The Broad is Back!

July 20, 2007

Cheating drives me nuts!

Filed under: New Broads,students — by maggiec @ 6:46 pm

Sorry I’ve been AWOL again.  I wrote a bunch of stuff and wanted to spread it out, and then I got caught up in this summer’s teaching and lost track.  But here’s something I really have been wanting to sound off about.  So here you go:

I’d like to interrupt these cultural musings with something on cheating.  As long as there have been students, there has been academic cheating, but the Internet has brought cheating up to a whole new level.  It seems that in every course I teach, I find at least one cheater, usually many more.

I can threaten, I can cajole, I can yell, and I can throw the little buggers out of my class, but it doesn’t seem to help.  My department in Sweden makes the students sign a contract that they won’t cheat.  Doesn’t help.  They all know it’s wrong, of course.  How could they miss that fact?

Recently, I had a student who wrote about it.  This is quoted from a paper by Shelly Lin, one of my Taiwanese students from Fu Jen Catholic University:  “According to a  survey, more than 60% of college students have cheated and 72% of them don’t feel bad about cheating, which means that college students have already accepted cheating as a normal phenomenon during exams.  In the mean time, the main problem of cheating is that almost every student regards cheating as a common situation in the colleges; no one  is willing  to expose it. However, according to the campus rules, cheating actually could be punished seriously and the cheaters could even  be expelled from school. But the problem is that no one takes it seriously.  No one believes that they would be really punished by the rules if caught cheating. In other words, the major suspect to foster the cheating behavior is school’s supervisors. They don’t implement the campus rules seriously. As a result, students take it for granted and don’t care about those punishments. So loose control from the supervisors of campus abets the fashion of cheating.”

OK, maybe there are some teachers out there who don’t care about cheating.  But I haven’t met them yet.  All of my colleagues are vigilant about it.  And most of us take it quite personally when we catch someone cheating in our classes.  I always ask, “I’m sorry, but how stupid do you think I am?”  I always see a student cheating as an insult to my intelligence.  Did they think I wouldn’t notice they had copied?

In the past weeks, I’ve been finishing grading for the semester, and I found the experience rather disheartening.  Far too many students had cheated by copying other people’s homework.  When I called them on it, many wrote me quite indignant that I would accuse them of cheating.  Hm, the homework, which called for some imagination on their part, was identical, down to the typos, to that of other students’  on-line work handed in earlier.  How did I know who handed in the work first?  I asked that the engineer check the uploading times.  This is computer technology we’re talking here.  Getting a date  and time stamp is the easiest thing in the world.

How stupid is it to cheat on exercises?  On homework that is solely for their own benefit and is only worth 1 or 2% of their final grade?  I won’t go into the spiel on how cheating only hurts the cheater and yadda yadda yadda.  You all know that.  But it has me wondering.

Why cheat?  Why not cheat is more the question for too many people.  One of my favorite soap boxes is that we’re living in the beginning of the end of Liberal Humanistic Civilization (a mouthful, I know, but the only other option is Western Civilization, and that’s not quite it, either).  The metaphorical Huns are coming.  This doesn’t bother me, per se.  Jerusalem fell, Babylon fell, Greece fell, Rome fell.  Hell, the Soviet Union fell.  That’s what civilizations do after a while.  People move on, life progresses or changes and history keeps going.  That’s natural, and it would be hubris for us to think that our civilization would survive when others could not.   What makes us special?

And change doesn’t have to be for the worse.  Greece supplanted Rome, but both had good points.  Change doesn’t mean decay, it just means change.  But changes happened because people didn’t worry or care about the society’s standards anymore.  One of my favorite quotes that I give to students is a paraphrase of Edith Hamilton, the great scholar of Roman civilization.  I don’t have the exact quote, but she said something like Romans wanted freedom and responsibility, but when they wanted freedom from responsibility, Rome fell.

When people want life to be easy, effortless and fun, and they are over five years old, they are asking for trouble.  I’m not saying life should be miserable.  I love fun!  But I also appreciate challenge and hard work.  There is satisfaction gained in pushing one’s self, on straining, on reaching.  On accomplishing something we never thought we could do through the sweat of our brow, metaphorical or physical.  And far too many people today have forgotten this.

It makes me sad that so many students opt to take the easy path.  And I refuse to lower my standards or stop my vigilance.  Of course, I do feel as if I’m fighting a losing battle, but I also feel that I’m fighting the good fight, doing my bit to keep “Civilization” limping along for a bit longer.  It’s not that I’m not curious about seeing what will come next.  What will become the new dominant civilization in the West?  No, I want to know.  But the sticking point is that the transitional times between great civilizations have never been so great.  Wars, famine, slaughter, confusion, those are the keywords of civilizations clashing.  That’s not so interesting.  It’s like the old chestnut goes: everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die.

All this because some students insulted me by cheating.  Ah, the thoughts they unleash when they do that. I bet they would never guess.



  1. What you’re talking about is “integrity”, which seems to be in short supply these days. One of my pet peeves also. If you don’t have integrity, you don’t have much!

    Comment by Danny M — July 21, 2007 @ 4:29 pm |Reply

  2. Believe it or not, when I told my friends and students that I have never cheated, they all laughed at me and characterized me as someone “rigid” and boring.
    I just wonder why these cheaters would make efforts in finding the easy path instead of spending time on their obligation. Especially after I realized how students could be creative in cheating and how they could be meticulously cautious in cheating so as not to be busted by the teachers, I became totally baffled…why would they rather investigate ways of cheating than prepare and invest with their own sweat?
    You’re right, it is humiliating to the teachers. How stupid do they think we teachers are, and how smart do they consider themselves to be?

    Comment by Julia — July 24, 2007 @ 5:42 am |Reply

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