Do Students Cheat More Now?

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, January 25, 1912:  Gave my ear to a free-for-all lecture this afternoon. It was delivered by Mr. Teacher, the chief part of which was about cheating on examinations. I’ve been so worked up at this, although Conscience tells me not to.  Anyway I believe it is time to stop, and do better in the future. So now, I will try to bid adieu to all ways of crookedness and get the things in my head instead of having them on paper.

Recent photo of the building that once housed the McEwensville school.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

My grandmother cheating on tests!! . . . .Grandma, what were you thinking?

Sometimes it’s hard to interpret what Grandma wrote without judging her.  Grandma was 16 and about 40 years younger than me when she wrote this diary entry. I’m looking at this entry through the lens of a mother and I can’t completely wrap my head around why a teen would decide to cheat.

I want to think that the world was a simpler place a hundred years ago—and that students were less likely to cheat back then. But I’m not sure. This is the second time Grandma’s mentioned cheating in the diary.

On February 7, 1911 Grandma wrote:

Some of the boys at school found the teacher’s Latin questions in examination, and we all expect to make a good mark. I do at least, but I might be fooled as some cheats are.

And, the next day, her diary entry said:

Had some of our exams today. Came out all right in Latin. Our arithmetic wasn’t so easy though.

10 Responses

  1. I remember cheating on spelling tests in the 6th grade back in the 1950s. Lucky for me I didn’t get caught. My mother would have killed me! I was a good student and don’t remember why I didn’t just learn the words for those few tests.

  2. My great-grandmother was a cheater! Tsk tsk tsk….

  3. [...] Do Students Cheat More Now?  over at A Hundred Years Ago gave me a laugh.  It’s weird to think of your grandmother as a 16 yr old student, cheating on a test. [...]

  4. Anyone who writes so eloquently about cheating certainly didn’t need to. It must’ve just been a game to her. The thrill of the forbidden.

  5. [...] the past two weeks indicated that she was working really hard on algebra. In January her teacher caught her cheating—and she’s really been trying to turn a new leaf. And, the entry I posted yesterday indicated [...]

  6. [...] teacher caught her cheating in late January—and she did not cheat when she took her tests in February. It’s too bad that her grades [...]

  7. [...] received her February report card she’d gotten a new teacher. The old one had quit mid-year. He caught her cheating shortly before he quit. I wonder if her February deportment grade had been affected by that [...]

  8. [...] her teacher about drawing a picture of a ring, the times wind rattled the windows, the time she cheated on a test . . [...]

  9. [...] next year, things didn’t go so well. On January 25, 1912 Grandma [...]

  10. I never thought they’d DARE cheat on exams. Wow! I mean, the cane, you know…

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