Welcome to Scam Academy, where you'll find stories of schemes and cheats from within the high schools and colleges of America. If you cheated and want to share how you did it and why, please email Senior Staff Writer Allie Conti: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week we hear from an 18-year-old in the Washington, DC, area who cheated on his Bible studies class so that he could ultimately get into a good high school and, later, a good college—a private university in New York, where he hopes to study advertising. In this case, the cheating went on at a notorious Christian private school that has come under fire for, among other things, not admitting LGBTQ students or staff.
About six years ago, I was a student at the private middle school Karen Pence teaches at in northern Virginia. She was never my teacher, personally, but it's funny that she teaches art, because there was apparently zero creativity in that class. I suspect the administration would describe the school's students as very religious, but in terms of the kids actually going there, nobody was really buying what they were selling. People cheated all the time. Everyone I knew was very much of the mindset that they wanted to just get out of there.
We were forced to go to a chapel once a week, and part of the instruction they provided was a Bible class. Every quarter, you had to memorize 12 verses in a section, and then four times a year, you would have to recite all 12 verses in a row. The next quarter you’d have to do 24, and 36 the next, and so on. In between, you were actually graded on memorizing part of the Bible and writing it back down every week. I finally realized what all the other kids were doing for these quizzes, and eventually I started taking advantage of the school's own rules myself.
This may have changed by now, but when I went there, the school had this weird policy where you weren't allowed to carry a backpack into class. You left your backpack on a rack in the hallway and had to carry around the books in a big stack and put them under your desk, because we didn't have little cubbies or anything. There was this one day where I didn't memorize this portion of Romans, and I was looking around at the usual suspects, looking for them to feed me answers. None of them were looking at each other, and these were the same kids who were usually the ones asking everyone else for answers.
I realized they would just write down the verse nice and big and put it in the front, clear slip of their three-ring binders. Then they would put another book on top of it, and then move the book with their feet during the test so that they could copy it. The part that had me kind of fucked up is the realization that the test had already started, so it was too late to change anything. But I knew how I could get a 100 the next time. And I did, many times over.
I never got hundreds when it came time to recite in front of the class, but I got by. The administration realized we didn't care, and would give people second chances constantly. You could also get lucky and get a teacher who would basically just feed you the verses, because they felt bad. As far as I know, no one was ever caught cheating on the quizzes, though.
The high school that I went to had a selection process where they considered your middle school GPA. It wasn't a religious high school, so I'm not sure if my grade in that class would have mattered. But there were definitely a few times when I was sitting there and thinking about how I needed to do what I needed to do to make sure to get into that school, and ultimately college. I guess that meant cheating on my Bible tests.
Looking back on it, I don't regard it as necessarily unethical. I probably shouldn't have cheated, but it was also middle school. Putting stress on 12-year-old kids to memorize Bible verses? That was the main reason I decided it didn't matter. I would still consider myself religious, but I just felt it was unrealistic to expect me to do something that no public school students in the county had to do.
The above has been edited and condensed for clarity. Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.