Teens Cheat and Steal to Get Ahead

Discussion
Dec 02, 2008

By George
Anderson

Our kids
cannot be trusted. That is the conclusion that is too easy to reach based
on new research from the Josephson Institute, which shows that nearly two-thirds
of students have cheated on a test in the past year and 30 percent have
stolen something from a store.

The research,
which included interviews with nearly 30,000 students at randomly
selected high schools across the country, points to a youth culture where
getting ahead is the goal even if others suffer in the process.

Michael
Josephson, the founder and president of the Josephson
Institute, admitted to being shocked by
the theft numbers. According to the study, 35 percent of boys and 26 percent
of girls have shoplifted at least once in the past year. The thievery didn’t
stop there, however, as 20 percent said they had stolen something from
a friend and 23 percent admitted stealing from a parent or other relative.

“What
is the social cost of that — not to mention the implication for the
next generation of mortgage brokers?” Mr. Josephson told The Associated
Press
. “In a society drenched with cynicism, young people can
look at it and say, ‘Why shouldn’t we? Everyone else does it.'”

Cheating
in school has reached almost epidemic proportions with nearly 40 percent
of students cheating two or more times on a test in the past year.
Nearly two-thirds admitted to having cheated once. Thirty-six percent of
students report going online to plagiarize a class assignment.

Despite
the clear breach of ethical norms, most kids today don’t see themselves
as doing anything wrong. Ninety-three percent report being satisfied with
their character and ethics. Seventy-seven percent said, “When it comes
to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.”

“In
the end, the question is not whether things are worse, but whether they
are bad enough to mobilize concern and concerted action,” said Mr.
Josephson.

“What we need to
learn from these survey results is that our moral
infrastructure is unsound and in serious need of repair. This is not a
time to lament and whine but to take thoughtful, positive actions,” he
added.

Discussion Questions:
What do you take from the findings of the Josephson Institute’s research?
What does it mean for businesses who serve these
teenagers as customers and perhaps hire them one day as employees? What “thoughtful,
positive actions” are needed to alter what appears to be an amoral
approach to relationships and work?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

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17 Comments on "Teens Cheat and Steal to Get Ahead"


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alexander keenan
Guest
alexander keenan
13 years 5 months ago

Will these kids be any different when they rise up the corporate ladder? If it is only results that count then the means to obtain those results can be rationalized. Just like cheating or stealing. It will be interesting to see how the most driven rise through the ranks in the coming years.

Bill Bittner
Guest
Bill Bittner
13 years 5 months ago
Like many of us, my career in retail began as a teenager. As a cashier in the local supermarket I was exposed to a lot of cheating by customers, fellow employees, and even the police. The local police always came to our store at closing time to chat with the store’s manager and take a couple packs of cigarettes. Looking back on this as an adult, I understand that the store manager considered the free cigarettes cheap insurance. While several other markets in the area had been robbed at closing time, we were never hit. But the impression this experience left on a young kid was obviously significant because I remember it to this day. Today’s young people have been sent a lot of mixed signals. Movies and other entertainment often glamorize anti-authority activity. Relentless 24/7 scrutiny of the media exposes all the human weaknesses of our “heroes.” Politicians, entertainers, sports figures, everyone have their blemishes blown out of proportion by paparazzi and broadcast news seeking content. Young people have seen their parents invest careers… Read more »
Kai Clarke
Guest
13 years 5 months ago

Lies, damn lies and statistics. Perhaps in this limited survey these numbers apply, but for the population of young folks as a whole, these numbers are very dubious. If these numbers were true, the retailers would be banning your people from their stores. Convenience stores would have serious issues as well. These numbers do not play out in the retail marketplace. If so, shrink at key retailers would be tremendous (reaching double digit levels) and this just isn’t happening.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
13 years 5 months ago

We need to start paying more attention to the good kids and giving them more encouragement. Many kids don’t steal and don’t cheat on tests. Give them more support and better treatment.

