In 2012 the Josephson Institute of Ethics reported in a survey of 23,000 high school students from across the country, a decrease in cheating and stealing over the previous survey done in 2010. All of the questioned students were self reporting. Students also self reported overwhelmingly (85%) that “most adults in their life consistently set a good example when it comes to ethics and character”.
This is great news and heading in the right direction. As these students become adults, the results of what they do and say grow in their consequences. Cheating, stealing and lying become easier to justify as the stakes grow. It is easier to go against the virtue of trustworthiness when a person feels like they have their back against the wall. When they do not know how they are going to get what they want. When times get tough or when they have a belief that they are owed or deserve something better.
Trustworthiness can stand up to all of those difficult situations. In the most difficult circumstance, we can and should ask ourselves, “Am I being reliable, accountable and dependable when I take this action or speak these words?”, and then make our choice. As parents or adults that children look up to, it is important that we set the example, talk about the value of practicing ‘trustworthiness’ and let the youth in our lives see us display the virtue of trustworthiness in areas of small consequences to the very large ones. When students see adults setting a good example in trustworthiness, they will imitate that example and the statistics for cheating will continue to decrease.