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Studying Why Cheating is Wrong!

  1. Feb 8, 2016 #1
    Lt. Col. Scott Williams and I authored this paper in response to a published article in a philosophy journal questioning whether cheating is wrong. My career has since moved on from the Air Force, but I still deeply appreciate their core values, shown in the photo below.

    Link to Article

    People expect their doctors, their pilots, their engineers, and their military officers to have genuinely earned their professional credentials and to meet rigorous standards in areas of knowledge and conduct necessary for public trust in the performance of their duties. Cheating is wrong because academic dishonesty in the training of these professions undermines both the expected level of expertise and the expected level of trust. Educators have a duty to society to ensure the quality of graduates, and this duty includes good faith efforts to prevent academic dishonesty.

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  3. Feb 8, 2016 #2


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    Cheating in sports has a similar outcome. Those who did not take drugs were cheated out of the chance to win and/or the celebration that follows. We will never hear their names and they won't be listed as sports greats.These folks are the true champions of our times.
  4. Feb 8, 2016 #3


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    But if most or all of the athletes use some sort of enhancing drugs, then is it still called cheating?
    Obviously if it's not allowed then yes.

    There are some tests with open books tests, where you are allowed to use books and notes; someone who has the right book with the answer in it will know how to solve it while the rest who don't have that book won't.

    In exams, the teachers or TAs are allowed to enter the class where the students are examined; now I am not sure what other students ask them but I see some students that know how and what to ask their teachers excatly for them to answer the exam correctly, which seems to be cheating and encouraged by the system.

    Fame and glory passes through the urge to cheat or not.
    There's a lot of corruption in academics and sports, just like any other activity in our society.
  5. Feb 8, 2016 #4


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    As an examiner, I only answer direct questions about the formulation of the problems. If there is anything which I realise more than the asking student may have problems interpreting, I announce it to the entire class. (This some times means repeating the same thing in 5 different rooms, at times backtracking to rooms already visited, in order to make sure all students get the required information.)

    I have been on the other side of students cheating several times, i.e., the teacher who discovers it and it is not a spot which is fun to be in. I have seen everything from people writing double copies of their homework assignments, just with different names on them (literally copies - "my friend had to go visit his girlfriend in Switzerland so I wrote the homework for him"), to direct copyright infringement (large parts of text directly copied from Microsoft Encarta). Personally I think it is one of the worst things of being a teacher, confronting a cheating student is not fun at all.
  6. Feb 8, 2016 #5


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    of course cheating in any form is completely wrong, but it takes some of us a while to learn this. When I was a high school student i was proud of the fact that other students copied my paper, and i never prevented it, but i thought it dishonest if I copied theirs. This is arrogance rather than honesty I think now. Needless to say I evolved greatly over the subsequent decades, as you know who have read my very conservative posts here. Keep trying to evolve and have faith.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016
  7. Feb 8, 2016 #6
    You can cry that cheating is wrong all you want, but when you have society that strongly rewards cheating, you are giving mixed signals to children and teenagers.

    If you want to get ahead in society, be ready to cheat. If out of a matter of principle you won't, be prepared for a mundane life and zero respect.
  8. Feb 8, 2016 #7


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    There is also the fact that often those in power cheat and do not get punished , e.g., the 2008 crisis. I guess many ask themselves: if those who supposedly set the example are cheating , and do not have to pay a price, why should I play fair? Do as I say not as I do does not inspire honest behavior.
  9. Feb 9, 2016 #8
    There may be many members of society doing the rewarding and sending the mixed signals, but each individual can make choices whether or not to participate in sending mixed signals by rewarding, allowing, or closing our eyes to cheating.

    If a teacher is not cheating, is not rewarding cheating, and is doing due diligence to prevent cheating, they are not sending mixed signals.
  10. Feb 9, 2016 #9


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    I did not intend to justify it nor accept it, it is just that failures to set good examples also have a corrosive effect on society.
  11. Feb 9, 2016 #10
    The main thing many children and teenagers think when they think about a teacher is: "Hopefully I will not end up having to be a teacher."
    The effect of the example teachers set, good or bad, must be marginal.

    I was mainly thinking about athletes(every pro athlete dopes and lies about it), politicians(all lie and cheat their way to the top), movie/music stars(completely cutthroat industry where stars are created and destroyed on a whim) and bankers/CEO/CFOs/investors(businesses are legal persons that have psychopath personality were we to evaluate these legal persons as real people and the people who can make this happen are selected to go to the top in the corporate world Businesses that aren't run this way are going to go broke/can't be competitive).

    If I were a teacher and I suspect a student is cheating but no matter how hard I try, I can't get them, then props to them. They have the skills and attitude to make it far in society.
    Those that see the cheating going on and cheat and fail, those are the worst and they have to be severaly punished.
    Those that don't cheat, well good for them. But are they naïeve, stubburn to a fault or they just don't want it enough?

