20 December 2008

The Age of Cheating: To What End?

Donald McCabe has conducted massive surveys of college and high school students to determine the scope of cheating for almost two decades. A former businessman who now teaches business at Rutgers University, McCabe has surveyed 165,000 students at 160 colleges and universities, 18,000 faculty at 110 institutions, and 35,000 students at high schools.

The results are staggering. Almost all students admit some form of cheating. Even worse, most of them find easy rationalizations for cheating. _Cheating2.0
Where do children and youth learn to behave ethically in today's society? They don't. By the time a youth attends high school or college, they are assumed to have been taught basic rules of honesty and self-responsibility. But that assumption is wrong. Whatever ethical codes today's youth may learn, they learned from their peers and from a ghoulish popular culture and media.

The old ways of learning ethics -- classic fables, allegories, myths and archetypes -- have largely gone the way of the dinosaur. Modern ethical rules are learned from song lyrics, teen flicks, and social networking. No wonder everyone cheats. No wonder shoplifting has become so popular. No wonder dishonesty is becoming the basis for most political, academic, and journalistic careers.
Perhaps the growth of cheating suggests an even more intractable problem, mirroring a larger breakdown in social order. When the community does not make an active effort to maintain order, more people are emboldened to violate rules. (ibid)
The mirror reflects both ways. A positive feedback system of behaviour. No rules leads to disorder which leads to even less teaching of rules, etc. In a multi-traditional society, where the old order has collapsed and a new order has not taken its place, the lack of an "organising principal" opens the door to chaos and accelerating centripetal force.

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Blogger Xenophon Hendrix said...

I think shrinkage as a percentage of sales over time would make a good rough-and-ready estimate of the ethical trends in a society. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a handy graph of the data. Does anyone have one?

I think it would be a much better measure than surveys of student cheating. With the rise of high-stakes testing, pressure on everyone to go to college, fewer options for the uninterested to leave, etc., the motives for academic cheating have considerably changed over the last fifty years, even as the cheating itself--e.g., getting research papers from the internet--has become easier.

Saturday, 20 December, 2008  
Blogger Xenophon Hendrix said...

Following up on what I posted above, I managed to find this document that gives shrinkage rates from 1991 to 2001. They were:

1991 1.79
1992 1.91
1993 1.88
1994 1.95
1995 1.83
1996 1.87
1997 1.77
1998 1.72
1999 no data
2000 1.69
2001 1.80

I then found the rest of the numbers by searching on "National Retail Security Survey" with the appropriate year.

2002 didn't find
2003 1.65
2004 1.54
2005 1.60
2006 1.57
2007 1.40

Take the numbers I searched for by hand with salt, for I found somewhat contradictory information at various sites. At any rate, there doesn't seem to be any strong upward trend in shrinkage over the last couple decades. Of course, shrinkage is going to vary with anti-theft technology and the economy.

Saturday, 20 December, 2008  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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