Muslims emphasized the struggle in the way of Allah? a rule to live by. And Mrs. Sloan’s life rule was, You are only cheating yourself; the idea that if you gain something without earning it, the only person that you will be hurting is yourself and no one else.
You are only cheating yourself! yelled Mrs. Sloan the second she saw Sara Salem whisper to John Jakobs. Caught in the act, Sara and John froze from the lashing impact of Mrs. Sloan’s thunderous voice. Dead silence lingered the room for about the longest 5 seconds of my middle school life. Mrs. Sloan and the other teachers used this cheating scandal to shame all of their classes from cheating ever again. Poor Sara and John got a week of detention, but dragged on shameful face for the eternity that was middleschool.

We all feared Mrs. Sloan’s overbearing obsession over cheating, so we never did it again in her class, but we did not particularly cower in other classes. The other teachers, Mrs. Sloan’s followers, all believed cheating was wrong, but they weren’t good at eliminating cheating in their classes; perhaps they weren’t as passionate on the subject, or just followed Mrs. Sloan’s lead because the omnipresent fact of being in school was to feel belonged. It didn’t matter why the other teachers were bad at banning cheating, what mattered was that we at least had some classes where we could cheat without the high probability of being caught. As the cheating scandal started to die off, the teachers patience for our middle school dramas and typical immaturity die off as well; which was perfect timing for the beginning of 3rd quarter where we had all promised our parents we would do better, focus more and pay attention. The next couple of weeks consisted of hard core crams sessions, major procrastination, and secret 5 to 30 second meetings with Cheating Chan. Cheating Chan offered many different strategies: the lean and look, the write the answers on my hand and the whispering exchange of answers, all of which seemed necessary at some points in our tests. All our tests included some kind of memorization, that we simply did not have the patience and time for. Plus, I don’t think the 6th grade teachers noticed they weren’t teaching us the information this way, but teaching us how to study with just enough time to pass the test and forget 5 minutes later. I can honestly say, Mrs. Ranger’s vocabulary quizzes were the ones that were made to study 10 minutes before a test—at most. My best friend and I were memorizing the same vocabulary flashcards right before one of Mrs. Ranger’s typical vocabulary tests (cram sesh!) when Mrs. Ranger called me up 5 minutes before the test to remind me of a unreturned book; precious 5 minutes that I could have been memorizing the last 5 flashcards in my hand. My best friend got a 94 on her test, while I got a 88. Did that mean I could have gotten a better grade on the test if I had looked at those flashcards 5 minutes earlier? Memorization tests didn’t help most of us understand the subject, but apparently we had to learn the basics this way in order to learn anything else.

Our indifference about cheating on these tests wasn’t because we lacked complete propriety and morals in our society; or because our parents had not raised us any better. If our parents had not raised us any better, we would’ve even bothered showing up to take the tests. If the reasons did not bestow on issues of propriety or morality, then how could we accept that cheating was okay?

First of all, we did not do anything. The factors of this kind of acceptance lies within the individuals. It just so happened that the entire 6th grade was coherently working as individuals at the same time. As I see it, the individual is in charge of it’s own mind, body and soul. Therefore, if the mind, body and soul were to have a device that was responsible for the acceptance of cheating, it would most likely be a pendulum. One side labeled Too Risky and the other Beneficial. Cheating on anything, including tests, are acts of dishonesty to obtain some kind of advantage. It would be up to the individuals cheating pendulum to decide if the advantages (Beneficial) were worth the risks (Too Risky.)

