Junior Achievement logoJunior Achievement – you know, the non-profit organization that prepares the business leaders of the future – released on Dec. 5 the scary results of their survey of teens, ages 13 – 18, and their shaky ethics. Here’s the headline of their press release:

NEW NATIONAL POLL: NEARLY 40 PERCENT OF “ETHICALLY PREPARED” TEENS BELIEVE LYING, CHEATING, OR VIOLENCE NECESSARY TO SUCCEED

Unless you’re a thorough cynic (which I am sometimes, but usually not where kids are involved), this looks at least a little scary, doesn’t it? Here’s the quick once-over of some of the findings:

The majority of teens surveyed (71 percent) say they feel fully prepared to make ethical decisions when they enter the workforce. Yet 38 percent of that group believe it is sometimes necessary to cheat, plagiarize, lie or even behave violently in order to succeed. Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of all teens surveyed think cheating on a test is acceptable on some level, and more than half of those teens (54 percent) say their personal desire to succeed is the rationale.

Here’s a more complete listing of the results of the survey; it’s worth at least a few moments of your time to look over. One multiple-choice question is, “If I saw someone at my job taking money from the cash register, I would:” only 63 percent answered, “tell a supervisor.” Twenty-two percent answered, “talk to the person taking the money,” and 13 percent answered, “ask someone I trust what I should do.”

Another interesting question is, “Why do you think plagiarizing is acceptable?” Fifty percent answered “not enough time to do the assignment,” 43 percent said, “personal desire to succeed in school,” and 32 percent said, “pressure from parents to succeed in school.” At least, only 16 percent answered with the old cliche, “everyone else does it.”

How do the results of this survey affect what we do in libraries? We know that lots of the students we see are plagiarizing while at the Internet terminals, and that PCs and the Net let kids and teens get away with plenty they might never have tried in the ancient pre-technology era.

One resource I know of to help kids comes from Doug Johnson, director of media at the Mankato (MN) public schools. Here’s a link to his page on student ethics and technology. Doug has long been an activist librarian, and I’ve sat in on a couple of his great workshops.

(And, incidentally, I know that Junior Achievement is also promoting a Business Ethics series for high school students. Maybe – hmm – that has something to do with their releasing the survey.)

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