The Ethics of American Youth: 2006
Josephson Institute Report Card
According to a national survey of high school students by Josephson Institute, today’s young people reveal deeply entrenched habits of dishonesty.
The 2006 Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth, a biennial national survey conducted by Josephson Institute and released as part of National CHARACTER COUNTS! Week, October 15-21, reveals high rates of cheating, lying, and theft. See complete results here.
More than one in four of the students surveyed admit that within the past year they stole from a store, sixty percent cheated on a test, and one in three used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment.
Michael Josephson, founder and president of Josephson Institute, commented on the results: “The good news is, things aren’t getting any worse. This year’s results are almost identical to those reported in 2004. The bad news is, unacceptably high rates of dishonesty have become the norm. It doesn’t bode well for the future that so many kids are entering the workforce to become the next generation of corporate executives, cops, politicians, journalists, teachers, and parents.”
Among the highlights:
- Are business scandals rubbing off? Although students’ cynical attitudes about real-world ethics has undoubtedly been influenced by highly publicized business scandals, young people still believe ethics is important in the workplace: 94 percent say that “In business and the workplace, trust and honesty are essential.”
- They do what they do, not what they say. Despite admissions of high levels of lying, cheating, and theft, high school students maintain a high self image of their character and ethics. Ninety-two percent say they’re “satisfied with my own ethics and character” and eighty-four percent believe half or more of the people who know them would list them as one of the most ethical people they know.
- Lofty ideals hide cynicism. Despite expressing positive attitudes about the importance of ethics and character and the role others play in encouraging them to do the right thing, many young people reveal corrosive cynical attitudes about what works and doesn’t in the real world: fifty-nine percent agree that “Successful people do what they have to do to win, even if others consider it cheating” and nearly twenty-five percent believe that “People who are willing to lie, cheat, or break the rules are more likely to succeed than people who do not.”
- Cynicism nullifies judgment and condones bad behavior. Eighty-two percent admit they lied to parent (62% to a teacher) within the past 12 months about something significant.
The report was based on written surveys administered by randomly selected high schools throughout the country in 2006. It includes responses from 36,122 high school students. The margin of error is +/- 3 percent.