Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Cheating and drugs are the same thing but opposite. With drugs, DOING something affects you later in life; with cheating NOT DOING something affects you later in life.

Anthony made this statement Monday on the way home from school, and I thought it sounded quoteworthy. It was a frustrating day for him. There'd been a sub in advocacy class, and other kids spent their time talking about methods they use for cheating on tests. Later in the day he had a quiz on the first 11 chapters of Huckleberry Finn, which he was to read over the weekend and which he spent a lot of time on. After class another student, one who got 6 out of 5 on the quiz, told Anthony he had skipped the reading assignment and just read the "SparkNotes" summary. There's another student in his AP (Advanced Placement = college level) Chemistry class who cheats on everything and BRAGS about the fact that he KNOWS NOTHING about Chemistry, a class in which he has an A. Then there's the kid who calls Anthony regularly asking him for answers to homework. Anthony offers to HELP him figure things out, but this kid just wants answers. Anthony says "no;" the kid asks "why?" Anthony answers, "Because it's cheating, and it's wrong." Yet although he gets the same answer every time, this kid keeps boldly calling and trying again!

For lots of reasons this is REALLY frustrating Anthony. He is putting in a lot of time and effort, and others are not but there are no consquences (at least not immediate consequences). Anthony will be competing for spots in colleges with these kids, and if they all have similar GPA's there is nothing to distinguish the kids who EARNED the grades from the ones who cheated, so he may lose a spot to someone with the same GPA who didn't earn it. He's also just disappointed because, at the AP level, Anthony thought he was among peers who shared his vision and values and interest in learning and is saddened to see more and more that this is not the case.

SO as we drove home we had the classic talk about how cheaters are really cheating themselves and how his life is now and will later be RICHER for the work he is doing - both through what he is learning and due to what this hard work now is training him for in terms of life in general - and how it's just important to do the right thing no matter what, which he will. (Being who I am I extended this to the current economic conditions of our country having come from greed and selfishness and - let's be honest - stupidity, and living for the moment instead of considering long-term consequences). That's when Anthony made the statement above, which I thought was quoteworthy.

I know cheating has been going on as long as there has been something to cheat on, and I'm just deluding myself if I think that's going to change, but that doesn't make it OK. Not only as a mother but as a fellow teacher I give this CHALLENGE to other teachers. Make it harder for kids to cheat: give frequent short pop quizzes on the basic concepts (and watch the kids while they take the quiz), make up questions on quizzes and tests that could only be answered by having read the book and not just the "SparkNotes" . . . and then be gutsy enough to do something about it if it becomes clear cheating is going on! If a kid acing your class fails every little pop quiz on the basics . . . uh . . . hmm . . .


ANECDOTE: I think a lot of people don't think this is a big deal - that it's just expected - a rite of passage - something "everybody" does. (Although I have to wonder how they would feel about having a doctor who cheating in order to pass his medical board test!) As a child I attended a Christian school. I remember one occasion in which students were caught cheating. The teacher sternly lectured the class about that being wrong, and the students were actually bold enough to answer back and even supported their "position" using scripture. They said, "The Bible says to love your neighbor as yourself. Isn't it more important that we help other people than it is not to cheat?" They used THE BIBLE to justify cheating! If that can happen, maybe my "challenge" is hopeless, but I need to put it out there anyway.


Tony said...

Ther is a chapter in the book "Freakonomics" about teachers cheating and why the system encourages them to cheat. It starts young and doesn't necessarily stop as people get older.

You (and probably Anthony and the rest of your family) would probably really enjoy not only that chapter, but the book as well.

Anonymous said...

For what it is worth, I am really proud of Anthony...not just for doing what he knows is right, but for standing up for his beliefs to his peer. I wish our society had more young people like him...and the rest of his wonderful family. I love the quote Anthony. You are absolutely right!


Heidi said...

Thanks for the comments Tony and Tiffany!

I'm in a bit of a funk over this (as you can tell!).

It is true that teachers are encouraged to cheat too - in some sense given NCLB and the emphasis on testing I ALMOST can't blame them. There is no time to EXPLORE and LEARN because so much must be teaching to the test, and if your students don't score well ON THE TEST (who cares if they actually KNOW anything useful) either you as a teacher or your school are implicated - lose funding - are labeled a "low performing school."

You even kind of shoot yourself in the foot if your class makes too much progress one year, because if you don't improve by THAT MUCH AGAIN next year - even if you've improved a lot and then improve some more - you've lost instead of won.

I wish we could scrap the whole educational system and start over. What a bureaucratic mess!! The way things are serves NO ONE!

Down with NCLB!!


A bunch of stuff like this happened - including the cheating - also stuff in youth group that shouldn't be happening - also a situation in his math class (kids there who have just been passed on, which is a mess for everyone) - and another situation that isn't right in which there is no justice in sight - the selfishness and stupidity that has our economy and that of the world where it is - etc.

Well, it's part of that fallen world we live in, huh? So I guess the best we can do is our best to keep our little light shining and do the right thing and hope some others follow suit!

Anthony WILL keep doing the right thing. It's who he is, and there's not a bone in his body that could even fathom otherwise. He's my son, but he's also my hero - yeah - no kidding about standing up to peers.

I'll have to read Freakonomics - have heard of it but didn't know anything about it.

I will try to move on from my current despair. I have some "happy posts" lined up for the near future!

(I always kind of feel I have done the world a disservice when I put up a negative post. There's enough negativity out there, and I want to mostly have positive stuff emanating from this site. But right now . . . I guess I felt it just needed to be said - the gauntlet thrown down.)

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