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An A at Any Cost School of Design

If I told my students the god awful truth, I would say to them, "If you are going to cheat, do it so well I don't notice."

I am sure that some of my students do cheat so well I don't notice, but I notice enough of the cheating to realize that I should run a seminar on cheating.  I should put it out there under a false title, something like, "Improve Your Grade Instantly."  I would market it to the students desperate to get into the UC system and charge a ton of money for it.

In the class, I would show them the teacher secrets of how to notice plagiarized text.  My first lesson would be to hand out two essays, one that a student wrote herself and the other an essay the student stole and turned in.

"See how in one essay she writes 'I much admire activities on the mountain tops.'  And now notice how in the next essay, she purports to write 'After a very long and lustrous day of skiing in the alps, we all repaired to the quaint and homely cottage owned by the hapless goatherd and drank mead.'"

I would walk the aisles, looking serious.  "What differences do you notice?"

None of the students would volunteer because they just wouldn't see the diction and syntactical differences.  But by the end of the class, they would be able to write on their own "After visiting the mountain top, we enjoyed the company of the goatherd.  We went to his charming cottage and drank an alcoholic beverage."

They would learn to steal and then turn the stolen words into their own.    It would be a miracle!  They wouldn't have to think and only have to employ a few techniques to fool any hapless English teacher, much less goatherd.

But no.  None of my students have taken this class, for which I will charge millions.  They got to the "must have an A at any cost" school of design, and some are failing in that regard as well.

Meanwhile, I listen to students tell me that they cheat because they are far from home.  Because they don't know the culture.  Because they have to get into UC.  Because they are lonely and stuck in their apartments eating terrible American cheeseburgers. 

I blink.  I nod.  I lecture.  I wish for the mountaintop.

Jessica

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Raising a glass of mead

This blog is excellent. I teach English as well, and I have caught many students "paraphrasing" essays that they found online. They fail the class, of course. One guy I failed is taking the same class with me again (If I were him, I would probably go with another professor but that's just me). Maybe he took your class on how to cheat right and wants to give it another go :)

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thank you, Sarah-- A glass

thank you, Sarah--

A glass o' mead to you as well.

this duo cheated in tandem, both using borrowed words and their own past writing to get them through the first week (this is a lte start class, and only the first week!).

I am of the hope they will both drop as I've failed them from the first paper instead of kicking them out altogether--which I could have done.  I need mead.

Best,

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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Solution (sort of)

Delightful post! Very funny - about a not so funny problem.

When I was an English Lecturer [assistant/associate professor in US terms] at a British university, I was alarmed to find that when one of my students actually lifted word for word two pages off a website and handed it in as his own and I gave him a zero for the paper, I was gently reprimanded. This, it seems, might wound the student's ego. The dubious practice in that university was to convene a committee meeting in which the faculty had to go over his paper of about 5 pages and give him credit for all the things he did *not* plagiarize. (I'm not kidding.)

This to me is akin to someone breaking into your house and stealing your jewelry, silver and art, and when appearing for indictment after pleading guilty, being given credit for not stealing your tv or computer. The last time I looked (which was admittedly some time ago) if you cheated on an essay, you got a 0 and were put on probation if not suspended. And you were kicked out of the class and had to repeat it the following year (whether or not you were meant to graduate that year).

When I was an undergraduate, it was grounds for dismissal from the university. Of course I went to Jesuit universities, so... Thus (back to my students) did I devise my own strategy for coping: In-class exams and essays. It was customary though optional to give students a week off as a "reading week" in mid-term (which, by the way is nonsense out of an 11-week course).

I did not take up this option but instead assigned the students a two hour essay/exam, which they had to write in class, and made it worth 50% of their final mark. 25% was given for class participation in seminars (which meant they had to be prepared with written material that they also handed in) and 25% was given for another essay which could be written outside class.

You would think that nobody would sign up for my classes under such a repressive regime (!) but at times my classes were over-subscribed and I also got much better students.

Just my way of coping... H

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Hi, Harrison-- thank you

Hi, Harrison--

 thank you for your take on this.  We have all sorts of rules in place, but it is time consuming, ridiculous, and often a waste of time.  We have one poor dean in the whole school who gets to deal with this type of issue--and often, he simply refers us back to our colleagues to figure it out.

I just resent spending the time figuring it all out and working on it--the upshot is I flunked my cheating students on this essay and gave them one more shot, though their hopes for an A are sunk.

Argh!

Best,

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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Jessica, after reading this...

I have "The Lonely Goatherd" playing in my head. Sing it with me, everyone! "High on the hill there's a lonely goatherd..."

Jennifer Gibbons, Red Room

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Jennifer--where on earth do

Jennifer--where on earth do you get all this stuff.  Actually, where in your head do you store and remember it!

Ha!  So funny.  Now I'm hearing the song myself.

Best,

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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I think we better start yodeling!

who's with me? Anyone? Anyone?

Jennifer Gibbons, Red Room

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I am fundamentally against

I am fundamentally against yodeling.  It should be as illegal as plagiarism (not that anything will stop either).

Best,

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com

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Of course, now...

I can't get the goatherd song out of my head either. Especially as I watched The Sound of Music the other night with the family. Thanks Jennifer! :) Here's one for you: The Ricola commercial. No yodeling but they look like they are about to break into it any moment.
H

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Eeek!!!

I now have that earworm in my head!

Jennifer Gibbons, Red Room

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!!

Try Rachmaninov - that usually works. Or Its a Small, Small World. Or I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing... or...
A long way from plagiarism, but I feel better about it now :)
Back to work!
H

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I think the yodeling has

I think the yodeling has stopped, I'm no longer thinking about cough drops, and I've managed not to hum a note since yesterday! Now, back to the falsified documents . . . .

Best,

J

Jessica Barksdale Inclan
www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com