Even very young children have what seems to be a natural sense of fairness. They are very quick to point out if someone has one more piece of candy than they do, if someone got an extra turn, or if someone took their blocks away. And then you hear it: Hey, no Fair!
So, children, from a very young age understand that there is a right way to do something and a wrong way. No cutting in line, take turns, don't take something that doesn't belong to you.
When does that sense of rightness and wrongness fade away? It seems that every couple of months there is another article in a news magazine about the proliferation of cheating in the schools. Reader's Digest had an article about it just this past March.
Once kids think it's okay to do whatever it takes to get ahead - where does it stop? Maybe it doesn't. This past week when the story of the Harvard- student-with-the-great-book-deal,-but it-turned-out-she-plagarized-some-of-it broke, it brought cheating to the headlines again. Because plagarizing is cheating - no two ways about it. Liz at A Chair a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy had a great post on this, and since I can't say it any better, I won't try.
And then, not to get embroiled in the illegal immigration debate - but isn't coming to this country without going through the proper channels - simply another way of cheating? Couldn't the people waiting on line to get the paper work and approval they need call out "Hey, no cutting in line?"
Just two more thoughts on the illegal immigration debate. People say that these workers do the work Americans won't do because the pay is so low. Why is it a good thing to have a class of people who are relegated to work at jobs that don't pay a living wage?
And people who are here illegally are subject to all kinds of indignities. Such as this story from the Newark Star-Ledger about undocumented Mexicans who were forced into prostitution. Without the benefit of being here legally, they probably felt they had no choice.
So, to sum it up. Play by the rules, we all knew what they were when we were three: don't take what doesn't belong to you, wait your turn, and so on and so forth. The rules haven't changed, just the stakes.