Angelina Jolie once said about then-husband Billy Bob Thornton that if she ever caught him cheating, “I wouldn’t kill him because I love his children and they need a dad. But I would beat him up. I know where all of his sports injuries are.”
Based on the cheating epidemic that’s enveloped our society, we know where the stakes appear highest: sports, politics and education.
During voting in the recent primary campaign, the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office reported receiving more than 200 calls that included claims of election fraud and vote-buying.
Even though buying votes is a serious crime that landed perpetrators in jail in some high-profile cases in recent years, the stakes are high enough that some consider it worth the risk.
Too many Kentuckians accept cheating as just another staple of Kentucky politics, which undoubtedly allows more election-fraud offenses to go unpunished. What’s needed is a better understanding and stronger conviction that such duplicity weakens the political process.
Asterisks also appear much-more often these days next to record-breakers in the wide world of sports where some athletes risk their health and even their lives by downing steroids just to get into the books.
Still, the asterisk remains in any true major league baseball fan’s mind when comparing the home-run records accomplishments of Hank Aaron versus Mark McGwire. Aaron did it au naturel; McGwire not so much.
Players and fans with integrity understand the sentiment of ancient Greek playwright Sophocles: “I would prefer even to fail with honor than win by cheating.”
Politicians, athletes, educators and students still in possession of their consciences feel a real emptiness at winning by cheating. Cheaters, however, seem good at pushing the conviction those consciences offer to the side.
Nowhere is such dishonesty more alarming than in public education.
We’re not talking here about the kind of cheating limited to a lazy high-schooler penning the history quiz answers on his palm or talking his girlfriend into writing his term paper. Now, the story is more likely to be about administrators helping students cheat at premier magnet schools.
Louisville’s WDRB-TV recently reported on a Kentucky Department of Education investigation into allegations by Louisville Male High School students that officials at the elite school cheated on the ACT COMPASS tests and then told students to hide the truth from investigators.
The COMPASS tests offer college-bound students a second chance to avoid remedial courses in basic academic areas at state colleges or universities, which they must pay for but receive no credit for taking.
Students who perform well on the COMPASS test are deemed sufficiently prepared for college while their schools get an inflated boost in their college- and career-ready performance. The higher the scores, the better the school looks.
Neither is cheating limited to high-performing schools.
A two-year investigation, which included the first-ever forensic testing into investigations of unsavory activity surrounding student testing, found rampant cheating in Perry County Schools, which states its vision: “to produce citizens who are successful, involved, responsible and informed members of society who enrich the communities in which they live.”
Yet even in the midst of this cheating scandal that resulted in the suspension of several educators’ certificates, the Kentucky School Boards Association named then-Perry County Supt. John Paul Amis its 2012 Superintendent of the Year. This despite the fact that Amis’ district included a high school on the list of persistently failing schools and an ACT Composite Score of 17.3 that was worse than all except 15 other districts.
I’m not sure which is worse: Graduates who find themselves totally unprepared for college-level work, or adults cheating on a testing program that exists to adequately insure that kids are ready for college and then patting themselves on the back afterwards.