Honor and Cheating Students

The American Scholar has an interesting article published on the increase of students cheating in their classes in order to get ahead.  Here is a snippet:

One of the gloomiest recent reports about the nation’s colleges and universities reinforces the suspicion that students are studying less, reading less, and learning less all the time: “American higher education is characterized,” sociologists Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa said last year, “by limited or no learning for a large proportion of students.” Their book, Academically Adrift, joins a widening, and often negative, reassessment of what universities contribute to American life. Even President Obama has gotten into the act, turning one problem with higher education into an applause line in his latest State of the Union address. “So let me put colleges and universities on notice,” he said: “If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down. Higher education can’t be a luxury—it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”

Where should we lay the blame for the worsening state of one of the foundations of American civilization, one that has long filled us with justifiable pride? The big public universities are already bogged down by diminishing financial support from the states; private education is imperiled by tuition costs that discourage hundreds of thousands of middle-class and poorer students from applying. Some schools have made heroic attempts to diversify their student bodies, but too little financial aid is available to make access possible for all the applicants with academic promise.

What is happening inside the classroom for those who do get in? Who is teaching the students? Less and less often it is a member of an institution’s permanent faculty, and rarer still one of its distinguished professors. More and more of the teaching has been parceled out to part-time instructors who have no hope of landing a full-time position. Because of this, their loyalty to the school that hired them, and to the students they will probably meet in just one course and never again, has diminished.

You should really go read the rest.  It is quite good.  Then come back here.

Back?  Good.  I’m reminded of a time last year in one of my classes when a student was clearly cheating on their work.  It was the first time I had ever really noticed it happening, and the sad thing about it was that the student clearly had no idea how obvious their cheating habits were.

One time he submitted a paper which included the links from the Wiki article he had copied it from; he had forgotten to remove them before submitting it!  As a fellow student I complained to the professor because I saw no public reaction.  In fact I wanted a public reaction.  I wanted the professor to openly call out the student for his blatant disregard for the work the rest of us had done.  It was frustrating and I wanted to know what the professor was going to do about it.

The professor wrote back only that he had spoken with the student privately and he assured me it was taken care of; there would be no more incidents.  But there were incidents.  The student became wise (well, so to speak) and instead started using websites without links.  The next paper they submitted had been taken directly from the website of a faculty member at another university.  But this time the student didn’t quote the whole paper, but block-quoted several parts with a few of their own sentences sporadically placed.  This time, I responded to this student directly–posting the link to the website the paper came from with a few remarks about plagiarizing.

The funny part was that the assignment had been to write about the Roman Republic; this student’s plagiarized paper was on the Roman Empire–evidence that the student (a) wasn’t reading and (b) was clueless about the difference.  But this only made my frustration worse; why wasn’t this student disciplined?   Were there not strict guidelines about academic integrity in the syllabus of the course?  I remember reading that the consequences of being caught plagiarizing were quite severe.  Yet there is no doubt in my mind the student submitted work on at least three occasions which had been clearly plagiarized.

Then this really got me thinking; I remember that line from the movie Accepted, where Lewis Black is talking about the purpose of college.  He says:

“College is a service industry….  As in “serve us,” as opposed to the other way around.  Look, you see all these kids out here?  They all paid to come here. They all paid for an experience.”

Essentially, college is there to educate us. But I think too many students, fresh out of High School with no real appreciation for the value of education, don’t understand that college is not the same as the grade school life they just left.  In practice, yes, they recognize they are on their own (sort of), that they will be moving away from home (in most instances), and that they will be responsible for motivating themselves (usually).  But they don’t realize that they are paying for something.  And what they are paying for isn’t of any interest to them.  It’s like having a membership to a gym that you never go to anymore.  Except this time, the annual fee is upwards of $25,000 a year.

The sad part is, as was stated in that one High Ed article of which I can’t remember the title, students are demanding less education but are paying more money.  It is the one thing in this economy (with the exception of perhaps Healthcare) we are paying more for something of which we demand less.  It is quite troubling.   And I don’t believe the faculty has the power to do much about it–not as much as the students (those of us who actually care about getting a solid education for the money we are paying into it).

Anyway, give the article some consideration.


Therefore Aliens…

io9 had an interesting article circulating today about alien abductees, their portraits (themselves and the images they have drawn of their encounters) and the stories they tell.  The stories seem to be very personal, but that is where my sympathy ends.  Clearly there is something wrong here; either a mental issue or a craving for attention…something is happening here.  The stories don’t make any sense, they are all different, and in the areas where they are the same they are most likely reflections upon stereotypical subjects (note how some of the aliens look identical–why?  Because they are portrayed that way in movies, television shows, comic books, and so on).  Here is the intro to the article (about the journalist/photographer):

Alien abductions make for a good sci-fi plot devices, but it’s easy to forget that we walk among people — in the real world — who claim to have been visited, beamed up and probed by little gray men.

New York photographer Steven Hirsch, 63, has met many of these people face to face. He visited this year’s International UFO Conference to meet, photograph and interview people who avow close contact with extraterrestrials.

Here are some of the examples of the stories (click through to see the faces and drawings that go with them):


“It happened eleven years ago in St. Louis, Missouri at an exotic dancing bar. I went in there to just have a few drinks and look at some strip-girls dance around the pole. And this guy comes in out of nowhere and he was black in color but he had a very strange voice. And he knew things about me that no-one in the bar knew. Like how many trips I took. He knew things I was doing. He knew when my parents were going to die and what they were going to die of. Then he tells me he’s here to abduct me and replace forty nine chips [in my body].”


“It looked like a little kid except it had big eyes, it looked just like a little kid except it had big eyes, small nose and a little mouth. Albert EInstein was right about something. How there’s different dimensions and different realities and stuff. I’m thinking they went through time if you will you know. If they’re out there if they know all this and they have all this technology and all this stuff, what are the odds of them coming back you know?”


“They said they had been coming to me ever since I was a child and they were not doing anything against my will and I used to be one of them and I had agreed to be this bridge between the pleiades. They had been teaching me things that I was supposed to bring through and teach to others here on Earth and I hadn’t been doing a very good job of it. So they were giving me a review of what they’d taught me. They were telling me things about cleaning up the environment, being nicer to each other and having more brotherly love. And also the big thing that was important to them was getting rid of nuclear power plants. They said it was contaminating the earth. And it also had the potential for harming them too.”


“I awakened in the middle of the night with feeling this weird heat down around my sexual area […] I could feel these long skinny bony fingers drawing circles on my right ovary and I felt the paralysis and I thought, ‘Oh shoot. they really are here. Oh, my God.’ I’m not sure how I saw them. If it was, you know, tuning in and seeing them on what level. So when I’m realizing they’re with me the energy feels different. It was totally unnerving to me to recognize that they really were visiting with me and I could see there was a smaller Grey on my right hand side and a slightly taller one on my left and I remember telepathing to the Grey, ‘Please stop doing that, I don’t want you to touch me.’ I asked him three times.”

via Cat People, Strippers, And Telekinesis: The Portraits And Testimonials Of Alien Abductees.

Oh no, don’t be fooled.  There are plenty more…

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