Is lying acceptable?

A student lied to me today. I told the students I would unlock their computers to allow them to do their online homework as soon as they finished a worksheet. A student said she was finished and covered half the worksheet with a notebook. I moved the notebook and could see that she had not completed it. She wasn’t embarrassed, and gave me a cheerful goodbye when she left class half an hour later.

I’m not certain as to what bothered me more, her lie or her lack of concern about being caught. I hesitated to move the notebook, because in doing so I was showing I didn’t trust her. I didn’t need to worry, because the student obviously felt no concern about maintaining a reputation of truthfulness.

Perhaps she didn’t think lying mattered. The online homework has a grade attached to it. The worksheet doesn’t. The worksheet contained information that will be valuable on the next test, but I didn’t tell them that. I realize an appropriate punishment for her lie would be to let her skip the worksheet and not do well on those problems on the test. I can’t bring myself to do that.

However, I will remember. A note in my grade book will guarantee that I never give her a letter of recommendation. She probably doesn’t care that her reputation is tarnished, at least with me. She should care.


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