I believe schooling must be authentic in order to have any value to the student. By authentic I mean 1) that all work assigned and all assessment tools must have value to the student beyond merely the four walls of the classroom, 2) that all work assigned and all assessment tools must be academically rigorous, and 3) that all work (including assessments) must have an audience beyond the teacher. In other words, all school work must have value, be rigorous and have an broad audience.When students feel the need to cheat it is because one or more elements of authentic schooling has gone missing. Often the only piece present is academic rigor that is attached to some form of high-stakes assessment. When this is the case, students, especially the ‘good’ students, feel the need to enhance their performance–something like athletes and steroids.
If principles of authenticity are followed the need for high-stakes assessment is diminished. Teachers can and do find low-stakes approached to assessing students rather than to brow-beat them into compliance with external demands on their brainpower. If principles of authenticity are followed, even the high-stakes assessments attached to No Child Left Behind will not be problematic and may even provide schools and districts with some really valuable data.
As the system now stands, however, cheating is the norm rather than the exception; a norm created by the interference of misguided legislation and misinformed adults.
Authenticity makes education engaging and fun. It makes education the responsibility of the learner, guided by a competent adult in the classroom. Without authenticity, education is alienating and a cauldron for adolescents to conjure ways to beat the system. Which would you rather have?