- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Children today are more likely to cheat, steal and lie than youths 10 years ago, research shows.
A Josephson Institute of Ethics report, which surveyed 12,000 high school students, showed that the number who admitted cheating on exams at least once in the past year had jumped from 61 percent in 1992 to 74 percent in 2002.
Students who admitted to shoplifting within the past 12 months rose from 31 percent to 38 percent.
Those who said they lied to their teachers and parents increased substantially.
"The evidence is that a willingness to cheat has become the norm and that parents, teachers, coaches and even religious educators have not been able to stem the tide," said Michael Josephson, president of the institute, based in Marina del Rey, Calif.
"The scary thing is that so many kids are entering the work force to become corporate executives, politicians, airplane mechanics and nuclear inspectors with the dispositions and skills of cheaters and thieves," he said.
The surveys underlying "Report card 2002: The Ethics of American Youth" were administered by 43 high schools throughout the country. The report was released as part of National Character Counts Week, which began Monday.
Seeking information about attitudes and affiliations affecting the moral decline, the survey examined participation in varsity sports, student leadership, attendance at private religious school and strong religious belief.
It found that a high school student's sex was the most significant differentiating factor. Girls were significantly less likely to steal or engage in dishonest practices, although they generally cheated and lied as much as boys.
Varsity athletes were more likely to cheat on exams, but in most cases participating in varsity sports was not a differentiating factor.
Attending a private religious school failed to be a differentiating factor as well.
Those attending private religious schools were less likely to shoplift but more likely to cheat on exams and lie to teachers.
Regardless of the kind of school, students who said their religion was very important to them tended to have more positive attitudes about the importance of ethics. Even though they generally performed at the national average, they stole less and were less likely to lie to gain employment.
Honor students were less likely to steal than any other group: 30 percent compared with 40 percent of non-honor students. Still, more than one-third of students in leadership positions admitted having stolen from stores.
Students appear to have become increasingly more calculated in the past two years. In 2000, 34 percent of high school students said, "A person has to lie or cheat sometimes in order to succeed." In 2002, that number jumped 9 percent.
Despite plummeting ethics, this generation appears to possess high self-esteem.
Seventy-six percent of the respondents said, "When it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know."
Varsity athletes, student leaders and honor students had the highest self-image; more than 80 said they were better than their peers.
Despite the increase in cheating, stealing and lying, 95 percent of students agreed, "It's important to me that people trust me," and 79 percent agreed, "It's not worth it to lie or cheat because it hurts your character."


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