Cheater Pie

At one level, the ongoing effort to stop cheating in college (To Stop Cheats, Colleges Learn Their Trickery) is simply the ongoing effort to get relatively young adults to take their life seriously. In that sense,there’s nothing to worry about because most students eventually start taking their lives seriously. At some point, the game of college inevitably gets consequential.

The myth of the frat boy conning and cheating his way through college is just that, largely a myth. At another level, though, cheating is an inevitable by-product of mass education– or, at least, of the worse aspects of mass education. If a teacher gives the same generic assignment on Shakespeare every semester for twenty years (“Discuss the role of the Jester in…”) it’s easy to buy the paper.

Reasonable class sizes and workloads make this less likely, of course. As the article notes, too, in writing a lot of cheating– plagiarism– can be eliminated with a good explanation of how and when to cite your sources. It’s the multiple choice test that’s really at the heart of all of the anxiety about cheating, becuase it’s so technically simple. There’s no ambiguity about the answers.

I imagine that a lot of students at these high-stakes schools would be tempted to cheat even when they have a fairly good grasp of the material. At the top of the status pyramid seemingly incremental changes in grade point averages could– or could seem to–have all sorts of repercussions. It’s that pressure that makes cheating as American as apple pie- or steroids …

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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