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article imageOp-Ed: UNC scandal should prompt national discussion on academic honesty

By Calvin Wolf     Oct 22, 2014 in Politics
It's finally final: A lot of academic dishonesty went down at the University of North Carolina. We should take this time to have a national discussion about academic integrity.
Over 18 years, thousands of students at the University of North Carolina got to bolster their GPAs and transcripts with fraudulent African and African-American Studies courses, reports CNN. Countless student-athletes at UNC took "paper courses," so named because they required only one paper to be submitted, between 1993 and 2011 to receive inflated grades that helped them retain their athletic eligibility. Though the scandal has been public for years, the latest report confirms that the athletics departments knew about the fraudulent courses.
It is time for a national discussion about academic integrity.
As a high school teacher, I am very concerned about the erosion of academic integrity in America. Since the early 2000s, as the nation evolved into a No-Child-Left-Behind, Race-to-the-Top, everyone-should-go-to-college-no-matter-the-cost bureaucracy, we have had to sacrifice academic integrity to pad the statistics. We wanted our graduation rates and admissions rates and retention rates to improve, so we helped things along a bit.
We turned Fs into Cs, Cs into Bs, and gave student loans to everyone, regardless of their likelihood of academic success. We decided it was better to graduate underperforming students rather than risk them dropping out if we told them they had to do another year. Showing students tough love makes schools look bad in the short run and makes students feel bad in the short run...and it's hard for many people to see the long-run benefits of maintaining academic integrity.
But we need to maintain academic integrity. In fact, we need to strengthen it and bring it back to the forefront, for the sake of our own national security.
Inflating our grades hinders our job market by overloading it with underqualified applicants. Employers struggle to determine which workers best fill which positions when everyone has near-identical credentials due to grade and degree inflation. More and more graduates are underprepared for the work world due to eroding academic rigor, reducing our national competitiveness. And, perhaps worst of all, our young people are excessively saddled with debt to pay for all the college education upon which we have insisted.
Too many Millenials will end up heavily in debt for degrees that are worth little...and will be woefully unprepared for the work force, to boot. Why? Because we turned a blind eye to eroding academic standards and decided we preferred happy statistics to academic integrity. We took power away from teachers and gave it to stat-obsessed bureaucrats.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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