11 September 2005

Oldest Trick in the Book

I gave back to my freshmen their first tests. They had done reasonably well on a difficult test. We then went over the test, question by question, since their tests will serve as study guides for the final exam. Occasionally, a student thinks that they find a mistake that I made in grading the test. Sometimes they are correct, and I am happy to correct the mistake. Usually they are still wrong and were not paying attention. Rarely, they are trying to cheat.

One of my freshmen came up to me to show me that the "a" that she put on the matching had been marked wrong. Indeed, there was an "a" in the space, "a" was the correct answer, and I had marked it wrong with a red "X". It was a two point question. She had had a 68; two more points would give her a passing grade. The "a" looked suspiciously like an "o" with an added leg. A quick glance at the rest of her test showed that she had used upper case "A's" on the rest of her test (three other times) and never a lower cast "a". She had also not used an "o" on this section of matching. She was biting her fingernails as she stood waiting for my decision.

I was very disappointed. I expected more sophisticated cheating from our 21st century youth. Monday I will have to talk to her. If I can't get a confession, there will be nothing that I can do but guilt her and let her know that I am on to her (without actually saying it). These types of confrontations are very dangerous for teachers and can easily backfire. Accusations of cheating are usually met by parents with "shock and awe" directed at the accuser so one must be careful to avoid direct accusations. Little darlings never lie, cheat, or steal. They are "good kids" (ie don't drink, drug, smoke, , hold-up liquor stores, belong to gangs, or light things on fire), therefore they cannot do anything wrong. Application of the doctrine of the sin nature breaks down when it applies to children. As we all know, Romans 3:10 states as plain as day, "There is none righteous, no, not even one, except for my offspring" (emphasis added; words emphasized also added). My guess is that nearly every student cheats at least once and most cheat repeatedly by the time that they graduate high school. It is our nature to do whatever we can get away with if minimum risk is assured. Alas.


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