Is Cheating Ever Good?

Of course, the answer is no. Nonetheless, cheating does occur. There seems no ambiguity when the case involves a person cheating and that same person benefits from his or her cheating. We are always quick to look down on individual cheating. However, the line gets somewhat murky when we can point to a higher good, when cheating occurs collectively, and when circumstances can be used to justify dishonesty. It is election time again in the Philippines. This time is for community (barangay) officials. These contests are oftentimes very heated involving families, relatives and friends. And accusations of not playing by the rules are common. Fairness frequently takes a backseat in favor of loyalty. Underneath the disguise of some sort of goodwill, cheating more often than not always advances one's personal interests. For this reason, it is important that schools starting from the early years emphasize to students that there is no such thing as "good cheating".

A recent study done in Switzerland involving second and third year college students illustrates that while individual cheating becomes unacceptable as adherence to values increases, other forms of cheating become acceptable. Only the case of an individual copying in an exam becomes abominable. On the other hand, an individual sharing his or her answers with a group, a group copying off other students, and a group sharing answers, all of which should still be considered cheating, become tolerable.

Above copied from
Pulfrey, C., Durussel, K., & Butera, F. (2018, March 19). The Good Cheat: Benevolence and the Justification of Collective Cheating. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication.

Cheating in schools is widespread. About half of high school students in the United States admits to having cheated in an exam. The troubling aspect of cheating is the justification.

Honesty and fairness are values that should never be compromised. Outside school there are elections for government officials. This exercise requires no less than the honesty and fairness from everyone. Unfortunately, as in school, we are tempted to redraw the rules with the belief that we are rightfully doing the cheating because of a higher good. We should be reminded, "The end does not justify the means".