I may have mentioned before that I subscribe to a few email lists dedicated to somewhat out-of-the-way topics. One of these is a list for people interested in the ancient Greek and Latin languages and literatures. Of course, in the nature of the case, many of my fellow listers are paid schoolmasters (though a surprising number are not). As a result, questions of interest only to the schoolmaster guild take up a fair amount of time on the list.

Several topics recur. Two of the most perennial are 1) How do you keep kids from cheating and plagiarizing in these here Interwebb days, and 2) How can we keep our jobs when nobody wants to learn Latin and Greek?

The two questions collided interestingly in a recent post:

I have a distinct memory of busting a college student back in about 2006 who had cheated from the online Wheelock(*) answer key, and I put so much immortal terror in him he actually dropped the class a week later. I call that a success.

Dear reader, I did not make this up, or change, or omit, a word of it. This is a schoolmaster who is happy about having caused so much ‘terror’ in a student that the student dropped the course, and will probably hate the whole idea of Classical studies for the rest of his life. The lipsmacking tone of the narrative, and the police phraseology — ‘busting’ — depressingly ice the dismal cake.

Really, I think the point may have arrived where we must destroy education in order to save it.

(*) A fine old students’ Latin grammar. I learned Latin out of it, which tells you just how old it is, if not how fine.

14 thoughts on “Busted!

  1. Yes, we probably ought to destroy education, at least as it is now. I used to hear all the time from my college’s standard bearers about all the cheating and how you had to be vigilant, weeding these scoundrels out, like you’d be sure to rid your yard of all those unsightly dandelions. No punishment was too severe for cheaters. These cheating haters were always the ones who kept insisting that we had to maintain standards. Things were always going downhill fast, and we had to be on our guard lest our degrees became so undervalued that we couldn’t look ourselves in the mirror. I pretty much never cared much about cheating, or about standards. Probably why bozos like Corey Robin think so little of me. Oh well. Life goes on.

    BTW, I was on a Nation of Islam radio show out of Chicago yesterday. The host, Sister Ava Muhammad, couldn’t say enough bad things about capitalism. When I told a caller from Los Angeles that she should use her finance degree to serve the people, she thanked me for such good advice!! And last week, in my class of union brothers and sisters at UMass, everyone was really excited about Marx. The class got me a copy of the book, Love and Capital, about old Karl and Jenny. Great story, well told.

    • While I can agree with some points made here regarding the state of “education”, I still think perhaps this is something we should be concerned about.

      As it is, our education system is turning out graduates which, for all intents and purposes, are rock-stupid. Add cheating into the mix — not to mention the recent scandals surrounding kids paying people to ghost-write their university application essays — and you’re cruising for a world o’ hurt.

      I’d be especially concerned if it were people like doctors, lawyers or engineers. I know I’d be worried about the doctor treating my wife’s diabetes, or the lawyer defending me in court, or the engineer given the job of designing a bridge, wondering if they really knew what they were doing, or were totally faking it because they never really studied their craft, but skated through school by cheating on exams.

      Still, in a way, given the current Common Core tyranny and relentless high-stakes standardized testing, I can totally envision cheating as a form of civil disobedience. If your parents don’t have the sense to opt you out of the tests, and you’re fed up with being stressed out over it, then why not just cheat on the motherfucker? Hell, your teacher’s probably encouraging and facilitating it, anyway, so she can keep her job, right?

      And as far as that goes… in terms of the Common Core standardized test oppression, why not go the other way, and deliberately throw the test? Pick random answers and flunk the sonofabitch on purpose.

    • Cheating in an online exam… just trying to get my head around that concept makes my brain melt. I mean, wouldn’t an online exam be a bit like the “open-book” tests we sometimes got back in school? You know, where they were supposedly also testing our skills in note-taking or the use of study/reference materials by allowing us to look up the answers, or something like that? (I actually did well on those, as I quickly became really obsessive about note-taking in class)

  2. I’m going to pull a Paul Krugman and, as he often does on his blog, quote myself. Here, from the old SMBIVA site — not a reference to college, but still relevant, methinks:

    “Cheating was wonderfully common in my high school, and it actually revealed some of the best of human traits. Some of my intrepid clasmates would risk expulsion to steal a test, then make sure to share it with a study group made of up less brave souls like myself. There was also a remarkable willingness on the part of kids who knew the answers to reveal them, through some kind of code during the test, to those of us who didn’t. It was the antithesis of hyper-competitve individualism. It was decency and generosity, and at no small risk. It was “from each…to each…”

    My, how everything good and compassionate gets demonized, condemned, and snuffed out.”

  3. Let’s ” allow ” higher ED
    The ignomy of destroying itself
    This anecdote is encouraging along those lines

    We need to hot foot the corporates
    and that hallowed task
    will take all our limited human resources

  4. The picture is reminiscent, and one of my brothers -while teaching at Temple- probably wished to avail…

    As it goes, a simple statement from late grandfather –

    ‘kill that fish’

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