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The following appeared as an editorial in the student newspaper of Groveton College.

"To combat the recently reported dramatic rise in cheating among college students, colleges and universities should adopt honor codes similar to Groveton's, which calls for students to agree not to cheat in their academic endeavors and to notify a faculty member if they suspect that others have cheated. Groveton's honor code replaced an old-fashioned system in which teachers closely monitored students. Under that system, teachers reported an average of thirty cases of cheating per year. The honor code has proven far more successful: in the first year it was in place, students reported twenty-one cases of cheating; five years later, this figure had dropped to fourteen. Moreover, in a recent survey conducted by the Groveton honor council, a majority of students said that they would be less likely to cheat with an honor code in place than without."


Write a response in which you discuss what specific evidence is needed to evaluate the argument and explain how the evidence would weaken or strengthen the argument.


Honor codes, which are used widely throughout schools, require students to put forth a great deal of honesty and integrity in the classroom. After implementing an honor code at Groveton College, teachers stopped closely monitoring students, and the amount of student-reported cases of cheating dropped by almost half in only five years. While this data may be accurate, we should give consideration to other possible reasons behind said drop in reported cheating instances.


First, one possible explanation for the significant drop in student-reported cheating cases is that students’ ability to detect cheaters is lower than that of the teachers and professors, and their judgement of cheating, therefore, could be weaker. Teachers generally have more experience looking out for students who are trying to cheat on examinations, and they have the ability to move around the classroom freely during examinations, thus they have a better vantage point for monitoring students, and they are able to pick up on certain behaviors quickly and admonish the cheaters. Additionally, teachers have more time to look over students' homework and projects, thus they have sufficient time to discern whether students have plagiarized others’ works or not, whereas their fellow classmates may not have such an opportunity. On the other hand, students may not possess the same objectivity that teachers do; students may be less likely to report on their classmates if they know each other well or are concerned that they could potentially be bullied or harassed by the student they reported on. If students were threatened into not telling on other students who are cheating, then, for their own sake, they would not oblige by the honor code, and the statistics would show a decrease in reported cases when the number may not have changed in the least.


Furthermore, perhaps students truly are just as adept as teachers when it comes to sniffing out a cheater; however, when we take a closer look at the data the writer provided, it is not difficult to notice that the writer only mentions the amount of student-reported cheating cases in the first year and the fifth year. The evidence and data does, of course, manifest an overall decrease in number of cases; however, perhaps there were sharp increases in amount of cases in the second, third, fourth or fifth year. Perhaps in the sixth year the total amount of students in the college was less than that of previous years, therefore the amount of people cheating would also decrease. Without further evidence, we cannot say for sure that there was no erratic or irregular change in the statistics during other years, and the decrease may not be as consistent as we perceive it to be.


Additionally, even if the cheating phenomenon is truly decreasing, and the honesty of students is unwavering, increasing integrity among students and test material could be behind the change in amount of reported cheating cases. The statistics mentioned by the author were taken over a 5-year span of time, within which integrity among students may have increased. If this were to be the case, then we would naturally see a decline in the number of reported cheating instances. In another vein, the decrease could also be due to the fact that the tests are becoming easier, allowing students to feel that there is no need to cheat. If the material being tested in schools is truly becoming easier, then the cheating rates among students would, most likely, begin to decline, as there would be no need for these students to cheat, and thus the decrease would not hold as strong a correlation with the honor code.


Finally, we need to question whether or not the survey that was carried out is objective. When asked whether or not they would be more or less likely to cheat with an honor code in place, students may have a predilection to say that they are less likely to cheat on tests, when they are actually more likely to, or no less likely to than they were in the past. Students, knowing that an honor code system may lead to less teacher surveillance during examinations, may be more inclined to answer in the affirmative, saying that, “yes,” they are less likely to cheat on tests; however, in the back of their head, they could be thinking that, by implementing and honor code, they will be able to get away with cheating; this could all be a mendacious ploy to quell the anxieties and concerns of the school, while at the same time furtively scheming about how to get away with cheating or plagiarism.


To conclude, while the number of student-reported instances of cheating have decreased in the school, this decrease could be due to other reasons, such as lower abilities or reluctance among students to detect cheaters, decreased enrollment of students in the sixth year, easier school work,and increased integrity rates among students. At the same time, the decrease manifested in the survey data could likely be due to untruthfulness on the students' part rather than implementation of the honor code. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that both decreases are solely based on the implementation of an honor code system, the school could benefit by considering the other possible explanations above.



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