Random musings from a libertarian, tech geek...
Jane Galt posted this article from the Washington Post (Jane's permalink appears broken). A key point in the article was the recognition that the current generation of "cheaters" aren't the dunces but are actually more likely to come from the cream-of-the-crop privileged kids doing everything they can to pump up their GPAs.
I graduated from High School in '91 (went to my 10 yr reunion last year -- that's worth a post by itself) and I vividly remember seeing "cheating in the honor roll crowd" even then -- BEFORE the Internet went mass market.
I can personally attest to never engaging in the abject cheating described in the article but, then again, I never really cared for my grades or proper school that much either. This, of course, was much to my Indian parents chagrin -- I had some academic underachiever streaks in my personality and whether I got an A, a C, or worse in a class had a seemingly roll-of-the-dice aspect to it.
The deeper you get into the academic stratosphere -- and overachievers PLEASE tell me if you agree with me here -- the more often I found games where you could do X to really learn the material at hand and integrate it into your being & world view or you could do Y to get a good grade. One route is an emotional, almost spiritual journey, the other was, well, getting good grades.
My opinion back then, though I didn't have the vocab tools to really describe it, was that their cheating was a necessary outcome of the systematic elimination of *passion* from the education process. Intrinsic reward for education was stomped out in an environment where tests were king and the grade was more important than the effort, the journey, and whatever knowledge actually got crammed into your head. It still makes my blood boil to think about all the kids that would raise their hands and ask "is this going to be on the test?".
And of course, this was compounded by a sort of Post-Modernist ethos of "None of this really matters so why should I make life hard on myself?"
On the plus side, a few of the policing schemes such as spontaneous essay writing described in the article do have the very consequential side benefit of making school more subjective, and therefore making the learning process much more personal for the individual and hopefully more intrinsically rewarding.