Why is cheating so prevalent now? What pressures lead to lying?

WHY IS CHEATING SO WIDESPREAD? (We’ve been exploring this epidemic problem all week. Scroll down to read earlier articles, including some provocative data on cheating. Also, take our quick poll at left.)
    Cheating is due to “our larger social values,” commented Allan Schnaiberg yesterday, “where the ends of education are certification for employment and not learning per se. Learning for its own value is all too rare.”
    This comment reminded me of a formative moment in my early adulthood. Years ago, when I was an undergraduate business major, I took a course on real estate. About halfway through the semester, one of my fellow students complained to the professor that everything we were learning would be out of date by the time we graduated—so why bother?
    Our professor stopped his prepared lecture, glared at his interrogator, and said, “If you think you’re going to get hired because of what you learn in business school, you’re wrong.”
    He had our attention.
    “You’re here to demonstrate that you are a conformist,” he continued, “and that you are willing to put up with all sorts of arbitrary nonsense to get a degree. That’s why you’ll get hired.”
    That was the moment I became a sociologist. Things were not what they seemed.
    But is this view correct? Is education just certification for employment? Certainly, it serves that function and for some that’s the purpose of education. As someone who has chosen to teach in business schools, I’ve seen much more—it’s not as simple as my old real estate professor said. Education has many purposes, and for some it is learning for its own sake.
    What do you think? Does academic cheating reflect problems with our larger social values?

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