Why Smart Students Cheat

"Why
do students cheat?" is a silly question, because the answer is obvious:
to pass the test. Indeed, a lof of kids cheat because they couldn't pass
the test otherwise, no matter how hard they study, but that's not the
case in New York City's flagship public school Stuyvesant, where most
kids are already very, very, very smart.

No, they have their own calculus on why they should cheat:

At Stuyvesant, the alma mater of four Nobel laureates, students say
the social currency is academic achievement.

Although students enter the school knowing they are among the best
in the city, they must compete with hundreds just like them. And, they
say, the pressures only grow: they are convinced that they are bound
for bright futures, yet not all are equipped for the work that entails.
They are trained to hand in every assignment without always believing
in its value. They described teachers as being relatively sympathetic,
discouraging cheating, but not always punishing it as severely as school
policy dictates.

All this makes for a culture in which many students band together,
sharing homework and test advice in a common understanding that they
simply have to survive until they reach their goals: dream colleges
and dream jobs.

“I’m sure everybody understood it was wrong to take other
people’s work, but they had ways of rationalizing it,” said
Karina Moy, a 2010 graduate of the school. “Everyone took it as
a necessary evil to get through.”

Vivian Yee of The New York Times has the story: Link