An individuals cheating pendulum is the process in which an individual decides to cheat on tests, cheat on their significant others and lie; really anything that involves an act of dishonesty to gain an advantage. The risks of cheating on tests is all dependent on the vastly variable factor of being caught. The risks themselves are something to be scared of—don’t you remember Sara Salem and John Jakobs. What isn’t so scary is the probability that you will be caught cheating on the test with all the perfect factors that must occur at the same time to conclude that a person was cheating on a test. The risk of being caught cheating in 6th grade, which would have been detention and a zero on the test, was worth the advantage of passing the tests and perhaps the class (depending on how often a person cheated), especially with those memorization tests. The probability that someone can get caught cheating on a test is about the same probability someone can get caught cheating on a significant other and for the same reasons: perfect conditions and perfect timing. The risk of being caught cheating on a significant other is worth the moments and instances the other women (or man) can give that the significant other does not. Regardless of whatever reason a person cheats, the individual’s pendulum must decide. Lying also produces the sway of the pendulum. As an act of dishonesty, if the pendulum lands on the Beneficial side the lie is considered to benefit the user. For example, if a man lies and lands an attractive women by saying he has a Lamborghini, then he scored. What happens when there is no Lamborghini? That is the risk that man was willing to take. Some would say it was too great a risk; that she would ultimately find out, but between these people and the man the pendulum just happened to have land on opposite sides.

Niether side of an individual’s cheating pendulum is wrong or right. It only measures the level of acceptance of cheating that an individual has in certain circumstances based on the risks and benefits. If everyone used their pendulums properly and attentively, virtually no one would get hurt; no one would be truly cheating themselves. The problem is that once the risks become too prominent to ignore, the acts of dishonesty intended to produce benefits will not produce them, but we would act anyway. In this instance a cheater has ignored his/her pendulum and once the act of dishonesty has been done, it can only produces gruesome consequences. An individual’s cheating pendulum, of course decides what is acceptable or not, but everyone has a line between the Too Risky side and the Beneficial side, and once it has been crossed it would be wise to listen to it.

Predicting the following scenarios have landed on the Too Risky side on an individual’s cheating pendulum these are some instances where Mrs. Sloan’s thunderous voice should pop in our heads, You are only cheating yourself!

In the middle of an American History final exam for college you realize that you did not study the Korean War into depth; what do you do? Anything, but to cheat. College is a choice, while public school is a conscription. You chose to go to college to learn about a subject you are passionate about to build a career on. You would only be hurting yourself by depriving yourself of the knowledge the class has to offer by cheating your way through it. A good GPA may say something about your effort in college, but your performance is going to speak louder than numbers. Plus, the risks are too risky to take. Consequences for cheating in public school may be detention and a zero, but in college it is expulsion. Don’t let this be how far you get to when you realized you made the wrong choice, by ignoring your pendulum.

Supposing the person sitting at the bar is a man when a floozy woman sits next to him. He consciously knows he has a loving wife and four wonderful children, regardless he follows the woman into a dark room in the hidden parts of the bar. The moment you decide to cheat on a significant other and the pendulum screams Too Risky, it is too late. You would only be hurting yourself because all the feelings incorporated with the cheat is built up inside you into dirty little secrets. Dirty little secrets that you now must hide from your loving wife and four wonderful children to keep the family together. This dirty little secret has the potential of destroying a whole family; years of trust and love, embellished in the very beings call your children, destroyed because you decided to ignore your pendulum. You would only be cheating yourself, not your wife or your children because you are the one that is alone not them.

Finally, you are in your early 20’s trying to find a job. In a moment of desperation you contemplate adding lies into your resume to make you seem more qualified for the job. You get the job, because your boss particularly picked you out for the qualification that you lied about. Now your entire job is to work on something you have no idea about. You are only hurting yourself because you will be fired. It doesn’t hurt the employer to let you go, but you’re the one that needed the job.

All these scenarios emphasized the wise words of my 6th grade History teacher Mrs. Sloan, You are only cheating yourself, but Mrs. Sloan never had the right to decide when I was truly cheating myself. She did not understand or have my cheating pendulum, so she could never truly know if in fact cheating on that middle school test would hurt me in the long run. Up until this day I have not once regretted cheating on those middle school tests, but that is just my pendulum. What’s yours?

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