I must be getting old.
When I was in college, and then again in graduate school, there was a simple expectation. I was there to learn, the university was there to help me learn. They do that through centuries’ old methods — teaching in classrooms, testing on that material, and occasionally having some hands-on experiences in the laboratory or on computers.
This isn’t rocket science (unless you’re studying rocket science).
So why was I so surprised when I watched the video (linked to below) where a professor teaching a management class discovered a statistical anomaly while grading his classes’ midterm exams. His startling findings? Rampant cheating.
Because a kind of amnesty was offered to the class of 530 students, over 200 students eventually admitted to cheating on the midterm. That’s 38 percent of the class, or more than 1 in 3 students.
Cheating is probably as old as teaching itself. But what isn’t old is the spread of cheating to become almost commonplace at some schools. While many universities have “honor codes” that keep a damper on cheating, other schools do not.
Cheating is often justified and rationalized with a whole host of reasons. The professor or teaching assistant stinks. The class is boring. It’s a required course, but has nothing to do with my career goals. Etc. etc. While these all sound good as shallow excuses, they don’t justify the behavior.
What cheating reinforces is a disregard for the rules and for operating within accepted rules. That’s great if you want to be an anarchist, or live on a deserted island. But if you want to live in normal society, you’re going to find people who disregard the rules usually end up in prison or become very successful Wall Street business people.
If you’re at university for the right reasons — because you actually want to learn something — cheating is ultimately only hurting you. (Although in this case, it’s also hurting your classmates, where everyone will be required to re-take the mid-term exam, with all new questions.)
Most students are ostensibly at school to learn. If you don’t want to learn, you shouldn’t be at the university or college — it’s that simple. Go do what you want to do with your life, and free open that spot for some other student who actually wants to go to school to learn.
I’m stunned by this incident primarily because of its magnitude. While I expect a certain percentage of students will always cheat on an exam when given the opportunity, I wouldn’t expect well over a third of a classroom to do so.
Yes, I must be getting old. I’m used to playing “by the rules” in life and in when I went to school. I hope I’m not alone.
View the 15 minute video here: Video: 200 students admit cheating after professor’s online rant