Cheating was in the spotlight in a recent NY Times Room for Debate, which includes opinions from a professor, author, recent grad and high school teacher, along with reader comments on each.
The opinion that drew the most comments was from Mark Bauerlein, professor of English at Emory University and the author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future. He pinpoints two causes, 1) pressure to achieve has made cheating a “survival skill” and 2) they don’t know it’s cheating because concepts such as plagiarism and attribution are foreign to them as a result of Web 2.0 and social media’s interactive nature, mashups, file sharing, etc.
I didn’t read all the comments, but #2 from George Canada was especially interesting.
I doubt that anything has changed. At Berkeley in the academic year 1952-53 my teaching assistant in an American History course said “Mr C—-, if you don’t start bringing cheat notes to the exams, you’ll get a B in this course.” I looked as astonished as I was, I suppose, since he went on to say something like “don’t you know that everyone else is bring in notes and cheat sheets?” I didn’t know and I didn’t act and I did get a B in that course. In a psychology course I apparently got the highest or very high mark: the professor said “you must have brought in the perfect cheat sheets.”
Perhaps what we are seeing today is the cumulative effect of cheaters raising cheaters, so that the act itself is becoming more pervasive, more blatant, more socially acceptable, technology-enabled and therefore much easier.
Perhaps it really is no big deal, as we keep being told by those who do it; perhaps it has always been pervasive, as George Canada’s experience leads us to believe.
Perhaps I’m behind the times and test scores are more important than learning; perhaps cheating is a necessary skill in today’s world.
What do you think?
Image credit: Hariadhi on Wikipedia Commons