Personal integrity starts early, has dire consequences

Thursday, January 16, 2014

It may start as a lark in elementary school, copying test answers from your neighbor because you played video games instead of studying for the test the night before.

Then maybe you find a way to cut corners when taking your driving test, or passing a college class you don't really care about, anyway.

But then it gets more serious.

If you're affluent, maybe you pay someone to write a term paper, or buy answers to a vital exam.

Sooner or later, you'll pay the price. Your deception will be discovered when it's found you don't really have the competencies your job requires.

Worse, perhaps you'll suffer because of someone else cutting corners -- do you really want to entrust your life to a surgeon who got a degree from a matchbook cover? A recent airline crash in Russia may have been caused by a pilot with falsified qualifications.

If an airliner headed straight into the ground isn't frightening enough, how about the most destructive force known to man?

That's the issue with the Air Force, which has stripped certification from 34 U.S. nuclear missile launch officers who were implicated in a cheating scandal on monthly tests on how to operate their missiles.

Some of the officers apparently texted answers to each other while taking the test, and others were accused of knowing about but not reporting it.

The cheating wouldn't have come to light had not two of the officers already been involved in a drug scandal that involved 11 Air Force officers in six bases in the United States and England.

Launch officers have to pass other monthly tests as well, including a simulated launch that isn't possible to cheat.

Higher up the chain of command, and closer to home, the deputy commander of the U.S. Strategic Command in Omaha was fired last fall after he passed counterfeit poker chips at a Council Bluffs casino.

We didn't hear about the latest scandal until just before Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel appeared at Warren Air Force Base to deliver a "pep talk" to members of the 90th Missile Wing, which operates 150 intercontinental ballistic missiles.

What difference does it make if your third grader gets away with cheating once in a while? Does personal integrity matter?

Ask the folks who control enough nuclear explosives to destroy the world many times over.

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