Saturday, January 12, 2008

My Cheatin' Heart

"I was thrown out of college for cheating on my metaphysics exam. I looked into the soul of the boy sitting next to me." Woody Allen

I heard an interesting piece on NPR earlier this week about how many young people take for granted that everything on the internet is free and they should never have to pay for it. However, those of us who create content do like getting compensated and at some point we will no longer tolerate the wholesale theft of our work. A few months ago I posted about how half of my students had DVD quality copies of the film American Gangster a week before the film opened in theaters. This, I think, is a good example of this assumption that if it is out there it is mine for the taking.

If you start from a place where all information is free, then where do you draw the line? Can you look into the soul (and test paper) of the student sitting next to you? Is it all right to knowingly cheat on a test just because that information is out there anyway?

Of course not.

I have two theories on students cheating. The first is what I wrote above- we are living in a society where it is so common to take things from others that getting an answer or two or three seems like nothing- everyone is doing it. My other theory is that students are cheating not for themselves but to please their parents and teachers. They are so insecure that leaving an answer blank or actually admitting they do not know something is much more painful than using someone else's work as their own.

I'll end with another quote from Woody Allen that I feel sums up my opinion of cheaters.
"His lack of education is more than compensated for by his keenly developed moral bankruptcy."



Anonymous said...

I love this post because it comes from someone who has worked in both the industry of film and teaching. With my poor writing skills I will try to write a response.

First: I love the internet, it has given me many opportunities to learn new information. When it comes to piracy on the internet there is so much to be said: Stealing is wrong and I do not agree with it. Information is a part of what gets pirated every day online. There are all sorts of services that provide us with information whether it be physical or electronic (which is still physical in some sense). A lot of services require a form of payment in gathering that information. (When I say information I use it in the context of, newspapers, tv, movies, music, news aggregation sites like,,
The internet has provided people with the opportunity to create new ways of getting this information. While I view piracy of information to be stealing I also view it as an evolution online. There are services which will provide just about anything I can search, from software to movies to music to news. The speed at which these services developed is much faster than the industries that make money off of this could handle. And it seems instead of embracing it and creating something similar with some form of payment they are trying to squash it, and in quite an unethical way I might add.

These services can be created and they can benefit both sides of the current blunder that is happening with piracy. One can still profit while providing the information that so many seek and love! I don't download movies, I love to watch them in theaters or on my dvd player, I do have friends however that will download to no end, and they have modified a console(xbox) to connect to their computers through their network and play any video game(from consoles like nintendo to xbox), any movie(format as well). It's an amazing example of the evolution of a service without a major corporation behind it. They have to catch up, otherwise it'll continue.

In the example of students who cheat. It's a slightly different context, especially in the area of how the information is taught. With regular schools I saw many instances and different forms of cheating. One I especially didn't like to see was when someone would take a drug like ritilin or adderal to help them study for hours and hours on end. That seems to me like a physical form of cheating.

When I am taught something in theory I want to apply it immediately. When I apply it at the same time I am learning it. I take pride in what I've learned. This is not on the offense to you as a teacher as well Peter, because you're an awesome guy. I've had many teachers in the past who didn't take pride in what they taught, and it made me feel like what I was learning wasn't enjoyable, or I was not interested as well. (I know I am to blame for some of the trouble I've faced with school in the past.)

When I've learned something because I made a choice to learn that, and not because it is required by the state or by the school, it is much more valuable and easy to remember.

Thanks for writing this Peter. Hope my response stirs your thoughts as yours has mine!


mrliteral said...

I'd comment on this post, but I had someone read it for me and I don't know what it's about. I wouldn't want to look foolish...

PeterH said...


Thanks for your comments. YOu make a good point about information providers embracing the technology- and I think many are.

I was talking in class the other day about how the TV networks don't yet know how to make money- real money- off of their network website. I asked around the room who visits the NBC website and no one raised a hand. Instead of trying to join them, NBC might find it easier to try and quash all the other places downloading their shows. Perhaps a reason for their split with Itunes over their programming.



Anonymous said...

I remember reading something about companies splitting from iTunes because they wanted to raise the prices for purchasing shows and such, and Apple would have none of it!

So they left and joined Hulu.


Anonymous said...

I actually find cheating to be both good and bad.

Back when I was in school, I would ask my mother if cheating was a good thing - it being reading, writing, arithmatic, etc - or a bad thing. She told me that cheating is wrong, you should not cheat. Cheating is something that cripples your abilities to thrive on your best potential(s).

I later asked her if cheating is good, if only you use some inforation, material, to your use: from your sketicual structure and then add on some of the premade material. She said that was ok, as long as you use your own words.

So that's what I have to say about cheating: It's ok, as long you don't cheat all-the-way but some of the way.

PeterH said...

Interesting comments about cheating, anonymous. I wonder if robbing a bank is ok if you only took enough money to pay your bills and have a little left over, but left the real money sitting in the bank?

I guess if I left some dough there I could always go back and take more later if it wasn't enough.


Anonymous said...

I think cheating is completely wrong. It should not be done either way - school work, movies, etc. If you don't understand the meaning to something, go ask your teacher, parent(s), or someone who can help you understand the subject at hand.

For solution to everybodys problems is not by cheating, but approaching someone and asking them for help. I find that that is the best way: asking questions, instead of cheating. For everything is not enlaced with cheating, but communication and understanding.

Again, if you don't understand something, don't go ahead and copy something from the internet, go ask someone for help. Anybody. I'm sure PeterH would agree with me.

And I hope anonymous (January 29, 2008 5:37 PM) understand this, too.