Cheating vs. Values and Ethics: High School Sports

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Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

  But how you played the game."

What Can We Do?


As a father, mental health professional and writer on psychological issues, I often think about what it is we are teaching our children in today’s world? Are our children being prepared to make decisions based on ethical thinking and values, or based on selfishness and what they can selfishly gain for themselves?

I can report that, based on my experiences in High Schools, many adolescents said they would choose to keep the money in the hypothetical situation involving the money in the dropped envelope.

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In my opinion, this issue of ethical decision making and values clarification is not a religious issue. The reason I state this is that history is filled with too many examples of people making decisions to attack and kill others based on what they believe is religiously best for mankind. The most recent example was the radical Islamic decision to attack the World Trade Center based on what they believed was what Allah would want. As a result of that way of thinking, history is filled with bloody examples of people doing what they believe is best for mankind based on religious thinking.

What I am attempting to get at here is how do we teach our children higher ethical thinking that is based on more complex and abstract ways of thinking?

There is one thing I know for certain and that is our children will not learn ethical thinking and living if we defend their behavior when they are found to have cheated on a test, in a sports competition or in any other area of life.

Perhaps the first way we need to approach teaching ethics to our children is by how we lead our lives as parents, workers and members of the community. I will fail to teach that all human beings and every human life is valuable if I sit at the dinner table making hateful jokes and remarks about other racial and ethnic groups. I will fail to tach ethical thinking to my children if I decide to vote against Barack Obama because he is partially of African American descent. What I should teach is that I will vote for or against him because I agree or disagree with his politics.

Second, it is time for the schools to focus not only on improving reading and math scores, and that is important, but by devoting part of the curriculum and part of each week to the teaching of values and ethics. I do not believe that learning about Socrates and why he chose to die can possibly harm our children. In fact, a discussion of his thinking could provide a good foundation for ethical thinking.

In addition, I sincerely doubt that many teachers and coaches are aware of Grantland Price and the emphasis he put on how the game is played as something higher than winning or losing. It seems to me that every coach of every school team should imbue athletes with that poem and it’s meaning.

Childhood and adolescence are stages in life when youngsters are very idealistic. I am convinced that if we take advantage of youthful idealism by teaching how to think and act ethically we will produce people who have a greater respect for life and democracy than is presently true.

What are your opinions?

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