Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Cheater Cheater Pumpkin Eater

Did you know that I teach a class here at USC? Well, I co-teach it anyway. It's called University 101 and it's supposed to help first year students make a smooth transition to college life by addressing lots of first-year issues. We do a really good job of it here at USC, according to U.S. News and World Report. It's consistently a "program to look for" and was ranked first in the nation in programs of its type the one and only year they actually ranked them. So, I'm really excited to be co-teaching a class.

Today my co-instructor Steve, was at the beach (nice, huh?) so I had the class to myself. He asked me to address cheating. Now, I am admittedly no expert in the matter because, and I swear to you that this is true, I never once cheated on anything in high school or college. I have never considered that to be any great feat...that is until today, when I had the cheating discussion with my class.

I began by addressing my class, which is exclusively composed of business students, with a question: "How many of you have ever cheated on a school assignment?" I am not exaggerating when I say that every single hand in the room shot up unreluctantly. The I asked how many had cheated on a test. Once again, every single hand was in the air. The hands only started to go down when I brought up plagiarism, which to my class, is "a much bigger deal." Only about sixty percent kept their hands up for that one.

We went on to discuss the many forms of cheating, according to our university issued Transitions book, and let me tell you...my kids had cheated in ways that the book didn't even mention. And that's in addition to covering every cheating avenue that the book did address. They talked about cheating with calculators, the best ways to create and conceal a cheat sheet ( one creative student had sewn hers into her private-school uniform), strategies for copying from a friend without being caught, and of course the relative merits and difficulties of cheating using one's cell phone. Cell phones, by the way, although feared by professors, are not widely appreciated among the the student population as a means of cheating. Oh, the things I learn from my students.

Now, those same kids adamantly asserted that they would never, not ever, consider cheating during college, but the scary thing is that upwards of 50% of all MBA candidates cheat. One can only assume that the undergrad statistic is comparable if not higher.

So, I left class wondering, will we ever be able to stop students from cheating? And if we can't, what then?

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