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To Cheat or Not to Cheat
Academic Integrity

Main Point of Discussion: Remaining “academically pure” is a great way to show that we are true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Vital Info Before You Get Started: (The following should help you contextualize this important issue so you can have a great discussion about it with your kids.)

You can describe the following four situations to your family members to get discussion going:

  • Situation 1. A student is in the middle of a history test and doesn’t know the answer to a question, so he pulls out his web-enabled cell phone to search the internet for the answer. Cheating or not cheating?

  • Situation 2. Rick knew the paper on “The Mating Rituals of the Australian Wallaroo” (yes, that’s a real animal!) was due in science class today, but he never got around to writing the paper. Instead, he spent his lunch break in the school library downloading a report on the subject which he handed in to his science teacher later that day. Cheating or not cheating?

  • Situation 3. A girl in Algebra class can’t remember the formula for calculating the volume of a cube, so she silently texts her friend across the room asking for the correct formula. Cheating or not cheating?

  • Situation 4. Carrie has biology during first period, and the midterm is slated for today. Her friends have asked her to take a picture of the test using her cell phone and show it to them during second period before they have to take the test in fifth period later that day. Cheating or not cheating?

Three Simple Questions (with Answers You May Be Looking for):
    Q: How do you respond to these four situations? Which qualify as cheating and which do not?
    A: All of them are cheating.

    Q: How do you suppose we—as serious Christ-followers—should react to these students’ behavior?
    A: Before we condemn these students, we need to recognize that Christians aren’t spared the temptation to cheat—and too many believers in Christ do cheat, not just on tests but in many other ways in life. Let’s not puff ourselves up.

    Q: How can we move from healthy, Bible-based opinions about this situation to actually living out those opinions?
    A: We need to recognize that the temptation to cheat is real and often powerful and ask for God’s help when we feel tempted to take dishonest shortcuts.

Where to Take It from Here:
Wherever it feels natural. If these questions lead to a longer discussion on the topic, wonderful! (There’s a guide just after this paragraph that helps you do just that.) If your kids are barely uttering grunts, don’t get discouraged—the next time it feels right, keep engaging them.

For Deeper Discussion: (If your kids seem into diving in deeper, the following discussion guide can help take you there.)

CLICK HERE if you want to look at a quick training article on small groups and drawing questions out of young people—you may find much of the information applicable as you go through this subject with your family members.

Note to Parent:

Above all, don’t appear as if you have a “canned” discussion in your head and rattle off questions like a teacher giving a pop quiz—your kids get enough of that in school. This is a guide, primarily—not a verbatim script. Just familiarize yourself with the content here and start a conversation in the most natural, unforced way you know how.

Transitional Statement:
So, you probably guessed what we’re gonna talk about tonight: Cheating. When we cheat, it not only destroys our integrity as individuals, it also discredits the name of Jesus because we call ourselves His disciples. If we want to prove ourselves as true disciples of Jesus Christ, we are going to have to remain “academically pure” when it comes to our school lives.

More Discussion Questions:

  1. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: As we begin, let’s all take a second to share our favorite academic subjects.

  2. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: What is the most “creative” form of cheating you’ve ever heard of?

  3. Say, Let me read something to you before we open our Bibles. In a recent poll by Common Sense Media, teenagers were asked about cheating in school, and in particular, cheating in school using their cell phones.” (The entire report can be accessed from this article: click here.)

    Here’s what they found.

    • 35% of teens who own cell phones admitted to cheating at least once using them. Of this group, during tests, some (26%) store information on cell phones to access, some (25%) text friends asking for answers, some (17%) take pictures of the test to send to friends, and some (20%) search the Internet for answers to test questions.

    • 65% of teens say they know other students who have used their cell phones to cheat.

    • 48% of teens with cell phones call or text their friends to warn them about pop quizzes.

    Finally, Dr. Donald McCabe from Rutgers University, who has dedicated his career to studying academic cheating, believes 95% of all high school students have cheated.

    Read the following passage:

      Psalm 15:1-5 (NLT)
      1 Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?
      Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
      2 Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right,
      speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
      3 Those who refuse to gossip
      or harm their neighbors
      or speak evil of their friends.
      4 Those who despise flagrant sinners,
      and honor the faithful followers of the Lord,
      and keep their promises even when it hurts.
      5 Those who lend money without charging interest,
      and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent.
      Such people will stand firm forever.

  4. ASK ONE FAMILY MEMBER: According to this passage, what are the characteristics or traits of the people who may enter God’s presence?

  5. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: When we say someone is a “cheater,” what kind of reputation does he or she have? In other words, if someone is labeled a “cheater,” what do others think of him or her?

  6. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: We have all heard the expression “Cheaters only cheat themselves.” Do you believe this or not? Why or why not?

  7. ASK A FEW FAMILY MEMBERS: It’s pretty much guaranteed that if we get busted for cheating, people probably won’t trust us—not to mention it being a part of our academic records. But what kind of damage do we do to the name of Christ if we as believers are caught cheating?

  8. HAVE ALL YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS ANSWER: What are some very specific ways we as Christ’s followers can make sure we won’t cheat in school in any way—not just this week, but always?

Wrap Up:
Alright guys, we’ve covered a lot of ground. We’ve looked at some of the ways lots of teenagers cheat today, and we’ve discussed whether or not these actions qualify as cheating. Hopefully you’ve all agreed by now that all four of the actions from our “pop quiz” should be labeled “cheating.”

We also took a look at some stats from students who use their cell phones to cheat in school. Yeah, some of those actions are creative and sneaky, but they are all still very wrong. When teenagers do those things, they jeopardize their integrity; when Christian students do it, we jeopardize the name of Jesus, too. If our friends, who are not believers, listen to us talk about “the change” Jesus has brought into our lives, but we cheat on tests just like they do, it’s not gonna be long before they really begin to wonder if this whole Jesus thing is a sham.

But we also took a look at a Bible passage that sheds some light on how we’re supposed to behave. We are told to “do what is right,” “honor the faithful followers of God,” and “speak the truth,” among other things. If we do, God says we can enjoy His presence.

Look, making good grades isn’t easy, and to tell you the truth, a lot of times, people who choose to cheat get away with it, and sometimes they make better grades than those of us who’re honest and study. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? But God honors those who want to do life His way. Clearly God would never allow cheating, so when we commit to being academically pure, God will honor that and help us.

Now I’m not saying we can never ever study and just zip a prayer to God as the teacher is handing out the test and expect an “A.” That’s not what I mean! Don’t try that…you’ll probably get a big fat “F.” We must study AND ask God to help us succeed. Do all that you can on your own, and then say, “God, thank you for helping me stay academically pure. Please help me bring glory to your Name by helping me make a great grade on the test tomorrow according to your will.” That’s the kind of prayer God loves to answer!

Close in Prayer

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