On cheating and the school system

This is adapted from a response to a post on the blog of the esteemed Ben Orlin, who is awesome and who you should all read.

The wild card when talking about cheating is that students will often be in classes they don’t want to be in, don’t care about, and will probably never make use of again. But they need a good grade in that class to get into the college they want, or even graduate at all.

Look at the whole thing from that perspective – you’re there against your will, forced to do something you don’t want to for a reason you don’t care about and that probably won’t affect your life one way or the other once you’re finished with it.

We’ve admitted now that a lot of the anti-cheating arguments are poor or only apply in rare situations, but we’re afraid to take the next step and admit that students who cheat  at least sometimes have a very good reason, and little incentive NOT to. How on earth can you talk about the “morality” of cheating to a person who has essentially been blackmailed into doing whatever you want them to for an hour each day?

For a larger number of cases than we’d care to admit the only good reason not to cheat is the risk of getting caught.

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15 Responses to On cheating and the school system

  1. TomD says:

    Look at the whole thing from that perspective – you’re there against your will, forced to do something you don’t want to for a reason you don’t care about and that probably won’t affect your life one way or the other once you’re finished with it.

    This sounds like a description of life itself; and some decide to try cheating at that (sin).

  2. Joseph Moore says:

    In real life, asking for and giving help to others is being generous and a team player; in school, it’s cheating.

  3. John says:

    Ok, at first, my reaction to the idea of cheating being justified took me by surprise, and I have to admit that this is an interesting perspective with probably good arguments to support it as well.

    But still….cheating?Really?

    I guess this is because the American school system is by and large corrupt morally and practically difficult in all sorts of ways and is painfully arbitrary to many people.

    But there are still some parts that are salvagable at least. And European school systems do not have as many problems as the American one has and are actually much better than the American one.

    *sigh*

    Oh well, to each their own conscience I guess..

  4. Crude says:

    Sharp one. I never heard of this argument/objection, and I respect it.

  5. Cane Caldo says:

    The wild card when talking about cheating is that taxpayers will often be in tax brackets they don’t want to be in, don’t care about, and will probably never be see compensation. But they need to pay taxes to buy the house they want, or even own property at all.

    Look at the whole thing from that perspective – you’re paying against your will, forced to do something you don’t want to for a reason you don’t care about and that probably won’t affect your life one way or the other once you’ve paid it.

    For a larger number of cases than we’d care to admit the only good reason not to cheat is the risk of getting caught.

    • This is making the big assumption that the purpose of paying taxes and the purpose of going to school are the same.

      This is not true.

    • The school system is designed to separate children from families and create government drones. I’m not exaggerating or making this up. Our school system is explicitly based on a Prussian system designed for precisely that purpose.

      It is certainly not designed to help children gain knowledge in order to help them later in life.

      Let me put this a different way – Yes, pay your taxes. But do you actually think we should be taxed on some of the stuff we are? Is the government right for, say, taking our money and giving it to Planned Parenthood? If there were a way to avoid that from happening – even if technically illegal – should we not avoid it?

  6. Cane Caldo says:

    @MtC

    Hey man: We homeschool. The separated drones are one aspect. Alongside that there is also the modern conceit that learning is the act of stuffing facts into brains rather than learning how to learn.

    This is making the big assumption that the purpose of paying taxes and the purpose of going to school are the same.

    The assumption is that both schools and taxes are largely misdirected, have very few direct benefits, and are inconvenient. The other assumption is that those who rationalize cheating in one sphere will rationalize it in others. I picked taxes as a comparison, but I could have picked an unhappy marriage, welfare and charity, offerings, raising kids… the list is long.

  7. Cane Caldo says:

    @MtC

    You didn’t only talk about school. You started at schools, but ended up at principles:

    How on earth can you talk about the “morality” of cheating to a person who has essentially been blackmailed into doing whatever you want them to for an hour each day?

    • I’m talking about this in the context of the school system, which is designed for a completely different purpose than the tax system (or whatever you want to call it).

      Like the commenter above, you’re comparing two unlike things.

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