Saturday, September 08, 2012

Academic cheating and plagiarism increasing even among high achievers

The New York Times has a story (by Richard Perez-Pena) about academic cheating on p. A13 of the Saturday September 8, 2012 paper, oddly not online at the NTY yet but reproduced elsewhere, as at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, here.

The title is “Studies find more students cheating, with high achievers no exception”.

I have reviewed David Callahan’s 2004 book “The Cheating Culture” (March 28, 2006 on the Books blog), and his arguments certainly hold.  Perhaps Perez-Pena hit the most salient point when he talked about parenting that doesn’t stress obedience and duty (or karma) but stresses visible success.

When I went to college, many schools had honor codes, and some had codes regarding failure to report as offenses on their own.  Honor courts were run by students.  And expulsion was a grave matter in the 1960s, in the days of a male draft and student deferments. Teachers would say that students who cheat were just "cheating themselves", but given the political climate then (and maybe now), a lot of people found that claim self-serving and incredulous. 

Cheating is more “relative” in the days of possible collaboration on the Internet, as the article points out.
And the parameters of plagiarism are hard to define.  When I went to GW in the 1960s, English professors took back copies of term papers after students got their grades, so that the papers could wind up in “fraternity files”.

Take-home exams were common in graduate school (in mathematics) in the 1960s, and I don’t recall concern over collaboration.
Sometimes I think a blog post, if it is trying to make an air-tight logical argument about something, as like a “tame home” left over from graduate school. 

Academic success is supposed to demonstrate ability to master an area.  Curiously, students master things quickly when they are motivated by self-interest.  Look at teenagers who has become super computer programmers as teenagers, and went on to create things like Facebook and Napster.  And they did these things on their own, without "help". 

When I substitute-taught, I noticed that some students wanted to do everything "in groups". 

Coordinated post: On Movies blog, review of "The Words" (about literary plagiarism) and "Shattered Glass" (about journalistic fabrication), Sept. 7.  

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