Nathan Horn
Guest
Nathan Horn
13 years 5 months ago
Over the past half century the American legal system has been moving towards harsher and stricter punishments for juvenile offenders. Where as in the past a child being tried as an adult was a rarity, it is now quite common place. Incarceration as a whole has ballooned, the US locks up more of its citizens than any other developed nation. I would have to disagree with anyone arguing a slack in punishment for deviance is a strong factor for the surveys results. As for a slip away from Judeo-Christian and ‘traditional’ American values signaling a drop in moral integrity, I find this to be a thin argument as well. Cross cultural survey reveals lower instances of theft and academic dishonesty in societies that embrace belief systems that differ greatly from the West. Wearing pants that fit at the waste, saluting the American flag, abstaining from most drugs with the exception of highballs, and avoiding any musical style that utilizes down tuned guitars does little if anything to deter shoplifting and academic dishonesty. When it comes… Read more »
Ed Dennis
Guest
Ed Dennis
13 years 5 months ago

OK, enough of the sensationalism! Where is your comparison? Are these kids any different from the kids in the 40s, 50s or 60s? If you don’t know,what’s your point? How about the kids in Australia, Japan, China, Vietnam, France? You don’t know–Whats your point?

I think we have a “Call to Action” in over 20 million churches every week. Cheating in school and shoplifting are typical risky behavior for teens. Adults set poor examples and then are horrified that children emulate them.

David Morse
Guest
David Morse
13 years 5 months ago
I’m with Len and Warren on this one. We can moralize until we’re blue in the face, but isn’t this just a case of kids being kids? The research means nothing without a reference to prior waves showing that lying and cheating is on the rise. Even if that were the case, we couldn’t rule out another possibility–that teens are more honest than ever in that they more freely admit to their peccadillos. That kids might be more honest than ever is not a bad hypothesis. The Internet and Social Networking sites have given today’s teens the ability to take on cyber-identities, allowing them to be more open and honest than ever. I, for one, like what I see when I look at the new generation. They are more multicultural, more tolerant than we ever were. Would the America of yesterday ever have elected a black president? Let’s face it. Mr. Josephson is using this study to get press and moralize. Who is being dishonest here?
Craig Sundstrom
Guest
13 years 5 months ago

Hmmm: a man who runs an eponymous “ethics training” center is shocked–shocked! mind you–by the results of his own survey; but don’t worry, he’s here to help us; how fortunate for us…and him.

This particular red herring resurfaces periodically…alarming people who, while claiming they don’t want perfection, are nevertheless upset that someone has “ever” done something wrong. I’m glad to see few RWers are swallowing it.

Mark Burr
Guest
13 years 5 months ago
We should be appalled by these findings? The results would likely be the same if the survey was turned around and taken amongst the adults that surround these same kids. Think not? The results would likely be worse–much worse. You might argue, but from my view, all the experts in the world will not convince me that kids do not learn from exactly what they watch. It’s that simple. Professional sporting athletes gain reverence for intolerable behavior. Congressmen gain advantage on mortgage companies–the same ones that they claim to regulate. Society revels in the extreme behavior of young actors and rewards them for their destructive escapades at the box office waiting anxiously for the next series of tart details of the next wave of antics. As a whole, we have become to a great extent desensitized to so much that it simply has become what we expect. It is so deep that auto executives didn’t even see it as poor judgment that when asking for a loan you might think twice about arriving in a… Read more »
Susan Rider
Guest
Susan Rider
13 years 5 months ago
This is such an interesting topic and deserves some extensive thought. We have a real crisis coming. The next generation is a product of parents that believe that everyone wins, there is no need to teach the ten commandments, there should be no God in schools, and no ethics/morals apply. Scary! You see it everywhere. Young people coming to funerals in jeans and talking on their cell phones during services. Kids talking and joking during the Pledge of Allegiance at ball games. These kids are products of their “families of origin”. They were not taught about right and wrong so it goes without saying that the new employer has to get down to the basics and revise training to ensure the new employees know what is right and wrong and the reasons why. Unfortunately, new employers will have to take on the roles of new parents and train/teach. There is an email circulating about why didn’t the boomer generation have such a drug problem? Because we were ‘drug’ to church, ‘drug’ to boy scouts, and… Read more »
Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
13 years 5 months ago

