Why Ukrainians Cheat in School

If you ask me now - cheating is bad and you should not do it. That said: I cheated a lot back in school cause cheating is kind of a part of the culture in Ukraine. Here are a few reasons why (to my mind):

1. Original thinking and creative thinking aren’t really a thing
I used to have this awesome Lit teacher who would honor all of my personal ramblings (opinions) with a positive grade. When I had to write an essay or a response to a book we read I would go all out. That included me creating a poem response (granted, I was never good with rhymes but back in the day I thought I was). Something that we read in class would ‘inspire’ me to create and I would go for it. One horrible year this teacher had to leave the country and we got another one. On the first assignment I tried my old tricks - pouring my thoughts out onto the paper and guess what? I got a C (well, the equivalent of). I tried submitting my own thoughts a couple more times (because Lit class was one of the few I actually cared about) but I kept getting unsatisfactory grades. So, for my next assignment I copied someone else’s thoughts word for word. And got an A. You can guess that starting that day and until my graduation day I was not original and indulged in plagiarism. It was so easy to do too - back in Ukraine we have these big books with essays on school’s required reading published. There are hundreds of them. You can purchase them or go to the library and check one out. The library, Carl! And of course, things got even easier when the Internet rolled around. I am still so damn sad about it.

2. Accessibility
Just like the books with all the essays you might want there are books with the answers to all school math problems, Physics, Chemistry, History, English - you name it. If your teacher is using a standardized program - all the answers will be in those books. It is hard for a 14 year old to exercise willpower and go against the system when all the resources are right in front of you.

3. Boredom
Don’t get me wrong: I think we have a great system of education. It is just a tad soviet and a tad outdated (alright, a lot outdated). For someone like me, who enjoyed Lit and languages - Physics was something out of this world. It was hard to understand and felt unnecessary (at the moment). It was easily solved by cheating off my classmates and/or the Internet. It got me a decent enough grade that allowed me not to worry about it affecting my overall GPA. Do I wish I knew more in Physics? Yes, yes I do. Unfortunately, I can’t go back the time.

4. Barter
As weird as it sounds (and jumping on what I said in point number 3), cheating is a kind of currency. I will give you my English homework to cheat off of and you will give me your math. As easy as that school years became a fruitful marketplace. Where in America it would have been solved with methodological tutoring - we found an easier way out.

5. Teamwork
I know it sounds weird but hear me out. My school did not offer sports or fancy extracurricular activities. Cheating off someone’s homework a few minutes before the class, getting that adrenaline rush of a teacher catching you in the act and getting away with it - was our kind of sport. Was it healthy? I don’t know. But it did create friendships and bonds for life (well, at least for school life).

When I first got to the US I was terrified to cheat or to even think about cheating. Numerous lectures from the people who did foreign exchange before me echoed the words ‘expulsion’ and a far worse one ‘deportation’. I didn’t cheat a single time during my studies here in the States and not that I am proud of it - I am definitely satisfied with my choices. Granted, the educational system was a bit easier here and not cheating wasn’t a big thing I had to overcome. That said: I still saw my fellow classmates cheat in the US classroom like it was no one's business. But for me the biggest obstacle in Ukraine was always the fact that my original thoughts were judged by others and most times were not accepted by my educators. In the USA I had freedom to say whatever I wanted without thinking about it twice. So please, value your freedom of expression, my friends. It comes at a high price for others.

Tell me: did you ever cheat? What was your best trick to not getting caught? I promise I won’t tell…

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