Posted by: crudbasher | April 1, 2015

Some Thoughts About Cheating At College

Consider this: H/T Mercurynews

[Stanford] University Provost John Etchemendy on Tuesday sent a letter to faculty and teaching staff that pointed to “an unusually high number of troubling allegations of academic dishonesty” reported to the school’s Office of Community Standards at the end of the quarter.
Among “a smattering of concerns from a number of winter courses,” he said, one faculty member reported allegations that may involve as many as 20 percent of the students enrolled in one of Stanford’s large introductory courses.

[…]

“In violating academic integrity,” Etchemendy wrote, “they are cheating themselves of the very core of our mission — the process of learning and discovery — as well as risking severe consequences.”

Of course cheating in school isn’t new so is this news? I think it is for a few reasons. First, it appears to be widespread and second, it is much easier to do with technology. Most importantly though is why are students doing this?

  1. It’s easy. Students are used to sharing things with each other and technology make it easier than ever.
  2. We live in a society of abundance. Students are awash in information, most of it for free. They are used to looking up information when they don’t know it and then forgetting it as soon as they are done. School is different because we ask them to remember things.
  3. They realize that information has no implicit value if everyone has it.
  4. Many of them might be unprepared for the level of work required and in desperation take the easy way past. With the amount of money they have paid, failure is not an option.

All those contribute to cheating but the most important reason can be found in Mr. Etchemendy’s comment. “In violating academic integrity,” Etchemendy wrote, “they are cheating themselves of the very core of our mission — the process of learning and discovery

That is how Provosts talk eh? Well I have news for him, these students don’t think like that. They look at college as a means to an end at best, and an obstacle at worst. They have never been taught to appreciate knowledge for its own sake because it has never been sold that way. We try to cram all sorts of subjects into a student in K-12, the vast majority of which they have no interest in, nor desire to learn. They do it because they have to and only put in enough effort to pass the class. This kills the natural desire to learn and turns it into a chore. It is no surprise to me then that when students finally leave home and go to college, they just want to get past it so they can get a job. Oh sure, they enjoy the social parts of it I suppose but I don’t think they view education the same way as our esteemed Provost.

It is this disconnect coupled with ever increasing costs that are going to make more and more young people skip college and find their own learning. They key to connecting with students again is to teach them what they want to know, when they want to know it. And do it cheaply with very low risk.

Obviously one cannot generalize all students this way, I am speculating instead about the ones who cheat. Those seem to be growing in number so it’s something to be concerned about.

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Responses

  1. This makes me incredibly sad. This: “They look at college as a means to an end at best, and an obstacle at worst. They have never been taught to appreciate knowledge for its own sake because it has never been sold that way.” begins at home. When I was young (a hundred or so years ago) and when my parents were young, going to college was an achievement. IF you worked hard and IF you were well rounded, you would gain admittance to college so that you could further your education. Learning was not a chore, it was a pleasure, college a reward for hard work. Through learning, you could better yourself. Whether it be a tech school or university, by continuing to learn you could make a better life. While primary, middle and high school were given to us, it was what you did with that that would determine your path.

    My son’s generation was the first to have to pass a test to graduate high school. Since then, it seems, we have taken primary, middle and high school and turned them into test-prep centers. Many of the books that I see college English, Humanities and Philosophy students reading, I read in middle and high school. Evidently there is no time left for the type of well-rounded education that was given to us and it ‘s the students who suffer for it. They get to college and are often shell-shocked by how much work they must do and how little of it is spoon-fed.

    Have we failed our children in taking the emphasis off of, and not instilling a love of, learning? Have we become so concerned with “passing the test” that we have stripped the joy that can be found inside a book? Are we doing a disservice by handing them an iPad as soon as they can toddle or letting them plop in front of an X-box as they get older rather than encouraging them to use their imaginations?

    I agree with the Provost. A student’s “job” is learning and discovery. It just seems they are no longer brought up that way. This is how it should be from the beginning to the end of their education. That attitude must be fostered at all levels and reinforced at home.

  2. Jules, that was a fantastic comment! If you notice the trend in education over your life it has been towards more factory model, more centralized control. Notice then in a factory, nobody cares if the product has fun. We just have to meet the quota right? Eventually the students notice this. It’s just a big game that everyone plays. Sometimes, people like the provost, forget it’s a game.

    I agree that love of learning starts at home. In my case I’m going to homeschool so it will continue at home too.

  3. 50 years ago when I was at Stanford, there was no cheating at all .
    We would take our blue books and go anywhere but never talk to anybody .


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