Bite The Bullet, Not The Apple This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By
   "Here you go, mates. I think this test is challenging, but fair, so get to work. I've got to go down to the teacher's lounge for a few minutes, so while I'm gone, you're on the honor system. Good luck , you'll need it."

With that, Mr. Jones, my twelfth-grade calculus teacher, left the room, and our class delved into another painful math test. His tests were always tough, as was his class, and studying and applying yourself were the only ways to truly succeed. But on this day, my pal Mark decided to try a new approach.

"What are you doing?" I whispered suspiciously.

"Quiet," he snarled back, but I did not obey.

"Are you crazy? Mr. Jones will be back any second. If he catches you looking up these tests answers in the book, he'll kill you!"

"Look, I'm not a superbrain like you, OK? Maybe you don't need to cheat, but if I want to make it, this is what I gotta do."

"You hold it right there. I'm doing just as badly as you in this class, but you don't see me cheating. It's wrong, man."

"Maybe it is, but this isn't some ethics class. It's math, and my problems stretch beyond the ones here on this paper. I gotta pass, no matter how, no matter what. And besides, with these answers, I'm gonna get a hundred and you'll be lucky to grab a B. So you tell me who's smarter, me or you?"

There was a question whose answer no one could look up in the back of a book. Sure, Mark would get an A, and, as I scanned this test, I figured my best efforts would produce a C. In Mr. Jones' eyes I would be just another dumb kid trying unsuccessfully to soak up his teachings, while Mark would become honor roll material. I began to wonder, does it pay to cheat?

To answer this age-old moral dilemma, I analyzed the situation at hand. Mark's illegal act would go unnoticed by authority, so no punishment lay ahead. Assuming he at least had the ability to copy the answers correctly, his A would be assured and he would pass the course with flying colors. His records would show these scores and Mark would have every Ivy League college begging at his feet , all this without ever breaking a sweat or putting in an ounce of grit or hard work.

My story was different. I would get into college, but maybe not as easily. My math average would hover around 75. However, I had given an honest effort that included no shortcuts. My grade was the result of all-nighters, volumes of class notes, and determination when giving up would have been the easiest thing to do. Of course, quitting would have produced an F, and I did care enough to try. But now, I was faced with an even simpler way out and a way that promised an A: cheating. Success was free and all I had to do was reach into the pages of my math book and take it. No one else would ever know, and it was a sure-fire way to conquer this test. It seemed as if I could gain everything by sacrificing nothing , until I realized that success was not free. By cheating, I'd be selling the part of me that believed in giving my best every time out. That had always been incentive enough, for at least I had known that I had tried. If I cheated, it would mean I approved of dishonesty without even a second thought. And I would be admitting that I was not good enough, that I was not complete, that I needed a prop to make me a better person. I did not want to give up my self-respect, for I still believed in myself. Maybe I'd never be an Einstein, but at least I could be my own personal best.

I looked over at Mark, who smiled devilishly as he put the finishing touches on his plagiarized masterpiece. I looked up at Mr. Jones, ready to collect what he hoped would be a pile of A papers. I looked down at mine and knew that it was a C+ at best. But while I may not have done too well on this test of integrals and square roots, I knew that I had passed a more important one: the test of self-pride, honesty, and dedication. If only it counted on my grade .... n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






Join the Discussion

This article has 1 comment. Post your own now!

IMSteel said...
Nov. 8, 2012 at 9:55 am
I like the story, I think you have potential, the lesson of it I like, some of the word choices could have been a little better, but otherwise, a well written story!
 
bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback