Cheating Is Cheating, But Why Does It Happen?

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There was an interesting back and forth this week in the Washington Post’s The Answer Sheet  surrounding the topic of cheating. The first take on the topic was by Penelope Trunk who kicked things off with an article titled Why Schools Should Relax About Cheating.  Strunk, a successful entrepreneur with two successful startups under her belt, noted the following:

In school, looking at someone else’s paper to get the right answer is forbidden.  But in the work world, the people who rise the fastest are the ones who know the right person to ask to get the answer.

Personally, I find it hard to argue with this logic.  But when I tweeted out the article, I got some pushback from a few folks on Twitter.

//[View the story “Tweets About Cheating Article” on Storify] As usual, the folks on Twitter got me thinking a bit more deeply on the topic of cheating. The follow-up article that appeared the next day by Elaine Power, a Biology teacher in Maryland also made me reflect on my initial reaction. Power titled her counter to Trunk’s point of view Cheating Isn’t Networking, It’s Cheating.

While putting out the disclaimer here that I do not condone cheating, I think it is important to have a clear definition of cheating while also asking ourselves why cheating occurs.  In regards to the defining cheating, we need to be sure that we are all on the same page. For instance it was not too long ago that some students at Ryerson College were disciplines for starting a Facebook Page to help prepare for their final exam.

Finally while I will not support anyone who copies from someone else’s paper, I do think we need to reflect upon assessments and the fact that if there are too many of them that require rote memorization of inane facts that we are the ones cheating. We are cheating our students of valuable time that could be used for something more significant that would better prepare them to be the true collaborators who Power describes as “the gem of the workplace.”

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