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Leadership’s Future: Cheating Required?

by Miki Saxon

cheatingCheating 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

3 Responses to “Leadership’s Future: Cheating Required?”
  1. DenisNo Gravatar Says:

    I think it actually is another effect of the ability of the human brain to ignore inconvenient facts. Ignore the cheating, ignore the doping in sports to be able to enjoy the show…

    In any case, the digital age does not go away. It is up to the education system to make tests that render that kind of cheating irrelevant. Also attributing is something that needs to be learned and rewarded in the exam. I suspect quite a few teachers correct essays based on the number of keywords they find in it rather than on the construction, language and ideas expressed in them. And this may be a simple effect of having low expectations or too many students in each class.

  2. Miki SaxonNo Gravatar Says:

    Hi Denis, You’re probably right, but I’d hate to be treated by a doctor or hire a lawyer who achieved their degree through cheating.

    Cheating isn’t a function of the digital age; what’s needed is an attitude change in the administration of education. One that focuses on what has been learned (AKA comprehended) as opposed to what can be regurgitated on demand. As to attribution, I’ve been in contact with several people who didn’t even know what it meant in a Creative Commons copyright and a couple of them weren’t so young.

    You hit it on the head regarding low expectations; we usually get what we expect.

  3. MAPping Company Success Says:

    […] is nothing new, and perhaps the fact that cheating is so universal at all levels of school is partly responsible […]

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