To CHEAT or not to CHEAT? That is the question.
Sophocles would rather “fail with honor than to win by cheating.” W.C. Fields contests that “anything worth having is worth cheating for.” Even Tommy Lasorda quips “Nah, we don’t cheat. And even if we did, I wouldn’t tell you!”
Next week is Final Exam week. Our school’s faculty collaboration network is buzzing about how we should be aware of would-be crib-sheet enablers. We should be cognizant to the fact that the average Faith Lutheran student cradles their iPhone neatly in their hoodie posket next to the pack of gum they shouldn’t be chewing. So shortly after Christmas break and officially into the new year, our first resolutions include rounds of that tried and true game: “Name that Cheater.”
Granted, Faith Lutheran has the benefit over the average public school of having primed paint on the walls and a nicely designed iron gate between the road and the students’ neatly parked SUVs and BMWs. We’re cozy…and those padded walls that keep us warm when there is a draft, and sheltered from the evils of the world are also the same walls that are sometimes so tall, that we forget that there is another side to them.
An alumni recently visited me and made the comment about how college is SO different than she ever imagined. I inquired how. She said that people there don’t care so much about stupid things like the girls at Faith did when she attended school. I delved further. “You know…their hair. The brand they wear. What type of phone, what type of car. They just don’t care what other people think.” She said that at first it kinda turned her off of the whole college scene. But after a while, this forced independence was nothing more than…well, refreshing. Apparently the “alternative to the public high school education” wore on her and she never knew just how much so until she left the nest.
Perhaps it’s a good problem to have, to be too sheltered. I can imagine the side effects, however. I mean (and with all due respect) take EVERY home-schooled student you’ve ever met. They’re either brilliant and highly functional, above-average, thoughtful individuals….or they’re awkward, antisocial wallflowers that never break out of their shell.
Back to final exams. I don’t like ’em, truth be told. First and foremost, I have A.D.D. I’m diagnosed, I take medicine, and I’ve learned to live with and love my disorder. I find myself harnessing the creative outpouring of thought that approaches my everyday from a vastly different perspective than most people….and I LOVE that. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I would say that it is the reason why the conventional testing situation is hard to approach by me. But, just like a theatrical audition is never anything more than a subjective means by which to determine a cast… taking a test an effective way of evaluating ones scope of understanding? Hardly, I would argue. (That is unless you testing ones ability to regurgitate facts.) I suppose a separate posting on that topic would be appropriate.
Our school requires final exams. I’m fine with that. But I’m not fine with the fact that we live in a world (or in my case work in an environment) where cheating is a problem. There’s always going to be unfair advantages. Always. But, for the majority of students, getting caught cheating on the final would garnish not nearly as much punishment as getting a failing grade for the semester. So, the risk is low enough to consider that tiny crib-sheet.
Blind texting, selling answers off of last-year’s exams…stolen exams….crib sheets. I’ve hear of some pretty interesting cheating methods. (Hiding answers under a large band-aid on the arm. Writing the answers on the bottom of the INSIDE of a Starbuck cup…and putting a shallow pool of liquid in the cup so that on the onset, all appears normal. But when the student takes a “drink”…they’re staring at the answers. Pretty slick!)
I can’t help but think that we’re approaching the cheating issue in a counter-productive way. What is cheating all about anyway? Break it down. Students want a “good” grade. Why don’t they study? Maybe it’s easier that way. Maybe they’re lazy. Maybe they’re uninterested. Perhaps bogged down. Perhaps family expectations create an overbearing stigma. Whatever the reason…we need to set up a cross fire of dialogue with our students about that cheating is really about.
It’s NOT about the test or the class…or the grade. It’s about the student’s character, integrity, morals, and personal self-worth and expectations. On top of all that, and most importantly, God doesn’t want you to cheat. I would rather take an honest D- over a cheated A, any day. (To paraphrase Sophocles.) But kids don’t work that way. They have a hard time thinking past their own noses.
I was the same way. I totally cheated in high school. (I wrote the answers to the test on the FLAP of my high top Chuck Taylors and sat cross-legged on the floor to take the test. Easy access.) Yeah…totally got caught. At the time I recall freaking out and my heart beating hard. I was taken to the principals office…got a Saturday detention and received a zero on my exam. Sucky. But, today…looking back….I can’t even recall what CLASS it was in. I knew it was a Math class of some kind, because it was Mr. Kastle that busted me. But, it’s amazingly insignificant NOW in the big picture. I remain ashamed that I did that. That’s not the type of guy I am. I don’t cheat. I don’t take the easy way out of anything. And that moment still weighs heavy on my heart as a time I KNEW what was right and wrong…and I fell short.
So, the question remains…how to you effectively impress upon a student that the true reason to attempt an honest final exam has nothing to do with right or wrong answers….but rather, their character? How does that talk start?
I suppose that conversation in a private school would be different that, say at an inner-city, public school. Most students carry their “get out of jail free” cards with them everywhere at Faith Lutheran. Parental bail outs are common and holding their students accountable is becoming less an option in order for these proud papas and mamas to save face. From the student’s perspective, the consequences after getting caught are not great. Their approach to the standardized (and mediocre) means by which to effectively evaluate a student’s knowledge retention….is just as “everyday” as sneaking onto the Internet after mom and dad go to sleep to chat with their 24 year old cyber-boyrfirend/girlfriend. It’s super easy. It’s also super scary.
Impressing the importance of a student’s SELF-WORTH with regards to their character is not an easy thing to do. They already hate the amount of homework you assign them! How about this:
Leviticus 6: 1 The LORD said to Moses: 2 “If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, 3 or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do- 4 when he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to him, or the lost property he found, 5 or whatever it was he swore falsely about. He must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day he presents his guilt offering.
Oh no…he didn’t go Biblical!
As teachers, if we DON’T share with students that final, all encompassing reason for NOT cheating….as parents, if you don’t reinforce with supplemental consequences that same philosophy…cheating will always be a huge problem. WHY? Because it’s too easy and the risk of getting caught is too small. Enron officials cheat and it’s a scandal. Celebrities cheat and their faces are on every magazine and television in the country. Students cheat…..they get a slight slap on the hand….maybe. They’re not scared.
There not way to express to students that the ULTIMATE TEST is the test of Faith, and I’m sorry….but there are NO pockets in your heavenly robe for blind texts and crib sheets.
“He’ll cheat without scruple, who can without fear.” – Benjamin Franklin