Oh please. Do you really think this is any different than it has been in the past? Cheating and theft have always been a part of youth to one extent or another. It’s just that no one added up the numbers or did a comprehensive survey.

I’m not suggesting giving anyone a pass when they commit a crime. But let’s make the punishment fit the crime and not go overboard. You want to take a real bite out of theft, do something about organized retail crime.

Michael L. Howatt
Guest
Michael L. Howatt
13 years 5 months ago

There was an excellent episode of Boston Legal last night where a girl used Ritalin to enhance her mental capacity to take her S.A.T. test and because of her high score, was accepted to Harvard. When they found out, the rejected her admission. She took them to court, but lost.

The moral of the story is that there is so much pressure put on young people today to succeed, whether from parents, society or both that they will do anything to gain an advantage over their peers. And it’s getting worse every year…and I don’t see an end to it. I hope our president-elect put a lot of money in his budget to build more white-collar prisons, because once these kids get into the business world, we’re going to need them.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
13 years 5 months ago

Why not cheat on tests or shoplift if there are no consequences? Last year I did a program where the speaker before me spoke on ethics and values. I thought, how do you make a 90 minute program on ethics interesting? Just let me say, she was awesome.

Let me just tell you one of her stories. She teaches a graduate course in ethics and catches one of her students cheating. She wants to flunk the student and have him expelled. The only thing the Dean did was call the student into the office and give him a warning.

What happens in most retail organizations when an employee get caught stealing? They are fired. Big deal, because if a potential employer calls to get references that ex-employer will not tell them anything. What are the consequences.

A teenager gets caught shoplifting less than $25.00; what are the usual consequences? The police are too busy on bigger crimes so what action can the store take?

Warren Thayer
Guest
13 years 5 months ago

I’ll be one of the few dissenters here. IMHO, the older generation has been saying this about the younger generation since the days of Socrates. Anecdotally, I see about the same percentage of liars and cheats that I’ve always seen, and I still see many terrific young kids who give me hope for the future.

David Livingston
Guest
13 years 5 months ago

This doesn’t surprise me. I know their parents and watched them steal millions from corporate America.

Joel Warady
Guest
Joel Warady
13 years 5 months ago

I don’t think we can blame the teenagers for this one. When the politicians lie so they can get their way, when corporate executives take money in the form of compensation while shareholders are losing value, and do so with no remorse, when their parents look for ways to cheat on their taxes, and pad business expense accounts, and they do this all in front of the kids of America, how can we expect teenagers to behave in any other manner?

While I am quick to point out that the youth today lack certain attributes that we look for when searching for the next superstar in the workforce, it is difficult to blame them for their misguided ways when they have grown up within the environment that they have.

Ben Ball
Guest
13 years 5 months ago
Many social issues involve complex circumstances, making it very hard to determine “causality”. In this case, I do not think that is true. The reason our kids cheat and steal is because we do not impose a social penalty for it. By that I mean we do not ostracize them, nor do their peers of course, for this behavior. Children respond to what they see in others — they have no other social benchmark. If they do something and there is no significant social or physical consequence, they assume it is ok and they do it again. Having said that, at least part of the problem is that the primary medium of our children is digital communication. And the Boomer parents just don’t watch what’s going on or think the way the kids do about things like the Internet. This was driven home to me at my parents “Friday night supper table” when I visited last week. My two sisters and their husbands, three of whom are teachers and all over 55, were there and… Read more »
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