Georgia’s hands were sweating. She was fifteen minutes into her math final when she began to panic. This exam was worth most of her grade in the class. She understood math—even liked it—and usually did really well. Her constant problem was that she wasn’t a strong test-taker. Her grades never reflected her understanding of the material she studied.
Now, here she was, once again stuck on one problem worth twenty-five points on the test, and she was drawing a blank. She put her head down on the desk and concentrated as hard as she could. She remembered doing a similar problem in class and explaining it to her friend Jessie, but now she was so stressed out by the test, she couldn’t even remember how to begin the problem.
She lifted her head and stared at her test. She listened to the clock tick on the wall and imagined her parents’ expression when she receives her report card. Jessie was sitting right in front of her. He is always a good test taker and had already solved the problem. The teacher had his backed turned and was on the other side of the room. Georgia could look over Jessie’s shoulder, get the answer, and no one would know.
Georgia needed to think quickly. She thought about how unfair it was that she regularly does badly on tests even though she works so hard in class and understands the material, too. She thought about how often she helped Jessie in class throughout the semester. What should she do?
She prided herself on doing what was right. But how right is it that she has to work in a system that doesn’t reward such hard work?
Finally, she took a deep breath. She looked to see if the teacher was still on the other side of the room, and glanced over Jessie’s shoulder just long enough to get the final answer to the question. Then, she figured out the rest of the problem on her own. In the moment, she felt great about her decision. She felt she had sort of created an ethical compromise.
But on the way home on the bus, Georgia’s good feelings started to fade. “What exactly is an ethical compromise anyway?” she thought to herself. Should she tell her teacher what she did or move forward and forget about the whole thing? * Can you answer Georgia’s question at the end? Is there such a thing as an ethical compromise?
I don’t think there is such a thing as an ethical compromise. There is only what is right, and what is…