Op/Ed: ‘We Are Better Than This’

by | Oct 13, 2019

By Sophia Aigner

Kairos – a time when conditions are right for the accomplishment of a crucial action: the opportune and decisive moment.

This past week’s local news has been one heck of head turner – and not for a good reason, as you all may know. 

Last Monday, 22 students at East Greenwich High School were accused of cheating on one of their tests. One student had found a copy of the exam online ahead of time and sold the answers via text message to the rest of his classmates. The students implicated will face consequences of varying degrees. 

What seems to appall most people is the mere fact students have breached the high school’s honor code. While I agree wholeheartedly, this is not the only thing that’s troubling. As a student, I have witnessed things that others have not. I have heard the conversations at lunch and the whispers floating through the hallway. In my opinion, our attention need not focus entirely on the offense itself, but also the reactions surrounding it:

“I don’t deserve to be held accountable; we weren’t cheating.”

“The answers were online. Anyone is allowed to access them; we weren’t cheating.”

“We weren’t cheating.”

“We weren’t cheating.”

Throughout my tenure in the East Greenwich public school system, I have come to know some of the most intelligent, witty, creative, and compassionate people. So, when I hear this kind of talk around the school, I think to myself, I know we are better than this

Although the natural reaction to “being caught red handed” is deflection and denial, deep down, we all know that the better alternative is to take personal responsibility for our actions. It seems nowadays the line between right and wrong is often blurred. Since when has it been okay to find the answers to a test to gain an unfair advantage? We all know when we’ve done something wrong because it just doesn’t feel right. 

It’s no secret that high school students are under an immense amount of academic pressure. Whether it be self-driven or encouraged by a parent, the competition to get into top colleges and universities is an omnipresent factor in a student’s life. The competition is fierce enough to numb a student’s moral compass, if only for a brief, unfortunate moment. Even in my own life, I’ve felt myself succumbing to the pressures of maintaining a high GPA, an impressive course load filled with AP classes, and extracurricular activities. But, what these kids – and all EG students, including myself – must realize is life isn’t defined by a grade point average or one test grade; these numbers are an arbitrary speck in the grand scheme of things. Our integrity, however, is everlasting. In life, the content of our characters and the way in which we lead our lives are above all else.

Now, let me explain myself: I’m not claiming to be “holier than thou,” and nor am I trying to reflect a perfect image of my own self – like any teen, I have made mistakes in school, in relationships, and with family. But, these experiences have taught me that mistakes do not dictate our end – they introduce us to a new beginning.

No one is saying the students implicated are bad people; in fact, they are the opposite – they are good people who made a bad decision. Personal accountability is not admitting your weakness, but exhibiting your strength. So, let’s not let this cheating scandal mar our community and the school’s reputation, but instead let’s take advantage of this present kairos and be our best. 

Sophia Aigner, who writes for EG News, is a senior at East Greenwich High School.


 

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24 Comments

  1. Susan Jeffries

    Bravo Sophia! It is reassuring to see somebody of your generation standing up and recognizing what is right. Cheating is cheating… there are no nuances.
    As the great John Wooden once said: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are…the true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.

    Reply
    • A EGHS Senior

      What isn’t reassuring is that she left out key facts and blatantly misrepresented the issue.

      P.S. quoting other people in hopes of meriting someone else is cliche and overdone. Use your own words

      Reply
      • Don

        Your answer which is deflecting the problem, blaming someone else and not recognizing that cheating is cheating perfectly demonstrates what the article addresses. How about a good look in the mirror and recognize the truth about yourself?

        Reply
  2. Coleen Smith

    Beautifully written and so important for everyone to hear-students, parents and community alike. Certainly the perspective to keep as all of our small, daily decisions create our reputation and character.

    Reply
  3. Jon K. Polis

    OK….I’m a bit confused…..(EGHS Alumnus; Class of 1974)….

    Did the individuals in question access answers SIMILAR to

    the kinds and types of questions that were going to be on the upcoming

    test(s), or the EXACT answers that were going to be on the upcoming test(s)?

    (Back) in My Day; SIMILAR ANSWERS = RESEARCH/PREPARATION/STUDYING!!

    EXACT ANSWERS = CHEATING!!!!

    SOMEONE PLEASE LET ME KNOW!!

    THANK YOU!!!

    Jon K. Polis

    EAST GREENWICH HIGH SCHOOL

    CLASS OF 1974

    MEMBER: R.I. HONOR SOCIETY; 1974

    Reply
  4. M. Shogren

    So very true and well written! Keep East Greenwich strong and highly regarded.

    Reply
  5. A EGHS Senior

    Coming from someone who actually attends the school, I find it remarkable that you have the audacity to not only continue to draw out the topic (beating the already dead and broken horse), but misguided readers. Without comprehensive knowledge, you have misrepresented the issue at hand – misleading your audience. The students never purchased the test, they purchased a review that the teacher recycled questions from, a document that contained an assortment of questions, most of which were never on the assessment. While I do agree that the reselling of these questions is morally and ethically incorrect, you misguided your readership. You built an article on a false foundation, you left out facts. That, in my opinion, is the worst thing a writer can ever do

    Reply
    • Jon K. Polis

      OK THEN….”The students never purchased the test, they purchased a review that the teacher recycled questions from, a document that contained an assortment of questions, most of which were never on the assessment. ”

      We could do this back in MY DAY (The Analog Way), and it could be done/purchased from (just about) ANY BOOK STORE or DEPARTMENT STORES’ BOOK DEPARTMENT….(!!!)

      THIS IS NOT CHEATING….THIS IS PRO-ACTIVE RESEARCH/STUDYING/PREPARATION!!!

      If this is NOW CONSIDERED CHEATING……THEN I HAVE ALLOWED MYSELF TO LIVE TOO LONG….THE WORLD I KNOW (KNEW) NO LONGER EXISTS, AND I STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT THIS IS A TRAGIC LOSS TO CIVILIZATION!!…..jkp EGHS; CLASS OF 1974

      Reply
    • EGHS Alumni '19

      “A EGHS Senior” I wouldn’t be surprised if you were involved. Take some advice from Sophia, do better because your school community is better than this. Just enjoy your senior year…

      Reply
  6. Susan Jeffries

    To address the following comment made by EG Senior – “The students never purchased the test, they purchased a review that the teacher recycled questions from, a document that contained an assortment of questions, most of which were never on the assessment.” You need to check your facts, as you have the information totally wrong. Suffice it to say that the questions purchased were not from any sort of test review. Check out your facts with someone directly involved. Sophie has the correct information and reported it as such.
    And to answer Jon, the answers and questions were not similar. They were exact and not taken from any sort of student approved review.

    Reply
  7. Peter EG

    The post from ‘A EGHS Senior’ is incorrect…. you may attend the school, but you are listening to the cafeteria gossip, as opposed to what the actual facts are. As someone who has spoken to the parties involved, this was not a study guide…. it was copyright protected material sold illegally on the internet…. material that was released to teachers only in order to aid them in preparing classroom tests.

    Reply
  8. Mamma bear 🐻

    From a mother who’s child was involved in this…. Well said Sofie and well written! Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Mind your business. Teach what you know.

      Going through these comments were painful. Almost as painful as the story itself. The comments from parents that outright attack teenagers is unacceptable. And by now, as a person in your (40-50’s) you should know that you are not in high school. While my stance on the situation is clear by now due to my obvious bias, I would like to point out that everything said on this post should be ignored. Parents gossip as if they’re still seventeen and students write stories on situations they have nothing to do with. With that said, neither do I. But it’s crazy that 22 students cheating can cause such an uproar; with a rush of blame, when we fail to take a minute and look at ourselves. We all have faults and mistakes we made that could turn plenty of people against us. So yes an unfortunate situation occurred this past week amongst the smartest of EGHS class of 2020. But that’s all anyone needs to know. There’s no need to cry about how we’re better than this, who are you teaching? What is the purpose of this? Because in my head, this article, these comments, they accomplish nothing but tear us apart as a community. (The pressure of high school is unbearable for some. Accept that they are not you, made a mistake, and move on.)

      Reply
      • You're missing her point...

        You seem to have gathered the wrong impression of her article. Honestly, this is one of the most uplifting perspectives on this whole situation. You, and virtually all opposers, have failed to realize Sophia’s main message— that these 22 kids are “not bad people;” they are “witty, intelligent, compassionate, and GOOD” people who made an unfortunate decision. She is simply calling everyone to reflect on what they have done and BE BETTER. Isn’t that what we all want in life; to be the best versions of ourselves? You said it yourself— what happened last week in unfortunate. Sophia says that we can turn this situation into something positive by recognizing that it is “not the end but a new beginning.”

        This article is uplifting. It is not vindictive or prosecutorial. It is not a self-righteous proclamation. You argue that we “all have faults and mistakes,” but this is actually what Sophia wrote too! Don’t believe me? Take a look here: “I’m not claiming to be “holier than thou,” and nor am I trying to reflect a perfect image of my own self – like any teen, I have made mistakes in school, in relationships, and with family.” She is not trying to be better than you or sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong! She is giving her perspective on how we can better our already great community. I mean for god sake, she even complimented you all in the fourth paragraph. It’s clear she had no mal intent.

        Please reread this article, then you will see that it’s a means of moving on and healing. it seems she has great respect for all of you; that’s why she knows that you all are “better.”All she is conveying is that There is nothing wrong with personal accountability; in fact, we are better for it—as a community and society. When we make mistakes in life, we must face them- not run away and hide. Great message. One we should hear more often.

