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Response to Colleen Wenke’s “Too much pressure” about cheating in school

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In Colleen Wenke’s essay, “Too Much Pressure,” Wenke argues that cheating is a rising problem in college and especially high school that must be solved. She cites statistics indicating that the frequency of cheating has increased over the past few generations and attributes the problem to high levels of pressure on students to succeed, be accepted to competitive colleges, and earn a high income when they are adults. Overall, her arguments are weak. While she is clear in convincing the reader that the main cause of cheating is “Too Much Pressure,” she does not effectively persuade him or her that it is an imminent concern and is vague in her proposed solutions to the problem.

In the first paragraph, Wenke puts the reader in the perspective of a student that is under pressure during a test and resorts to cheating in order to do well. By doing this, she evokes sympathy for the cheater, weakening her argument. Instead of seeing cheating as a problem, the reader is already identifying with it as a solution. In the beginning of the paragraph the student is in danger of failing. After the student cheats, there is a sense of relief and resolution of the situation. Also, she later describes instances in which she herself copied homework from other students, causing the problem to seem benign. If Wenke is trying to convince the reader that cheating is bad and needs to be corrected, she has failed miserably in her introduction.

Another fault in Wenke’s argument is that she is not specific as to the negative consequences of cheating. In the last paragraph she says that eventually the people who are cheating will end up in high positions of power, but fails to give a specific example of why this would be a problem. Had she provided a scenario in which a cheater that obtained a high position ended up being a menace or having a bad effect, then one would be more likely to agree with the argument that cheating can have serious consequences. While there is a vague idea that it is bad for people to be rewarded and regarded highly for cheating, it is not enough to convince someone, especially a student who can readily recognize the benefits of cheating for their own success, that cheating is something worth changing.

Wenke is also vague in her proposed solution to the problem. She alludes to changing institutions to teach students morals and “replenish the thirst for knowledge,” but does not specify exactly how these changes are to occur. If they are forced into the curriculum, what will stop the teachers from “cheating” their way around them? She also fails to present a solution to the problem that regardless of whatever alterations are made in schools, politicians and athletes that have swindled and deceived to get where they are will still be looming in the background with the strong implication that cheating is the best means for achieving success. Practically, no real solutions are offered for the problem.

Although Wenke wrote an interesting essay about the subject of students cheating in school and was able to convince the reader that the main cause of this was the high pressure to do well and prosper in life, her arguments were otherwise weak. She was unsuccessful in portraying cheating as a true threat to society. In fact, judging from many of her descriptions of everyday circumstances in which it took place, it almost seemed that to dispel cheating would be to cut through the very fiber of modern American society. Wenke laments that in the “old days,” no one cheated, and mourns the decline in children’s’ morals in an idealistic manner, but that is all. The result is just the annoying feeling that cheating is a problem that must be accepted, as it cannot be solved and certainly seems to be getting worse.

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