DEAR READERS: When I printed the letter about cheating in school from "Valedictorian Contender" on May 27, my staff and I were deluged with mail. If you're interested in what folks had to say, here is a sample:
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I recently retired from teaching at a highly rated, competitive Midwestern public school. Cheating was rampant, from copying homework to text-messaging during tests in the classroom. When confronted, the cheaters were surprised and usually asserted that "everyone else does it." And they were right.
Cheating occurs in the classroom, in sports, in extra-curricular activities and in the hallways, and has become more acceptable among students than ever before. Teachers are practically powerless to control it; administrators seem to have no idea how to handle it. Parents don't want to get involved for fear of angering their children, and a strong leader may be "asked" to back down from pursuing it.
My husband and I tried many times to make students understand that what they were doing or thinking was wrong and needed to be corrected, only to be met with an incredulous stare, a sneer perhaps, and then, "Can I go now?" We began asking ourselves that same question and realized last year that WE "could go now" -- and we did. More of our time was spent trying to teach moral values and ethics and less was spent on the required curriculum.
You were right when you said people's codes of ethics have taken a nosedive in the last decade. It's rampant in every aspect of life as you mentioned. But when it's rampant in our schools, it eliminates any chance of fixing it for coming generations. -- RETIRED IN THE MIDWEST
DEAR ABBY: In recent years it seems cheating is encouraged by parents. I have seen it when teaching Sunday school to seventh-graders. The father of one of the Scouts in our local Scout troop even called cheating "just a form of competitive advantage."
For a long time I have carried a quote in my wallet that is my favorite saying: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." The person who said it was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. -- TONY S., NEW MILFORD, CONN.
DEAR ABBY: After teaching in public and private schools for 44 years, I believe that most students are honest the majority of the time. However, I would advise "Valedictorian" to pay attention. Make mental notes of the names of her classmates who cheat every chance they get. Do not forget who they are. She will be meeting them all the rest of her life.
If they go into business, shop elsewhere. If they become bankers, put your money elsewhere. If they go into the service industries, get your car or your teeth repaired somewhere else.
Above all, do not let your siblings marry one of them -- marriage is the biggest "test" of all. -- E.B., LINDEN, ALA.
DEAR ABBY: Your reply to "Valedictorian" was, as usual, on target. The notion of (personal) responsibility is another "R" that should be taught in school. -- WAY TO GO IN MONTANA
DEAR WAY TO GO: Thank you for the kind words, but I beg to differ. Responsibility for one's actions should be taught in the home, by example, by the parents. Readers, more on this tomorrow.