According to a Slate Magazine article, 42% of Harvard Freshman admit to “cheating” on an assignment in High School, and 10% admit to “cheating” on a test.

I wonder, however, what these numbers mean. What constitutes “cheating”? Do the state-run schools get to unilaterally define it? If they do, why should students (who have no say in the rules, and who are forced to go to school by the state and by their parents) comply? Is a runaway slave a “thief” for absconding with someone else’s property? Isn’t the consent of the governed the moral basis for rules? (I’ll grant that attending a University voluntarily is different.)

Suppose you were heading for your high school math class, and one of your friends asked, “Did you finish your homework for today?”

“Uh oh!” you respond. “I forgot all about the homework. Quick! Let me copy yours so I don’t get in trouble!”

Is there anything wrong with this? Why should students automatically follow the dictates of the school?

Of course it’s reasonable to argue that students should do their homework, because otherwise they will be ignorant. But if they haven’t done their homework, they will be equally ignorant whether they copy someone else’s or not. They are merely circumventing a rating system to which they never consented.