Today's students may think nothing of copying and plagiarizing from the Internet to write a paper, or even having others write it for them. And that's just the beginning.
As several studies indicate, there is a cheating epidemic in our schools, and it is not confined to low-achieving or unmotivated students. Today cheating is common among most types of students: boys, girls, athletes, smart kids, student leaders, and even those with "strong religious beliefs."
To Malcolm Gauld, this comes as no surprise.
"Kids will never misread our true expectations of them. They know we have created an educational system that values their aptitude more than their attitude, their ability more than their effort and their talent more than their character. They are surrounded by signs that tell them that WHAT they can do is more important than WHO they are, regardless of the code of conduct posters on the classroom wall."
Gauld is president of Hyde Schools, a network of public charter and prep schools in New York City, Washington DC, Connecticut and Maine that are rooted in character education. Along with his wife Laura, he is the author of the parenting book "The Biggest Job We'll Ever Have" and the seminars that emerged from it.
Gauld asserts that, in short, many students are not learning, but doing only what they need to do to make the grade - thereby setting themselves up for a tremendous pitfall.
"We live in an achievement culture that can make it extremely easy for test scores and awards to lure good kids into a false sense of fulfillment," says Gauld. "Many students are pushed to succeed by parents and a grade-based system that starts naming winners at an early age. A 'win at any cost' philosophy takes over. Kids are gripped by these powerful influences that can and do manifest themselves in potentially harmful ways."
There are serious ramifications to winning at any cost, according to Gauld. One of those harmful ways is the loss of the opportunity to build real self-esteem earned by genuine best efforts and hard work.
"The development of authentic self-esteem - and the greatest chance of true and meaningful success - rest on a foundation of principles and knowing you have done your best with honest efforts," says Gauld. "True self-esteem is essential, and once earned can never be taken away."
For Hyde Schools, the foundation of guiding principles lies in what they call the 10 Priorities.
These include priorities that can go against the grain of our culture, including: Truth over Harmony; Principles over Rules; Attitude over Aptitude; Valuing Success and Failure; among others.
According to Gauld, the principles are the same for everyone, whether they are "easy A" students, academically challenged, or struggling with prioritizing. As a result, the students are encouraged to be who they are, share who they are, and grow in a genuine fashion together.
The shift in priorities results in the absence of cheating and other trends that blight the school system, including bullying.
"Character is inspired, not imparted," he says. "We cannot pour it into our kids or our families. It must be developed and nurtured. In a character culture, achievement is valued, but principles are valued more. What you stand for is more important than how you stack up against others."
About the authors:
Laura and Malcolm Gauld are the founders of a network of public and private schools emphasizing character education in their schools. The Gaulds address the issue of character and its challenges in sports, cheating and bullying, peer pressure, academic pressure, and other important topics relevant to our times. Their "Attitude over Aptitude" and philosophy and principles-based education has been featured on many national television and radio networks and news magazines, and in print. They are also the authors of the parenting book "The Biggest Job We'll Ever Have"and the founders of the seminars that evolved from it. This is the second of three parts. For more information on the Hyde Schools, contact Rose Mulligan at: 207-837-9441 or by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.