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."


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Chris Burritt

On Monday my friend and former colleague at Columbia, Chris Burritt, died. Chris was a terrific lighting and camera teacher. His students loved him and I am writing this post because I know a lot of my former students, who were also his former students, read this page.

I am sorry to break the news to you this way.

Chris and I were the union reps for the Columbia College Film and Video Department and we spent a lot of time together. The spring and summer of 2005 we met twice a week as a new union contract was being negotiated. It is fair to say that there was not a single person more responsible for the benefits the current adjunct Columbia film faculty enjoy than Chris Burritt. He busted his butt to get us everything he could, then would stand in the background at faculty meetings as I got to explain to the faculty our hard fought benefits.

I know a lot of people think I was responsible, but don't kid yourself it was Chris. He knew the contract inside and out, I was just a front man. And that is just the way any good camera and lighting person would want it- to be in the shadows casting light on the things that are important to see.

You will be missed.