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Monday, October 16, 2006

Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth

A particular UVA alumna had a habit of mentioning UVA fairly often on The Today Show while she was a host. I thought the days of hearing about UVA on the show were over.

Imagine my surprise when UVA got mentioned on the Sunday morning edition of Today. Imagine my further surprise at hearing that UVA was part of the reason that American teens are more comfortable than ever with cheating.


The story in question was in response to the Josephson Institute on Ethic's study "A Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth". While 98% of high school students surveyed agreed with the statement "It's important for me to be a person with good character", 60% reported cheating on an exam in the last year and 33% admitted to copying information on the internet (presumably for a school assignment).

The Today Show did a short spot about the survey and then turned to their in-studio guests, one of whom was a student at McLean High School in Northern Virginia. When asked why he thought his peers seemed more comfortable with cheating than those in years past, the first thing out of his mouth was that schools like UVA "are telling people that if they don't have a 3.9 GPA, they shouldn't bother applying." The student then went on to talk about Turnitin.com, which didn't exactly seem on topic. Of course, I couldn't really follow the rest of the piece. I thought I had just heard someone partially blame UVA (and colleges like it) for cheating among high school students.

I understand that the college application process is extremely stressful. I'm not so old that I don't remember the uncertainty and anxiety of the process. I don't, however, remember cheating as being part of the process. With an honor code as prominent as UVA's, the message is clear: cheating is not acceptable.



As for the 3.9 GPA comment, just last week, I spent 45 minutes at McLean High School describing UVA's holistic review process and the use of the school profile as a filter through which we look at transcripts. My response to a question about the average GPA of the admitted class was quite long, explaining that GPA scales vary so much that it's hard to put much faith in such a statistic.