Teaching Kids to Cheat

By Wayne Jackson

Jerry Plecki was a high school teacher in the Chicago area. Five years ago, he was the centerpiece of a scandal that rocked the Chicago public school system. This past week, his story was featured in a made-for-TV movie, “Cheaters.”

According to an article by Nicole Z. Dizon of the Associated Press, Plecki, an English teacher at Steinmetz High School in suburbia Chicago, helped his students cheat for a regional academic competition between schools in the area. A rival school had won the event for nine years running. Plecki and his student team were determined that they would put an end to this string of intellectual victories.

Accordingly, someone stole a copy of the test that was to be used in the Illinois Academic Decathlon. Plecki helped his students cram from the pilfered document.

When the contest was engaged, the Steinmetz team blew away the competition. But their score was so high (9,400 points more than they had scored in the regional playoff), that others became suspicious. The runner-up school asked for an investigation and the scandal was exposed. Plecki resigned in humiliation.

The interesting thing about all of this—now five years after the fact—is this:

(1) Plecki, now a Chicago business man, rationalizes his conduct to this very day. A product of our times, the teacher is on record as saying, “There are no moral absolutes on this given topic.”

No moral absolutes! Everything is relative. Human conduct is “situational” and “autonomous,” to use the words of the infamous Humanist Manifestos. So what if someone wants to cheat! How would you like to do “business” with “businessman” Plecki? One is inclined to think he might “give you the business”!

(2) In defense of his aberrant conduct, the former teacher blamed the media for turning the lives of his school kids upside down. The news media certainly are not as pure as the driven snow; nevertheless, there would have been no story for the media to “exploit” were it not for the collaboration of a dishonest teacher with his cheating students.

(3) According to the article cited above, even now “Plecki offers no apologies for his actions, nor does he defend them.” Figure that out.

What sort of skewed logic does that reflect? His conduct was either right or wrong. If wrong, he should apologize; if right, he should not hesitate to defend it. What does it say for our education system when a school instructor cannot think any clearer than that?

(4) Despite his protestation to the contrary, Plecki did attempt to justify his tutorial misconduct. Though he described his students as very “bright,” he claimed they had no chance to win the competition honestly.

How’s that? His students came from low-income families, single-parent families, many spoke English as a second language, etc. And get this one: the rival school had bathrooms that worked better! Now there’s an argument for cheating!

What has happened to old Ben Franklin’s maxim: “Honesty is the best policy”? And what of Alexander Pope’s noble line: “An honest man is the noblest work of God”? The Chicago educator should have remembered the words of Montaigne: “All other knowledge is hurtful to him who has not honesty.”

Doubtless, Jerry Plecki was not representative of the average teacher in the public school system. This incident does, however, remind us of our responsibility as parents: to weave the fiber of honesty into the character of our children as they grow toward adulthood, so that, hopefully, they will bring honor to the great and good God who made them.

Small f26f621c f6aa 4d2b 853d 24e53c812a17

About the Author

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.