We have spoken to your mother. We know everything.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Cheating the Future: As Seen From the Front Lines

This is important. It is about cheating in school and the parents, teachers and educators that tolerate cheating- and the few who don't. It is a peek into the future- a dark place- a future you may not like.

This is written from the front lines, by Mamacita- one of the very few educators you'll ever meet that cares about your kids, will tell you the truth and give a damn- even when you don't. And you had better
start caring.

Students have always cheated at times, but when they were caught, their parents (if they were GOOD parents) were always horrified and backed the school in whatever punishment was meted out. Cheating was an OFFENSE, and offenses carried punishments.

There are people now, though, who do not view as cheating, the same things WE viewed as cheating. Copying someone else's work, back in the day, was cheating. To put your name on a piece of writing that had been done by someone else, was stealing. Plagiarism. STEALING.

It's the same thing as taking money out of the register till when the clerk is distracted, people. Plagiarists are THIEVES, plain and simple.

Oh, but it's NOT plain and simple now. Plagiarists are simply students who just didn't have the time to do the research on their own. Students who were too busy playing basketball for adoring crowds, to come home after the games late and stay up later doing homework. Do you want them to jeopardize their HEALTH? People pay
MONEY to see them play ball, does that mean nothing to you? Students who are so smart, why should they waste their time with trivial things like research, and writing from their own heads? Students who just aren't smart enough, so why should they be penalized for something they can't help? Especially when there's a whole internet full of term papers, essays, you-name-it, for SALE! Or when, even better,
there's a girlfriend/boyfriend/best friend/cowed nerd willing to curry favor by composing something FOR such students? It's not cheating now. It's not plagiarism. Now, it's 'sharing.' And haven't they been encouraged from Kindergarten Day One to share? Our kids are merely using their computer abilities to score real-life results. Isn't that awesome?

How could any student resist? And how DARE a teacher try to penalize any student who was seduced by the dark side of internet freebies? Don't teachers realize that students today just can't help it? That they are forced by scholarship rules to maintain their average at any cost? None of this is the student's fault! He'll get by using whatever means he deems necessary, fully backed by his panting parents, who are practically foaming at the mouth at the thought of anyone getting in their kid's way.

The big high school in this community was rocked, three years ago, by the fact that the boy who was going to be the valedictorian, had actually been found guilty of plagiarism his junior year. He had cribbed an entire term paper off the internet, signed his own name to it, and submitted it as his own original work. The teacher discovered this fact, and gave the boy an F for it. The boy's enraged parents went to the principal and demanded that this teacher apologize, and remove that F from his record, lest his chances at the Valedictory and several scholarships be compromised. These parents phoned the teacher at her home several times and screamed at her, told her she didn't care about their son, that she must hate the boy, because why else
would she be so vindictive towards him? They'd have her JOB, if she didn't back down and do right by their boy. These parents were professionals; he's a dentist. Rich. Prominent. The principal did all they demanded, and more: he erased all traces of this course from the boy's permanent record altogether. He allowed the boy to
re-take the course with a different teacher. His record stayed good, even though the whole school, nay, the entire community knew what he had done. Every teacher in the building petitioned the principal, giving reasons why this boy should not be valedictorian. Nothing worked. The principal went over the heads of his entire faculty, and insisted the boy be given the honor. At graduation, this boy gave the
valedictory speech. We all wondered if he would steal that, too; but
after hearing it we knew it was his own. It was pathetic. Many people 'booed' when the boy's name was called.

I understand that his father, the dentist, lost several patients as a result of his uncompromising insistence that his son be valedictorian no matter what he had done. I would have left, had he been my dentist. Anyone so inconsiderate of the rules of polite society, would probably be equally inconsiderate of any other rules that got in his way.

The principal kept his job. And the very next year, he did the exact same thing. Son of a prominent local lawyer. In fact, the son of the school's lawyer. Caught cheating. Twice. Plagiarism, and writing answers on his arm. It didn't matter. The parents raised an incredible stink and the principal erased all record of the boy's transgression from his record. He, too, gave the Valedictory speech
at graduation.

The principal is now the assistant superintendent. Heaven help us all.

Oh wait, I don't work there any more. Thank heaven.

In my college, the penalty for plagiarism is instant expulsion. No refund whatsoever. I agree completely with that.

But I ask you all, is it any wonder that our kids are so blatant about the cheating, with parents that back them all the way, to the point of abusing any teacher who tries to maintain honor by penalizing them, or an administrator who will bend over backwards to appease irate parents to the point of acting in unethical ways?

Cheating is stealing. Cheating is what people do when they aren't smart enough to get an A on their own. Kids are afraid, sometimes, to bring home bad grades. Why? Because it reflects poorly on their parents. Because they'll lose opportunities.

But shouldn't honors and opportunities be EARNED? What genuine honor is there is any award that wasn't actually earned? There is no honor in such awards. Such people do not deserve the opportunities associated with the awards, either. But they are. But why? WHY?

But why should these opportunities be given to anyone who hasn't earned them? Is there ever a good reason to bestow honors and opportunities upon a thief? A person who didn't have what it takes to do his own work?

I don't think so either. Word to their mothers.