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More American Teens Lie, Cheat And Steal

December 2, 2008

In its 2008 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth, the non-profit Josephson Institute reported Monday that teenagers in the United States lie, cheat and steal at “alarming rates.”

The results were based on a study of 29,760 high school students throughout the country.

The Los Angeles-based organization said the conduct and attitudes of teens “doesn’t bode well for the future when these youngsters become the next generation’s politicians and parents, cops and corporate executives, and journalists and generals.”

The report card “reveals entrenched habits of dishonesty for the workforce of the future,” the Institute said, referring to the teenagers’ responses to questions about lying, stealing and cheating.

Overall, 30 percent of students admitted to stealing from a store within the previous 12 months, a two percent increase from 2006. And 35 percent of boys said they had stolen goods, compared to 26 percent of girls. Boys were also more likely to lie, the research revealed.

The survey found that 83 percent of public and private religious school students admitted to lying to their parents about something significant.  For those attending independent non-religious schools the number was 78 percent.

“Cheating in school continues to be rampant and it’s getting worse,” the report said.

Indeed, 64 percent of the respondents said they had cheated on a test, compared to just 60 percent in 2006. And 38 percent reported cheating two or more times.

The survey did not show a significant gender disparity for cheating on exams, but students from non-religious independent schools reported the lowest rate of cheating, at 47 percent, compared with 63 percent of religious school students.

“As bad as these numbers are, it appears they understate the level of dishonesty exhibited by America’s youth,” cautioned the report, adding that 26 percent of the students admitted they had even lied on at least one or two of the survey questions.

“Despite these high levels of dishonesty, these same kids have a high self-image when it comes to ethics.”

Ironically, 93 percent of students indicated satisfaction with their own ethics and character, with 77 percent saying that “when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.”

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