Monday, November 01, 2010

No Sharing Calculators...No Water Bottles...

Peter Gray has a post up this week on *cheaters* with a special emphasis on scientists.

Essentially, he asserts that the very structure of curricula-bound, grade-focused schools cultivates academic foul play - from grade school right through the working years.

Our system of compulsory (forced) schooling is almost perfectly designed to promote cheating. That is even truer today than in times past. Students are required to spend way more time than they wish doing work that they did not choose, that bores them, that seems purposeless to them. They are constantly told about the value of high grades. Grades are used as essentially the sole motivator. Everything is done for grades. Advancement through the system, and eventual freedom from it, depends upon grades.

Students become convinced that high grades and advancement to the next level are the be-all and end-all of their school work. By the time they are 11 or 12 years old, most are realistically cynical about the idea that school is fundamentally a place for learning. They realize that much of what they are required to do is senseless and that they will forget most of what they are tested on shortly after the test. They see little direct connection--because there usually is none--between their school assignments and the real world in which they live. They learn that their own questions and interests don't count. What counts are their abilities to provide the "correct" answers to questions that they did not ask and that do not interest them. And "correct" means the answers that the teachers or the test-producers are looking for, not answers that the students really understand to be correct.

In many cases the rules about what is and isn't cheating in school are arbitrary and have nothing to do with learning. If you create a summary sheet of the terms and facts relevant to a test and then consult that sheet while taking the test, you have cheated. However, if you create such a sheet and commit it to a form of short-term memory that lasts just long enough for the test and then vanishes, you have not cheated. If you create a term paper by copying out large chunks of other people's writing and pasting them together, that is cheating; but if you do essentially the same thing and then paraphrase sufficiently rather than use the copied paragraphs exactly, that is not cheating.

Students understand that the rules distinguishing cheating from not cheating in school are like the rules of a game. But in this case it's a game that they did not choose to play. They are forced to go to school, forced to do the assignments, forced to take the tests. They have little or no say in what they study, how they are tested, or the rules concerning what is or isn't cheating. Under these conditions, it's hard to respect the rules.

Not surprisingly, surveys show that cheating is very common in schools. In fact, if "normal" means what most people do, then school cheating is normal. On anonymous questionnaires, as many as 98% of students admit to some form of cheating and roughly 70% percent admit to repeated acts of the most blatant forms of cheating, such as copying whole tests from other students or plagiarizing whole papers.

The surveys also reveal an overall increase in amount of cheating in recent years and a shift in who does most of it. In times past, the most frequent cheaters were the "poor students," who cheated out of desperation just to pass. Today, however, the highest incidences of cheating are among the "best students," the ones destined for the top colleges and graduate schools...

One of the tragedies of our system of schooling is that it deflects students from discovering what they truly love and find worth doing for its own sake. Instead, it teaches them that life is a series of hoops that one must get through, by one means or another, and that success lies in others' judgments rather than in real, self-satisfying accomplishments.

I guess you are supposed to read the cheat sheet (video) when drinking the water???

Thanks to my SoPhilly Jabronis for bringing this to my attention.


Anne Galivan said...

I love how you're supposed to "carfully" handle the label. Kind of explains the whole cheating thing, doesn't it?

justin time said...

If someone needs a step-by-step instructional video to figure this trick out, they are indeed stupid and will most-likely find another way to flunk the test.

By the time you go through all the effort preparing this water bottle contraption, you could have just studied the material.

Deep Thought said...

Thought about you when I read this -

CaptiousNut said...


And I credited you (and your bro) at the end of the post. Thanks.