Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cheaters Never Win?

Ask a search engine to find who originated the old saw about winners and cheaters, and the most pungent answer that comes up is “a very naïve person”.


Our parents, teachers, coaches, advisors, and counselors told us since we were children that cheating is not acceptable, and that when you cheat, the person you most hurt is yourself. Apparently, in the world of the college kid today, defining cheating is like defining sex.

It depends on what the meaning of is, is.

Watching CNN’s morning news the other day, I enjoyed a piece one of the reporters did as part of her series on education in America. It was about cheating, and how widespread it’s become. She focused on cheating by buying reports and papers on the internet, rather than doing the work yourself.

She spent eighty bucks…..eighty bucks!!!!….to order a three-page paper on plagiarism in journalism. She had a college prof grade the paper, and it got an “F”. ($80 for an F.) The prof said the paper was poor from the very first sentence to the end, lacked coherence, lacked a theme, and was obviously written by someone who was not a native English speaker.

Turned out the paper the CNN reporter thought she was buying from an online source in the U-S was actually written by somebody in India. How NOT shocking.
Here in Madison, a local TV news “writer” was fired a couple years ago for stealing some news headlines off a competing TV station’s website, and putting them on his station’s website. A straight copy-and-paste job; not even a cursory rewrite. His excuse? He was in a hurry.

The former head of the Journalism Department at UW-Madison told me a few months ago that one of his biggest issues as a classroom teacher was getting his students to understand how wrong it is, on so many levels, to steal other people’s work and pass it off as their own.

In the news biz, when you steal something from somebody else, you “attribute” it. In other words, you acknowledge the work is not yours, and you give credit to the person (or institution) who did the work. When you see a phrase like “the State Journal reports…” or “in an article in the Wisconsin State Journal….” you’re seeing attribution in action, just as I am attributing much of my content here to CNN.

But the real clincher of her report, to me, was her finishing touch. It was a survey that said most college kids today would rather cheat than fail.

Do they know what cheating is? Depends. Kinda like art - I know it when I see it. But when you take someone else’s work and pass it off as your own….that’s cheating, no matter how your mind bends the rules to make it “acceptable”.

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of the term paper sales scandal at UW in 1972. UW responded by issuing "F"s, no tolerance.