Atheist Scruples: The whole truth and nothing but the truth…

“…so help me..” Okay, how does this help me!?

You are taking an honesty test as part of a job application, and are asked if you ever cheated in school. You did once. Do you tell the truth?

Shiiiiit….

Just how honest is a person expected to be? Yeah, I stole a glance at someone’s test paper before. Overall it didn’t improve my score at all. What if you look someone’s work and they’ve put the wrong answer down? Who do you blame for your bad mark?

Obviously the right answer is not “No,” if indeed I did do it.

Obviously the right answer is not “Everybody does it,” because logically there probably are people who resist the urge to borrow from others and pass it off as their own.

I suppose a fair answer would be “Yes, but…” and then admit how old I was at the time and how I knew it was the wrong thing to do and it was stupid to go through with it, even if I didn’t get caught at the time.

I recall from doing some of my final exams that attempts were made by organizers to create impossible cheating scenarios in terms of peeking over a desk, or looking beside you. Classes were split up and scattered around the space so that maybe three or four classes were using the gym at the same time and all my neighbours were doing tests for other courses. This was before the prevalence of cell phones and easy texting, of course.

I think it was in grade five or so when my cousin and I decided to plagiarize the Encyclopedia Britannica for some assignment. I honestly don’t know whose idea it was for both of us to copy the exact words from the same article but our teacher noticed soon enough to give us a warning and stop us before we finished. I don’t think we understood it was wrong to copy verbatim until we were told. Eventually I learned the usefulness of paraphrasing and it ceased to be an issue.

ABC reports that

Authoritative numbers are hard to come by, but according to a 2002 confidential survey of 12,000 high school students, 74 percent admitted cheating on an examination at least once in the past year.

In a six-month investigation, Primetime traveled to colleges and high schools across the country to see how students are cheating, and why. The bottom line is not just that many students have more temptation — but they seem to have a whole new mindset.

A mindset of ideas being free for the taking, I guess. All thought as open source? Maybe kids these days take a different approach to privacy and ownership and this fluctuating sense of morality and right/wrong wreaks havoc on those classically trained to credit all sources.

Forbes offers advice to parents and teachers on how to limit the likelihood of cheating and instill a sense of integrity in students. One suggestion is promoting the importance the learning experience itself over the grade assigned to a test result. Plus,

We support using anti-plagiarism software for student papers, and telling students that this is happening. We are also firm supporters of academic honor codes and public ceremonies to promote those codes, as take place at a number of schools and colleges.

The July 21, 2014 New Yorker had a piece about cheating, too. Rachel Aviv focused on middle school teachers who tweak the results of standardized tests their students have to take.

Lewis went back to the testing office with Crystal Draper, a language-arts teacher. For about an hour, they erased wrong answers and bubbled in the right ones. They exchanged no words. Lewis couldn’t even look at her. “I couldn’t believe what we’d been reduced to,” he said. He tried to stay focussed on the mechanics of the work: he took care to change, at most, one or two answers for every ten questions. “I had a minor in statistics, and it’s not that hard to figure out windows of probability,” he told me. Many students were on the cusp of passing, and he gave them a little nudge, so that they would pass by one or two points.

That’s pretty sad.

Honesty in general terms is important to promote. I think it’s necessary to provide the truth when you have it, whether it’s a fact or a feeling, or reporting on your own behaviour now or at some point in the past. I used to lie about brushing my teeth as a kid. I don’t know how many cavities I had to have filled because I was crappy with mouth hygiene. One’s too many, frankly.

The Man and I remind the Little Man all the time about how important it is to be truthful but the other day we had to teach him about the value of omission. At supper he commented that I had large, flabby arms and while this is true, it’s not necessarily necessary nor polite to point it out out loud. We explained to him that we understood he was just making an observation as he compared his arms to mine but it would be a topic of conversation that might upset people who were sensitive to comments about their size. He’s a sensitive nearly-six-year-old so we think he understood the point we were trying to make there. He’s a good kid.

That’s all I got.

Thoughts? Confessions of your own cheating experiences? Go nuts in the comments. Hardly anybody reads and comments…

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One Response to Atheist Scruples: The whole truth and nothing but the truth…

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