I read this article in the Washington Post Education section, “Why schools should relax about cheating”. There is a lot about academic cheating in the news today—from kids paying others to take their SATs to administrators changing students’ answers on high stakes exams. Intrigued by the headline I decided to find out exactly what the author was trying to convey. Frankly, it was the kind of rationalization I would expect from an elementary school student.
The author wrote this in her blog, which the Post reprinted. She lives on a farm and homeschools her children. She begins by saying that looking at someone else’s paper to get the right answer is akin to “networking” in the work world. She says that kids in this generation are “great collaborators”. Then she talks about “leveraging technology” which again amounted to finding the answer that someone else has already figured out.
The author of that blog has confused the object of education—it is not to make you a better collaborator in the workforce. The object of getting an education is so that you learn a body of information as well as learn how to think and write critically. A test or a report is a way for the student to demonstrate what he has learned. It is not an opportunity to show what someone else has learned. Also, this would hardly work in the office. When given a task, you are expected to do it. What does this person do if there is no one to cheat off? And, passing someone else’s work off as your own has consequences in the work world as well.
She tells the story of her son taking a test on music theory. This is how things went, “during the test, my son started looking at all the kids’ papers around him. The other kids were horrified, but they didn’t say anything. I just sat and watched. It was so interesting to me that my son has a natural inclination to get the answers from the people around him when he didn’t know. I let him do it.”
She goes on to say, “It’s unclear what he knows by himself about music theory” What he knows by himself? Is there another way to know something?
I guess her home school curriculum doesn’t include ethics or an explanation of plagiarism. If these kids get to college they will be in for a rude awakening.