Cheating. What is it? Dictionary.com defines cheating as “a way to deprive someone of something valuable by the use of deceit or fraud, or to influence or lead by deceit.” Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner explain a form of cheating in their book Freakonomics. In chapter one, Levitt and Dubner explore mechanisms to discover cheaters. What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common? It has to do with incentives, a concept in economics. There are three basic flavors of incentive: economic, social, and moral. Often a single incentive scheme will include all three varieties. Cheating can be something extremely small or something quite large. The authors talk about both.
Leaving children at daycare for just a few extra minutes does not really seem like it would be that significant, but it is. Technically when parents leave their children for those few extra minutes while they run to the grocery store, it is cheating. They are cheating the system because they are not charged for the extra time their children are there. Most parents take advantage of it. In an effort to make the parents stop leaving the children after hours, the daycare set up a rule that for every day their kids are picked up late they are charged three dollars. Against what they thought, this penalty actually made the situation worse. Everything the daycare was trying to accomplish “had plainly backfired” (Levitt 16). Another example of people cheating is teachers cheating in the classroom.
Might teachers have the incentive to cheat? According to Levitt they do. Teachers, like many other professionals want to be the best at what they do. They might be passed over for a raise or promotion because their students did not make the minimum standards set by the state. “In 1996, the Chicago Public School System implemented high-stakes testing and the schools that received the lowest scores would be placed on probation or shut down” (22). Teachers would teach the test to the... [continues]
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