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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Does Character Count for Nothing? | 08-09-2013
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You Know I'm Right | Commentary by Betty Arenson
| Friday, Aug 9, 2013

bettyarensonIt’s a way of life.

Cheating, that is.

For years, I watched my parents’ reactions to a changing world – a world not necessarily changing for the better.

Like my parents, I had a Midwestern upbringing.  Rural – very rural – then transplanted to a small town.

It was a world of live-off-of-the-land.  We were poor, yet we were wealthy in many intangible ways.

With this environment came a seemingly inherent mindset that one pulled his own weight, learned responsibility at an early age, knew the definition of shame, and proudly knew that one’s handshake was his word. Cheating was never a consideration.

We were in a geography free of contracts but for major purchases such as a home or car, and it was absent of lawyers.

In sum, my dad never understood, to his dying day, how anyone could abuse one’s character by being a cheater.

Cheating is pervasive, pernicious to the soul, and worst of all – popular.

Cheating makes you a liar.

It is rampant in our environment. One only has to look at the cultures of sports and academia.

You want to be famous, make millions of dollars and get your name in the record books?  Take illegal drugs to enhance your body’s strength and stamina.  Then smile for the cameras, act like a role model and lie.  It’s OK. Your agent and attorney will support you in the sham.

It is unlikely that your coach or team or league will care much, as everyone has something to gain – be it game attendance or accolades for the school or the game in general.

Of course, once the subject reaches the level of a national scandal, then the appropriate parties take to the microphones and shake their heads woefully about how discussions will take place to punish the errant ones.

That would-be punishment – like a slap on the hand (and a wink) not to play for a few games that cost mere pennies when stacked up against a $275 million contract.

The system seems to be a stranger to a consideration of something called a lifetime ban, along with a big, bold asterisk by the offenders’ names in the record books. As if they should be on the list at all.

Think Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Lance Armstrong, David Ortiz, Mo Vaughn or recently, A-Rod.  And this is only a partial list.

Do you want the world to think you’re smart, or pass those tests, or get into that savored college? Cheat. More than likely, your parents will level the same severity of punishment the school will.  None.

Perhaps students really don’t have to cheat at all. There is a good possibility that your teacher, principal or superintendent will cover that for you.

So is the case in multiple Georgia counties.

In Atlanta Public Schools, an investigation of 2009 exam results “revealed widespread cheating among teachers on state standardized tests in various ways, including erasing wrong answers on students’ multiple choice answer sheets and replacing them with correct ones.” The report implicated 178 educators at almost 80 percent of 56 elementary schools.

The APS superintendent at time was Beverly Hall. She later retired, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Hall’s lawyer said she “most definitely did not know of any widespread cheating.”

Is that lawyer-ese parsing of words that she knew about the cheating, but on a bit smaller scale?

When a probe into elementary schools Cobb, Dougherty and Fulton counties by Kathleen Mathers, then-director of the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, revealed massive cheating, Mathers was threatened by former school district superintendent James Wilson.

The Huffington Post reported Wilson said: “You’ll pay dearly for it. … I’d love to help you, but if you really believe in an erasure analysis this strongly, that is the right way to do this. … I have a decision to make based on how we finish this conversation and where I go from here. And remember, I’m the old guy, I have nothing to lose. … I’m not going to give you any threats, but let me tell you, I can get there.”

The Huffington Post also reported that the Dougherty County School investigation report “tells stories of teachers who indicated correct answers to students while administering exams and a principal who ordered teachers to change answers. A broader culture that threatened teachers with public humiliation for low test scores and rewarded them with fat bonuses for high ones.”

With cheating and lying so commonplace, how would we, as a society, ever return to the days when pride of self and the loathing of shame was the norm?

I say the masses will not, but individually we can.

Our individual face is what we see when we look in the mirror, and it’s the one that is tied to our hearts and souls.

I, for one, will take the high road any day and leave the alternative choice to the soulless malcontents.

Count me among the ones who prefer to sleep well at night.

 

Betty Arenson has lived in the SCV since 1968 and describes herself as a conservative who’s concerned about progressives’ politics and their impacts on the country, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She says she is unashamed to own a gun or a Bible, couldn’t care less about the color of the president’s skin, and demands that he uphold his oath to protect and follow the Constitution of the United States in its entirety. Her commentary publishes Fridays.

 

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