We seem to be a society that thinks cheating is wrong â€¦ as long as we are not thinking about ourselves.
The latest data point comes from the most recent chapter in the Barry Bonds saga. Marc Ecko, a wealthy fashion designer, bought the ball that Bonds smashed over the wall to break Hank Aaronâ€™s all-time home run record. Ecko then set up a web site to vote on what to do with the ball.
There were three choices. Send it to the hall of fame intact, brand it with an asterisk before sending it to the hall of fame, or launch it into space. Ten million Americans voted. The result? Brand it with an asterisk. The public is well aware that Bonds used steroids during his career (though Bonds maintains that it was done unknowingly). In effect, the court of public opinion ruled that he cheated and they disapprove.
The Bonds story is not the only one. We saw the Bill Belichick story make national headlines earlier this month. Coach Belichick of the New England Patriots was caught cheating. He broke NFL rules by filming the opposing coaches in order to learn how to read their signals from the sidelines. The court of public opinion disapproved of Belichick's cheating. This past year, a prestigious business school was rocked by a large-scale cheating scandal. The list of such scandals seems to grow weekly.
Though the public condemns cheating publicly, the practice of cheating is reaching epidemic proportions in American schools. A recent survey showed between 75% and 90% of high school students cheat. The percentage of cheaters in American colleges and universities is nearly 50 percent, according to a 2005 Rutgers survey. Technology such as text messaging on cell phones is making cheating easier, and more difficult to police. It is not just the kids with the poor grades who are cheating either. Surveys show it is rampant among the honor roll students.