        Reply
  9. EGHS Alumni '19

    While I graduated, I’m angry with the behavior being presented in our school community. I’ve witnessed the student in question be placed on a pedestal because of their personality and academic achievements. That shouldn’t matter, as it does not relate to the situation that has occurred. The student purchased an illegal source, in which they distributed to their classmates. Yeah, since that’s definitely something an upstanding student at East Greenwich High School would do. There are people proudly declaring in the “East Greenwich Parents for Excellence” FaceBook group that they had cheated while attending the high school. Now, that’s something to be proud of! Way to set an example for your child! On a personal note, I understand how difficult it is to get into college. It’s painful to believe that someone will be rejected from a college because someone (like the parties involved) cheated on their assignments throughout high school. That’s shameful. We are better than this, we can do better than this!

    Also, the Class of 2019 wasn’t squeaky clean either. We should review some of the SAT scores, a lot of people shouldn’t be attending their chosen universities. Pitiful.

    Reply
    • A fed up individual

      The audacity of some students to comment on other students, when, in fact, they were never involved is mind blowing to me. Take it from my first hand account. The “facts” reported by Aigner are exaggerated and falsified. The materials accessed by the students were GIVEN as resource for the students to use. Parents, get off of your East Greenwich high horse and stay out of students problems. I can guarantee your kids do worse, “Mama Bear.” Other EGHS students who are uninvolved in the situation, get over it and stop looking for a gold star by writing an article, looking for some approval.

      Reply
  10. Mom who has a headache

    This article did not have to be written. Move on. There’s two sides to every story. Sometimes right from wrong isn’t black and white. Parents—stop coming for the “EGHS Senior” and find something else to gossip about. Who knows, maybe next week your kid will be the talk of the town.
    If only this much energy was put into talking about climate change or world hunger…..

    Reply
  11. EGHS SENIOR

    Let me open by making it clear that I was not involved in this incident. I love how people are defending Sophia and saying she has the “right information” when she stated directly I her article “ One student had found a copy of the exam online ahead of time and sold the answers via text message to the rest of his classmates (Aigner). You really love to see in depth journalism these days. Maybe you all should take a second and ask some questions and inform yourselves about both sides of the issue.

    Reply
    • EGHS Alumni '19

      If Sophia doesn’t have the right information, you should correct the misinformation. If you don’t agree with Sophia’s reporting of the story, inform the public on your perspective. I’ve graduated, but I know the importance of “primary source and first-hand account.” Please understand I’m not trying to be rude, but inform us on the other side of the issue.

      Reply
      • EGHS SENIOR

        I mean if you clicked on another article about the subject. I’m pretty sure it’s clear that the text that was purchased was a teachers edition of the textbook that was available on google. I figured if people were to comment and make opinions on this article they’d do some research before doing so.

        Reply
  12. A mom with a big headache

    Move on. There’s two sides to every story. Sometimes right from wrong isn’t black and white. Parents—stop coming for the “EGHS Senior” and find something else to gossip about. Who knows, maybe next week your kid will be the talk of the town.
    If only this much energy was put into talking about climate change or world hunger…..

    Reply
  13. Grow up

    As well(ish) written as this may be, the entire “article” is highly unnecessary. You claim “we are better than this” but clearly you are absolutely no better than this if you took out, what seems like hours from your day, to craft together a subpar, misinformative, article for EGHS mothers to come together and trash students, only trying to glorify their thought to be angelic children. The reality of the situation is truly sad, some of the smartest students in the school being accused of cheating after simply using a resource found on the internet (that the teacher exposed may I add). But by all means, disregard the major issues in the world and community (s/out to mom w a headache), and sit here and gossip like you’re still in Highschool. We are 40 ladies, let’s act like it.

    Reply
    • PeterEG

      It is time to move on here, but if the discussion needs to persist, it should focus on the culture in EG that lead 20+ students to make the decision to find an easier, faster path to a better grade. Three facts need to be corrected with this issue: 1. The material that was used was not “GIVEN as a resource for the students to use” as stated by ‘A Fed Up Individual’. 2. The teacher did not find this material on the internet, a student did… it was a TestBank that should only be used by educators. 3. The TestBank was purchased from a company who was selling copyrighted protected files illegally via the internet. 4. The file was sold as a testbank, not a study guide, however, some students may have purchased the file thinking it was a legitimate study guide. It is time to put this incident to rest and let the community move on to more positive contributions being made by EGHS students.

      Reply
  14. EG Resident

    I think this topic is gathering so much attention in large part because of the particular students who are involved. If it were any other group of kids, they would be disciplined as stated by the code of conduct (knowingly using, giving, buying, selling, stealing, transporting or soliciting in whole or in part the contents or answers of a test or other assignment is cheating). (That seems to pretty much sum it up, right? Test information was bought and sold.) But, these are the stars of the EGHS senior class. They are class, National Honor Society and student council members and officers. They are varsity team captains. Some are even National Merit Scholarship finalists. Already I am hearing they are being given a different assignment instead of a zero on the test that they cheated on, because they are applying to elite colleges next month and it would badly affect their GPA if they had to live with a zero on the test. Would that happen if they were a different group of students?

    Reply

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