I was originally going to call this one “Cheating” but I realized that the US has a weird sexual obsession and folks might pop in here thinking I’m talking about relationships, that will be a topic for certain but not tonight.
When I was in school I had multiple levels of success in school. When my teachers tried to challenge me and when I was given challenging course work I often did quite well. The worst problem I had was that I’d finish work and lose it at the base of my backpack, crumpled and forgotten. At the end of quarters or years my parents would find dozens of assignments smashed in the edges of my backpack that went ungraded because I never pulled them out. To say that they were upset would be a bit of an understatement.
When this impacted my grades schools rubber banded on me, they began giving me easier and easier coursework and I became incredibly bored. It wouldn’t be till High School before I would actually think about cheating, by this point I was utterly disinterested in school. I wanted to problem solve, I wanted to learn, I wanted to be interested. This to me is the essence of cheating, that is to say the essence of singular cheating.
Before heading on lets get something out of the way for the sake of simplicity, there is singular cheating and plural cheating, the former only abstractly impacts other people while the latter has a direct and obvious impact on others. This is the difference between cheating on a test and cheating on your taxes, the latter has a very definite impact on everyone. Now with that simplification out of the way lets continue.
Cheating is an answer to an untapped human element. We are all problem solvers, until it is beaten out of people they are curious scientists. Every single one of us spends most of our young lives experimenting, breaking things, tasting things, poking things, interacting with everything we can reach and trying to discern the properties of those things. We are not interested in memorization, this is not the essence of learning.
“Never memorize something that you can look up.” ― Albert Einstein
This is one of the biggest a failures of US education, it has become a system of memorization and not one of problem solving. History is beautiful and who invented what is a fantastic thing to read about but it should not be the central point of testing. The year that something happened is not nearly as important as knowing the act itself and why it was good or bad. We need to ask people to explain, to decipher, to piece apart.
People need to taste knowledge, they need to smell it, knowledge is something that should engulf us.
In a few classes I found myself looking for ways to design reference keys for these memorization assets. It became a challenge between myself and at least seven other people. We would each try to design the most perfect delivery system. One of my favorites was a friend by the name of Patrick who designed a very neatly organized Japanese Hiragana chart that fit on the spine of a pen. He’d just rotate his pen as he worked through the assignments.
This is problem solving, this is something beautiful. This is the kind of person I want around when I am stuck with an incredibly complicated problem.
I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job… because, he will find an easy way to do it. – Bill Gates
I did it myself, my designs were much less intricate but they worked. These complex projects to design the perfect hidden cheat sheet had, in every single case, the secondary impact of actually causing me to learn the material. I went from the bland design of the course room to an exciting challenge of “one upping” the system. [By no fault of our Japanese Teacher, I was just too mentally fatigued overall to fully respect his beautiful teaching style.]
To this day I can read Hiragana, and it is something I learned almost exclusively from this problem solving. Similarly I designed “cheats” to learn Korean and that’s another language I can now read. My vocabularies in both are not vast but this is something that would easily come with time.
Academic Dishonesty is looked upon brutally, it can end your college career. But I think people are looking at this wrong, the art behind cheating is something to behold. By the end of it all I wouldn’t be surprised if you found the best cheaters to be on tier with the most devoted students of those same courses.
It’s become far less challenging these days with advanced calculators that can just print out excel sheets, this is upsetting to me only because it does not demand as much mentally from the trickster.
Problem solving is in our nature, school needs to be a huge puzzle. We need to approach every single topic in this manner. Every single subject is a riddle waiting for us to decipher it, if you want to stop kids from cheating then bring that facet to the actual coursework. Let them design clever ways to learn the material, give them challenges, have them explain to you “why” rather than “what”.
I would, perhaps erroneously, classify Wisdom as the ability to effectively use information in many different situations and Intelligence as the ability to effectively absorb information. Being highly intelligent is a beautiful thing, but without Wisdom you are left brittle and can easily succumb to tunnel vision.
If I caught a student cheating in a course I was teaching I wouldn’t have them expelled, I’d sit them down and ask them what they are missing out on. Every subject is fascinating and if I’m not tingling their brain enough I want to know why.
It was ironic, I suppose, that I was told how brutally hard college would be and when I got there almost every course took the Einstein approach above. With the exception of some very small factoids almost every course I was in had open book or open notes on the exams because it was of no interest to the professors if you could memorize the entire text but rather if you could apply that knowledge.
If you do not apply your knowledge you may as well have not learned it at all.