Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Character Education, Plagiarism, and Academic Cheating
John Jay College
195 Joralemon Street
Dear Mr. Obama:
My name is Henry and I am a student at John Jay College. This past semester my English Technical Writing Class has been focusing and researching character education, plagiarism, and cheating. According to William May, the author of the book Ethics and Higher Education, informal polls indicate that as many as three-fourths of the student population on campuses today admit to some form of academic fraud. Cheating is accepted as a way of life because too little is done to prevent it, and there is reluctance on the part of faculty and administrators to report it and prosecute when it occurs. At best the problem is dealt with unevenly; at worst it is avoided or totally ignored. If colleges and universities are to have an impact on value development, and I suggest they should, then a concerted effort by faculty and administrators must be undertaken in order to address the problem. (171)
The polls indicate that there is a lack of heightened interest in ethics or morals. Faculty and administrators are partly to be blamed for not doing their part to combat such unethical behavior and for not putting controls in place. In the majority of our schools cheating on test and the wrongful acts of plagiarism have become very rampant. That’s why, I am writing you this letter to address the need for an enforced character education curriculum in our schools.
Character education as defined by Dr. Thomas Lickona, author of Educating for Character, How Our Schools Can Teach Respect and Responsibility, “is the deliberate effort to develop virtues that are good for the individual and good for society. The objective goodness of virtues is based on the fact that they: affirm our human dignity, promote the well-being and happiness of the individual, serve the common good, define our rights and obligations, meet the classical ethical tests of reversibility (Would you want to be treated this way?) and universalism (Would you want all persons to act this way in a similar situation?)”
Character education is as old as education itself. It dates way back to the times of renowned theorists like Piaget, Kohlberg, Turiel and Carol Gillian who all conducted research and experiments in the area of character development. The goal of education has and always will be to help people to become smart and help them to become good. The founding fathers believed democracy has a special need for character education, because democracy is government by the people themselves. The people must therefore be good, must develop "democratic virtues": Respect for the rights of individuals, regard for law, voluntary participation in public life,and concern for the common good.
As you can see character education is not something new. If the founding fathers endorsed it and thought it to be a good concept that should be invoked in government then, it certainly is important. The very idea that people needed to develop moral ethical behavior, which would benefit them and others as they continue through life, has been in the works. It appears to be vanishing and needs to be implemented and enforced at the college level as well as the elementary level.
Since home is the first school, character education should begin there; however, with the changes in family structure-mom working two jobs, or mom and dad working then the burden falls on schools as well. It is said that, “it takes a whole village to raise a child”; therefore, the responsibility extends not only to parents and teachers to raise persons of good character and moral standing but the community as well. Character and moral can be used interchangeably since they mean the same thing. Huitt and Vessels define the term a moral person as a person who understands the difference between right and wrong and willfully chooses what is right; a virtuous person engages in good behavior intentionally, predictably, and habitually; an ethical person figures out what is right or good. (260)
Character Education is made up of honesty, self-responsibility, citizenship, respect, fairness, and caring; However, my focus is on honesty. It is of vital importance to stress the importance of this aspect of character education because dishonesty, when tolerated hurts the innocent and vulnerable. Everyone is affected.
Let me take you back to the Enron scandal, where CEO s, top educated men regarded as trustworthy men took advantage of many and stole their life-long earnings. Such display of bad behavior simply says that these men have no conscience and no morals. In the implementation of character education curriculum honesty needs to be emphasized since it is a pivotal part and ranks highest on the list of character education traits. To integrate this aspect of character into the curriculum I propose the following.
First of all, college catalogs should have a section devoted especially to academic honesty. The term should be broken so that even the dumbest of all persons can understand what academic dishonesty means and it should be accompanied by consequences for those who do not adhere to the rules and regulations that accompany academic dishonesty. At the registrar's office a banner that reads “Cheating is not tolerated here should be displayed. Also, since teachers are the gatekeepers to character education, the burden lies heavily on them for being good role models to their students and for assisting in behavior changes. Dr. Marvin W. Berkowitz, a developmental psychologist , a professor of character education at the university of Missouri supports this by saying," When we think of character education we tend to think first of how students behave and how we can implement strategies and structures in schools that will lead students to develop more desirable personality traits, competencies, and behavioral patterns. What we too often fail to recognize is that this is much more difficult to achieve if the adults in the school community do not "walk the talk." I think we need to start character education with a focus on the adults, and only when we get this in order, start to worry about what we can do to support the development of the students. The focus of schools should be the students, but one gateway to students' character is the character of the adults around them."