Using AI to write essays/schoolwork– is it ethical?

By Sophie Lim

We all know the feeling: your English essay is due in just a couple of hours, and you’re not even sure if you have a thesis. The clock ticks, you weigh your options, and online resources are becoming harder and harder to resist. As a rising number of artificial intelligence (AI) engines, most notably ChatGPT, become readily available, their use obviously increases. Therefore, it is natural that they become more prevalent in school settings; language AIs are utilized especially frequently in the humanities subjects. But does the utilization of these AI resources go so far as to call ethics into question? 

One of the most integral aspects of a school’s writing curriculum is the development of a student’s ability to form complex arguments and express creativity. At Winsor, we are fortunate to have the chance to experiment with a variety of different styles in our writing and expression, whether the subject be English, History, or beyond. 

Now, let’s consider that English essay again. Going through all your underlined suggestions on Google Docs is not considered plagiarism as it is editing what you (hopefully) have synthesized. The real problem presents itself when technology such as ChatGPT is capable of creating whole pieces of writing from simple input commands, questions, and statements. In short, the program uses complex algorithms to instantaneously generate writing amassed from a database of 175 billion parameters. Enter a desired topic of interest and an essay of a desired length materializes on the screen. 

Whereas minor edits are safe from an ethical standpoint, ChatGPT is a form of plagiarism, raising two ethical issues. First, plagiarism is a form of theft because it is the taking of intellectual property. Second, the taking of that property is done so under the motive of benefiting from it. Paige Whalen ’24, co-head of Ethics club, pointed out, “​​The main issue is that existing AI writing assistants like ChatGPT are already being mishandled by students, most of whom use them exclusively for plagiarism.”

Along with the obvious issue of plagiarism, English teacher Ms. Ryan commented, “The point of learning is to learn, so if a student turns in a piece of writing not their own, they lose the chance to learn how to write and to get feedback on their actual work. And, since as a writer myself I think writing is fun and joyful, I think they also lose the chance to discover and to play and to experiment with ideas and to create.” 

Therefore, in all aspects, utilizing sites like ChatGPT for schoolwork is a lose–lose situation. Employing them violates ethical codes and by having a robot write an essay, the innate purpose of writing is lost: the “fun and joyful” nature of expression. Yet, while ChatGPT might be inappropriate for the classroom, there might be another useful purpose. 

Whalen comments, “I like to use AI such as ChatGPT to double-check a math problem or give me a quick summary of recent politics. If used responsibly and with good intentions, AI can have a massive positive impact on students.” After all, as Ms. Ryan reminds us, “​​Wow! We can create a computer that can do that? And that can learn? That is fascinating and awe-inspiring and cool!”