Our View: Cycle of stressors, cheating

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Graphic courtesy of Abi Wilson '20

The Tower Editorial Board

Academic integrity has remained at the forefront of student’s educational morals since first stepping foot in South. While grades, GPAs and exams will always be held to the highest standard by students, new priorities have risen in such an unprecedented time.
According to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), anxiety has become more and more prevalent in teenagers during the COVID-19 crisis. The pandemic has caused concern for ourselves and others to increase, in addition to our pre-existing unease towards school and remote learning. We at The Tower believe the only way to accurately demonstrate a student’s full potential during this time is to soften some of the academic expectations.
Online learning has been one of the greatest shifts both students and faculty at South have had to face during this time. The ever-changing reliability of technology still remains a concern for everyone. Teens already face stress from school as is, but this additional factor has caused their mental health to decay and be pushed back to the back of our minds.
The unfortunate sacrifice of mental health has driven countless students to alternative approaches when it comes to performing and submitting work. Schoology has been used as a gateway for cheating on assignments, projects and exams. We believe this has enabled students to adopt procrastination as an approved method of approaching school.
We’ve been placed in a mindset where an on-going cycle has been created– teens get stressed and anxious over assignments, procrastinate instead of trying to finish them ahead of time and resort to the frequent method of cheating; all to maintain a grade that will never precisely illustrate who we are as South students.
Therefore, our once-rigorous schedule of classes has become an additional concern students must face every day during online learning. While many of us once enjoyed attending lectures, seeing friends and teachers and expanding our knowledge on certain material, all of this has become a troublesome responsibility.
Yet, our grades still count and our GPA is still at risk of changing. While the school system has recently offered a pass/fail option to students, we at The Tower believe this method– of weighing student work completed during this time equal to that of a typical day in class– is harmful to their mental health. The entire South community must actively work together to work through this. Each of us will have our own ways of dealing with the pandemic at hand, and it is necessary to recognize this.
This is the time where we should be focusing on our mental health. Most of society is getting little-to-no interaction with anyone besides their immediate family, resulting in feelings of depression and isolation. We believe the additional burden of school-related responsibilities will cause countless students to fall into the harmful cycle of anxiety and lead to submitting dishonest work.
The world around us is, currently, a strange and frightening place. Despite that, countless students have been able to show their compassion for others in recent times ranging from sharing thoughtful messages on social media to donating resources towards health care workers and their families. However, many have been strained of those opportunities due to the responsibilities school still holds us accountable for. We at The Tower believe it is essential that students are assessed and treated normally when our current times are anything but normal.