    Cheating and getting caught cheating are two very different things. The only thing that is punished is getting caught cheating. College or university should prepare students for the real world. When the real world has no cheating, only then it is good practice to deliver students incapable of cheating.
    Cheating and not getting caught is a precious skill you need to succeed if you want to excel in society.

    Is cheating 'wrong'? Very. I am proud to say I have never cheated or stolen anything. Will you believe me. No. Will you respect me for it. No.
  12. Feb 9, 2016 #11


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    I think universities should train students to make the world a better place, while preparing them professionally.
  13. Feb 9, 2016 #12
    A person's assertion of whether or not they have cheated in the distant past is not really testable.

    However, a person's competence in collaborative endeavors is easily testable and provable. I have a lot of trust and respect for colleagues and collaborators whose work quality in the present gives evidence of a lot of hard work in the past gaining the skills currently in use. Even more, I appreciate colleagues who give present evidence of ongoing hard work and a refusal to cut corners.

    I am more interested in the current abilities and character of colleagues and collaborators. But it is game over for any collaborator (including students) found to be exercising academic or scholarly dishonesty when working on a project with me.
  14. Feb 9, 2016 #13
    Why do you equate quality with not cheating or cheating with being lazy?

    If you want to win gold at the 100m sprint, you better be ready to take anabolic steroids. If you want to win a Nobel prize, you better be sure you steal from them before they steal from you.

    In both cases you still work hard.

    Which is almost always true.

    And same for you when you can't believe me, I can't believe you. Would you really end a very lucrative collaboration with a top person in the field when you realize they cut corners or have info they shouldn't have?
  15. Feb 9, 2016 #14


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    Right, Paul Erdos used drugs to write something like 1000 papers. (but even him could not compute R(5,5) or R(6,6), Ramsey numbers).
  16. Feb 9, 2016 #15
    Some academics do use performance enhancing drugs.

    But I was more thinking along the lines of fitting the data to the model, and stealing from other groups, lying to competitors, publishing in such a way so your generate better statistics on your academic performance, acting in a deceptive way when you meet them on a congress, etc.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  17. Feb 9, 2016 #16


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    I'm not sure the Nobel prize winner will win from stealing work from someone else; I mean someone must have come first with the genuine original work; But to trust someone else to be true to their word is not something that can be said for humans.
    But this is how it's done in a competitive enviornement.
  18. Feb 9, 2016 #17
    You are right, many don't see it as cheating but see it as how the academic world works. Same is true in sports, politics, etc.
  19. Feb 9, 2016 #18

    Andy Resnick

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    I don't think that was the point of Bouville's article at all. On the contrary, he accepts as a given that cheating is rule-breaking.

    His article claims to examine the justification(s) for rules forbidding cheating, and he states: "Of particular interest is the discrepancy between the reasons invoked for sanctioning cheating and actual practice: if teachers acted logically and consistently based on these reasons, a number of things that are widely done and widely accepted would have to be given up."
  20. Feb 9, 2016 #19
    The existence of counter examples, means that equating them is not valid, but in my experience teaching freshman Calculus, laziness and cheating are highly correlated. Students who work very hard are much less likely to need to cheat to earn their grade goals in intro Calc, Physics, and Chemistry, at least at the level of difficulty at the schools at which I have taught.

    I've already left several positions and walked away from several lucrative opportunities when asked to cut corners.
  21. Feb 9, 2016 #20


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    it depends whose respect you are speaking of. if those you respect, respect cheaters and cheating, I question your peer group.

    One of my favorite examples of cheating chickens coming home to roost is Richard Nixon. He cheated apparently all his life, and still rose to become president of the united states, but his cheating found him out at last, and he became one of the most disgraced men in America. Admittedly the battle goes on and there are still people who forget what he did or praise him in spite of it (and I too praise his successes), but that guy was pretty sad when he had to resign the presidency or be thrown out. I recall the day his secret tapes were made public, plotting to bribe people to conceal his misdeeds, and even conservative right wing supporters like Wm. R. Hearst Jr turned on him and said he sounded like a criminal thug and should go.

    Honest people don't make the most money always, or rise to the highest office, but they do have the most respect where it counts, to many of us.

    Here is a more timely example. Chris Christie is a very intelligent man who many people, even democrats, would have not minded seeing as a presidential candidate, until he was exposed in the scandal over shutting down a highway or bridge to score political points and screw his constituents. He has never recovered.

    jimmy carter is another possible example. he was not a very successful president but his persistent integrity made him a respected international negotiator as ex president, and he enjoys enormous respect for that.
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