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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/9/20

A Culture of Cheating?

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Lawrence Davidson
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From To The Point Analyses

Secretary Pompeo:.Lying, Cheating, & Stealing reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.
Secretary Pompeo:.Lying, Cheating, & Stealing reminds you of the glory of the American experiment.
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Part I -- Cheating as a Perennial Problem

Cheating, and the lying that always accompanies it, is probably as old as the human species. At the same time, that is probably how long we have known that they are harmful traits. The Eighth Commandment (out of the famous 10) tells us not to bear false witness, which means, don't lie. Most older societies had someone assigned to monitor the marketplace for reliable weights and measures -- because left to themselves, most capitalists, of all times and places, cheat. This reality was and still is confirmed by the Roman warning "caveat emptor," let the buyer beware.

This perennial problem is still with us and can only be held at bay by education, regulation, and standards set by role models and other worthy authority figures. Alas, these standards are slipping in the case of the United States and thus, our tendency to cheat is witnessing a growth phase. Here are some recent examples:

(1) The Astros baseball team cheated to win the World Series in the 2017 season. Baseball is the "national sport" of the United States and as such, it is supposed to hold an honorable place in our culture. But did that stop what must have been nearly the entire Astros team (every batter must have been in on the scheme) from involving themselves in the "game plan" to steal their opponents' pitching signs? Not at all.

(2) Then we were shown how willing numerous well-to-do Americans were to suborn the college entrance process by buying their children into elite schools. The educational system in the United States is supposedly a mark of national pride, but so is the status of wealth. So why shouldn't the latter assure entrance into the former? To make it so, all one has to do is cheat (in these cases bribery was the vehicle).

(3) And, by the way, students in colleges and universities, high-end schools or otherwise, can engage in the cheating process by plagiarizing. Term papers and other pre-prepared, and illicit, assignments are for sale online.

Here in the U.S., we are no longer sure that all of this is really so bad. Maybe, if you can get away with it, it is just smart. That is the message the public receives from an increasing number of traditional role models -- those who now stand at the very highest levels of our society and publicly flaunt corruption. I speak here of the behavior of President Donald Trump (and his entourage), who, in less than three years in office has managed to brandish his particular aptitude for mendacity (the man is a habitual liar by any standard), bribery, obstruction, incitement and just plain disdain for all manner of rules. And this behavior has given license to others to act out their own disregard for both honesty and truth.

All of this is very bad news. This cheating side of our behavior, having gained increased acceptance, has become a real threat to two basic pillars of our society: the integrity of science/technology and the practice of honest government.

Part II -- Cheating as a Societal Threat: The Erosion of Science

Let's begin with science/technology. Our society would be unrecognizable apart from the science and technology that underpins all material aspects of modern life. The scientific method is the surest way we know to establish the truth about aspects of the material world. Yet today, this foundation is in danger of being eroded by the lies and misrepresentations that plague our everyday lives.

How is this being done? According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Trump administration, in its rush to do away with all manner of regulations, appears to consider scientific facts as obstacles to be overcome. This is particularly the case when it comes to the "active dismantling science-based -- health and safety protections, sidelining scientific evidence, and undoing recent progress... based on scientific research. Here are just a few of dozens of examples:

(1) Trump appointed administrators at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have "forbidden SACC [that is, its own Scientific Advisory Committee on Chemicals] from commenting" on EPA decisions concerning such things as worker safety protections, cancer risks, and the (often suspect) quality of industry data.

(2) The Department of the Interior (DOI) "dismantled the role of science" when looking at protections for endangered and threatened species.

(3) The Department of Agriculture (USDA) prevented the release of a plan for how the agency can effectively respond to the impacts of climate change.

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Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign
Policy Inc.: Privatizing America's National Interest
; America's
Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli
; and Islamic Fundamentalism. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history.

His blog To The Point Analyses now has its own Facebook page. Along with the analyses, the Facebook page will also have reviews, pictures, and other analogous material.

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