Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Letters to the Editor

A Confused Message on Cheating

The very reason students do not understand cheating and ethical decision making is clear from your articles, "Cheating Themselves" and "Advance Warning" [by Miriam Schulman, Winter, 1998].

Kevin Skelly, the principal at Saratoga High, chose not to punish those students who cheated on an AP test last spring. Students knew that they did indeed cheat and even admitted as much on the television news. Instead of an effective enforcement mechanism coming into play when the cheating was discovered, the principal called in Thomas Shanks, S.J., and a moral discussion ensued.

The entire episode was turned into a "learning experience" for those AP students, not a blatant example of cheating. Nationwide, however, parents of other AP students and those other AP students themselves were very clear that a discussion of questions and answers prior to the test was cheating.

To hold up the ethics session at Saratoga High as a laudable effort is just incredible. After the cheating occurred, it was ridiculous to just sit down and talk about it.

Cassandra Huston
Saratoga, California

False Trust

If capitalistic trust worked the way Daniel Klein indicates in his article ["How Trust Is Achieved in Free Markets," Summer 1997], one would expect national retail names (like Meineke) to have the best ratings in consumer rankings. Although I don't have the exact reference, as I recall in Consumer Reports, readers' satisfaction with independent mechanics was higher than with either dealerships or national chains, the reverse of what one would expect from the example. In many cases, advertising and promotion may promote a false trust.

In fact, some generally respected chains such as Sears have been known to deliberately promulgate deceptive tactics among their mechanics. Although that was eventually made public, it took a very long time to come out-possibly indicating a need for regulation and monitoring, not just free market forces alone.

Anne Peticolas
Austin, Texas