Never too late to cheat

January 28, 1994|By Art Buchwald

FIRST there was the news from Cambridge, Mass., that 83 percent of all the undergraduates at MIT cheated at least once in their college careers. More than two-thirds confessed to plagiarism, and half admitted stealing other people's ideas.

Then came word from the Navy that 133 midshipmen at the Naval Academy cheated on a 1992 examination.

So I drove over to Annapolis to talk to those few who'd refrained from cheating on the exam.

They were huddled off in a corner, and none of the cheaters would have anything to do with them.

"How come you didn't cheat while you were in school?" I asked.

David Moskowitz replied, "No one taught us how."

Jane Mitchell said, "You learn cheating from your parents. I came from a happy home, and there was nobody around who knew how to beat the system."

Fred Calabash said, "I once asked my father if winning was everything. He replied, 'No, it isn't.' I figured that he didn't know what he was talking about so I ran away."

"It seems to me that you're blaming your parents for not cheating. Can't you put some of the responsibility on yourself? Let's say your folks refused to teach you how to lie, cheat and steal. Why didn't you go to your friends?"

Zelda Claghorn said, "That's easy for you to say. But I was afraid of getting caught."

"What's to be afraid of? Everyone in the country cheats. Defense contractors cheat, congressmen cheat, bankers cheat, the White House cheats and people driving leased automobiles cheat. The purpose of college is to teach you that cheating is a way of life in the United States. You people better start doing it right away if you hope to survive in a capitalist society."

Midshipman Moskowitz was adamant, "I've never plagiarized anything in my life."

"It's not too late to start now," I yelled at him.

"What about the honor code?" Midshipwoman Claghorn asked.

"It's a good thing as long as no one is found out. But if you're brought up on charges it breaks up fraternity houses."

She said, "I know some people who were honest and still finished school."

"And I know people who walked on the moon. The question is, 'How many?' "

"Do you think that cheaters should be punished?" she asked.

"I'm not sure," I replied. "I asked the superintendent if cheating is the worst thing that a midshipman could do, and he replied, 'No. Attempting to park in the faculty parking lot without a sticker is a lot worse.' "

"Cheating is rampant on all campuses," she said. "The Naval Academy is just the tip of the iceberg."

"The academy is a good school," I assured her. "Your exams are very difficult. You have to do everything you can to pass."

"Do you think that they'll kick us out of here for not cheating?" one of the middies asked.

"They'll probably give you a warning first. If you continue not cheating, they will be forced to take action."

One of them said, "I wish I had my academic life to live over again."

"Why?" I wanted to know.

"I'd put all my math test answers on my French cuffs."

Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.

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