Thursday, November 18, 2010


So a friend from BYU classes recently posted a couple of links about cheating in higher education. You can find them here and here (thanks, Nathan).

Now, this is a sensitive topic, right? Cheating is bad! We all know it. But who is at fault? And who are the victims?

You can blame the grading- and degree-oriented university system. Or the students. Or the students' parents. Or the people (like the writer of the first article) who facilitate cheating in all of its sneaky incarnations. Frankly, they're all at fault. Well, I'm less inclined to blame the university system. I loved my college experience and found what most people do: you get out of it what you put in.

And really, I'm okay with other people getting degrees they didn't really earn. I don't care if someone I'm competing with for a job is secretly a total moron. The employer will realize it at some point, pay for their hiring mistake, and ta-dah, one more job opening for me. It evens out. And I honestly don't mind if some jerk cheats his way to a master's and gets to wear the hood and I didn't. What I pay for with work, some people pay for with money.

It's a life choice, like being a stay-at-home mom vs. daycare. You pay for daycare, and you miss out on a lot of things. I'm not saying it's cheating at motherhood or anything, I'm just saying that paying someone else to do it will never be the same as doing it yourself.

But there are losers in this cycle:

Universities lose credibility in the world when they unknowingly graduate incompetents. Students applying to prestigious programs, scholarships, etc. lose when a cheater with a better record takes a spot that might have been theirs. Society loses by rewarding the unethical. Oh, and if these people reproduce, their offspring lose.

Oh right, and the patients of doctors and nurses who cheated through their training—their patients lose, and sometimes it's everything.

So who can stop it?

It starts with parents teaching kids the importance of honesty. Students, of course, can stop cheating. But there will always be dishonorable people. Honor codes and honor systems help, but again, there will always be some amount of scumbaggery no matter what. So we come to the system, which (IMHO) in no way creates the cheaters or the cheating.

Technology has made a lot of things easier for Universities. Thanks to scantrons and other auto-grading technology, testing centers, plus computer evaluation and communications, cheating is easier to commit, not just practically, but guilt-wise, too. Cheating to a computer screen or bubble sheet has got to be way easier than cheating to a face. So when it really counts, why not take the time to interview your students? Take five minutes and see if they can talk the talk. And for Pete's sake, don't make your students jump through so many hoops they feel like they have to cheat just to finish the game. I am talking to YOU, BYU language programs.

But really, that's expecting a little much out of the university system to cure all of our ills and talk face to face with every student. Tuition would skyrocket if that amount of time and effort had to go into every education.

So we can put some pressure on parents to teach honor, students to stop being a-holes, and universities to be face-to-face with more of their students (come on, couldn't the educational system use more of that?), but I opine that the single most massive impact comes from the facilitators. Guy-who-found-the-test-key-and-is-selling-it and egotistical-Ghost-essay-writer-man are spreading the plague. These guys make it possible for money to turn into good grades. They facilitate cheating for those who just wouldn't bother if it were harder. Just like if you make MJ legal, more people will smoke it, if you make cheating easy, more people will do it.

The problem is that the people in charge of regulating these people are themselves, and they are already chief majors in the scumbag hierarchy. We have no control over these guys, because they pretty much have no souls. You can't teach them, guilt them, commit them, or litigate them into quitting their douchebag ways. Right?

So what do we do? Do you care if people cheat? I had more to say about it than would fit in a facebook comment box, so if you do, link me to your blog on the topic. I want to know what you think, especially my friends in academia.

<selfrighteousness>For the record, I never cheated during my academic career. *takes a bow*</selfrighteousness>

1 comment:

Xan said...

me neither! i don't get cheating. it doesn't really help you in the end, because you still won't really know the information. there were times i wished i could cheat...but then the guilt complex set it...and i couldn't. i just hated knowing that i knew the answer, but couldn't think of it when i needed it. oh well.