Morality, Cheating and the Purpose of Public Education

About this Digital Document

What is, or should be the goal of public education in the U.S.? David Labaree (1997) proposes that since the inception of public education in America, three alternative goals have emerged and these goals are at the root of the conflicts that have arisen over the "why" question of education. He labels these goals: democratic equity, social efficiency and social mobility. Each goal is laudable in its own right, and although sometimes these goals can align together toward shared outcomes, fundamentally they represent fundamentally different outcomes.The logic behind this study was that, depending on which of the three educational goals is dominant; the relationship between moral reasoning and cheating could be expected to differ predictively. As moral reasoning increases, the democratic equity goal would predictively lead to a decrease in cheating. This is because education is seen as a public good meant for the benefit of all, and so the focus of education is not on individual achievement. From the social mobility perspective the outcome would be exactly the opposite of the equity goal. Seen as a private good, education is focused on the advancement of the individual through the accumulation of educational credentials. The growth in moral reasoning is overshadowed by the need to achieve in the upwardly mobile students, and so cheating would be expected to increase. From the social efficiency perspective, the growth in moral reasoning would arguably play little if any role in the relationship with cheating, due to this goal's focus on marketable skills and the maintenance of the status quo. The purpose of this study was to seek to examine the practical outworking of Labaree's (1997) theory by measuring which of these three goals is reflected by the behavior and attitudes of students as they relate to moral development and cheating. Additionally this study provides further insight on the relationship between student moral development and cheating. The results of the study support social efficiency as being the dominant goal, and democratic equity as being the least influential.
Full Title
Morality, Cheating and the Purpose of Public Education
Lehigh University
Date Issued
electronic documents
Department name
Educational Leadership
Digital Format
electronic documents
Media type
Creator role
Graduate Student
Subject (LCSH)
Kline, Joshua Trent. (2017). Morality, Cheating and the Purpose of Public Education (1–).
Kline, Joshua Trent. 2017. “Morality, Cheating and the Purpose of Public Education”.
Kline, Joshua Trent. Morality, Cheating and the Purpose of Public Education. May 2017,