An honor code at Steamboat Springs High School will not prevent cheating among students.
Nevertheless, the implementation of such a code should instill in students a greater awareness of what constitutes cheating and empower them to take greater responsibility for ethical lapses. And while it may not eliminate cheating altogether, such a code should reduce the number of incidents.
For those reasons, we support the code, which is in the process of being finalized by students and faculty, and hope the school approves and implements it.
Steamboat Springs, like most other high schools in the country, could benefit from a greater awareness of cheating.
More than 70 percent of the local high school's students admitted to cheating at one time or another, according to the latest SteamboatCARES survey.
That percentage mirrors national trends. According to The Center for Academic Integrity, 74 percent of high school students surveyed admitted to one or more instances of serious test cheating, and 72 percent admitted to serious cheating on written assignments. According to another study, nine out of 10 high school students say they have copied another's work or allowed another to copy their work.
Steamboat Springs already has policies in place regarding cheating and plagiarizing. But those policies were developed and are investigated and enforced solely by staff. The new code would make students accountable for investigating incidents and addressing them. The code would establish an honor council comprised of 16 students -- four from each grade level -- who would have the responsibility for investigating reported violations, holding hearings when necessary and determining their peers' guilt or innocence.
Confidentiality would be preserved in all cases.
The development of an honor code may seem to some a draconian step to have to take in order to promote honesty. But the reality is, because of rapid technological advances that have widely broadened the amount of research information available to students, cheating -- particularly plagiarizing -- has never been so easy and so tempting.
A decade ago, term paper research involved countless hours at the library sifting through periodicals, encyclopedias and books for information related to the research. Now, thanks to the Internet, students can acquire a wealth of information on just about any topic imaginable in a matter of a few keystrokes. And almost as quickly, they can try to pass someone else's words as their own simply by copying and pasting.
According to Plagiarism.org, there are more than 200 Internet sites devoted solely to letting students copy and share each other's work. The practice of copying and pasting text from the Internet has become so commonplace that many students no longer recognize it as cheating.
In such an environment, the best way to ensure academic integrity is through heightened education and awareness.
Students need a clear understanding of what constitutes cheating, of what is and what isn't plagiarism. And it shouldn't be left to teachers and faculty alone to constantly try to figure out if the material they are grading was written by their students or someone in cyberspace.
That's why the Steamboat Springs High School honor code makes sense.
It asks students to give greater thought to the honesty of their work and empowers them to do more to preserve academic integrity, an ideal as important as education itself.