Alum and First-time Author Explores Why Smart Kids Cheat

Cheating BookNeag alumna Kate Maupin ’08 MA recently won the 2015 International Book Award (IBA) for her first book, Cheating, Dishonesty & Manipulation: Why Bright Kids Do It (Great Potential Press, 2014). Beating out 1,200 entries from around the world, she captured the top prize in the education/academic category, revealing how “more than 80 percent of bright students self-reported that they had not only cheated in an academic setting, but also had never been caught.” According to Maupin’s research, boredom, lack of challenge, perfectionism, and fear of failure are four of the reasons people cheat or lie.

Maupin graduated from the Neag School of Education with a MA in educational psychology, focusing on the education of the gifted and talented. She is currently the challenge and enrichment teacher at Hebron (Conn.) Public Schools, where she coordinates services for the bright and gifted/talented population. Spotlight recently had the opportunity to connect with Maupin about her book:

Alum and First-time Kate Maupin, poses with her book while visiting the Gentry Building. Photo: Shawn Kornegay, UConn.
Alum and First-time Kate Maupin, poses with her book while visiting the Gentry Building. Photo: Shawn Kornegay, UConn.

Q: How did the idea for the book come about?

A: I work with gifted children, and have for the past 12 years. During that time, I started to see patterns developing in regards to academic dishonesty. So many bright students found little loopholes to avoid activities, or even ways to make boring work more interesting through challenging cheats. What’s more, they were self-reporting this behavior rather than being caught. When I was a child, I did the same thing, even though I kept it secret because I thought I was the only one, and my behavior embarrassed me. Seeing identical actions in the students I worked with and consulted for made me realize that there was something about the gifted experience that might have some connections to cheating, dishonesty, and manipulation. When I went looking for answers through research (UConn-trained all the way!), I came up dry. So I decided to find the answers myself and write a book about my experiences.

Q: Why is the book important to the readers?

A: The book is important because anywhere from 80 percent to 90 percent of gifted and other high-ability children cheat. What’s more, they’re rarely caught. These behaviors serve as coping mechanisms for their desire to fit in, to quell their boredom, to assuage perfectionist tendencies, or even to find friendship. Cheating behaviors aren’t simply “grown out of.” Students need positive support to address the underlying causes of their behaviors. This book not only alerts readers what to look for, but also addresses the issues at their roots.

“The book is important because anywhere from 80 percent to 90 percent of gifted and other high-ability children cheat.”

—Kate Maupin ’08 MA, author of
Cheating, Dishonesty, & Manipulation:Why Bright Kids Do It

Q: Who are you hoping to reach with your book?

A: Parents and teachers of bright students. Anyone who works closely with bright students, or who has a child who has engaged in some sort of negative behavior that seems shocking based on their ability level.

Q: In writing this book, did you discover anything new?

A: The thing that stuck out to me most was the sheer lack of research into cheating or dishonesty as it applies to bright individuals – which is a shame, because if you look at high-profile “con artists” or scams, they’re often perpetrated by brilliant individuals or corporations. We as a society focus on the unfairness of cheating – which inherently makes us look at those students who are cheating to make up for a deficit. People don’t know how to begin looking at gifted cheating because it adds a big, puzzling question mark: Why would people who have no deficit to make up for cheat? What does that do to the fairness element? The book explores this. The other findings that I found absolutely fascinating were from the work of Dan Ariely, and his look at the link between high creativity and the likelihood someone has to not only cheat or lie – but to do this well.

Q: Do you have future plans for other books?

A: I definitely do. I alternate what I write every other summer when I’m on break from school – fiction one summer, then nonfiction. The nonfiction book was in a better place to publish first, so I sent that one out last year. This year, I’m back to working on a fiction book. It’s a young adult novel and doesn’t have anything to do with cheating. Most days I don’t know whether I’m a teacher masquerading as a novelist, or the other way around!