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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Dishonor system

Yesterday's NY Times reported on the lengths to which officials at The University of Central Florida go to prevent cheating on tests:

"No gum is allowed during an exam: chewing could disguise a student's speaking into a hands free cellphone to an accomplice outside. The 228 computers that students use are recessed into desk tops so that anyone trying to photograph the screen -- using, say, a pen with a hidden camera, in order to help a friend who will take the test later -- is easy to spot.

"Scratch paper is allowed -- but it is stamped with the date and must be returned later. When a proctor sees something suspicious, he records the student's real time work at the computer and directs an overhead camera to zoom in, and both sets of images are burned onto a CD for evidence."

An overhead camera? What was the dean's previous job -- pit boss at the Bellagio?

In any case, the methods used by the UCF students certainly sound more sophisticated than those used by the Russians spies who were just caught. Perhaps the SVR (the KGB's successor agency) would do better if it recruited from UCF.

And from a moral point of view, we've come a long way from West Point's famed honor system.

Whatever did happen to honor?

Probably the same thing that happened to chivalry, noblesse oblige, and modesty. Somewhere along the line it was deemed useless and consigned to the garbage bin of no longer desirable character traits.

The UCF students are evidently a little reminiscent of long term inmates, who with nothing else to do are constantly figuring out ways to circumvent prison rules. These inmates are actually ingenious at figuring out ways to communicate with each other, to make shivs, to smuggle drugs into the prison, and to make moonshine.

The UCF students ought to get a sort of prize for creativity, if not honor.

There was only one confusing aspect to this story: given the lengths to which they evidently go to obtain good grades, couldn't they have gotten into a better school?


Anonymous said...

Cheating ideas probably spread like wildfire.... Might take only a few smart students to come up with the ideas.

There must be many reasons for the increase in dishonesty. One might be the lack of full time mothering that many children face today. In families where both parents work (many out of necessity) their children spend a significant percentage of their waking hours in day-care.

I've read several recent articles commenting on the increasing narcissism in young people. One causation for sociopathy is a cold or absent mother during a child's early years. Narcissism is one step back on the grey-scale toward sociopathy. Could the rise in narcissism be attributed to the lack or proper mothering in the day-care generation?

- Ed

John Craig said...

Ed --
You get the award for quickest response ever. I hadn't meant this post all that seriously, but you bring up some very interesting questions. I've seen some of those articles talking about the increased narcissism in our society too, and it's disturbing. I think you're right, kids in day care are much more likely to develop into narcissistic personalities than kids who get more attention from their parents.

I don't think this increases the incidence of sociopathy, though, as that generally requires more of a complete disconnect than the one occasioned by day care.

Dave Moriarty said...

Things have changed since I was at amherst inthe 70's . The honor system there was part of the peer pressure where no one wanted to be seen as a cheat. I still err on the side on honor code so as to ensure i am not mistaken for a cheat.
they told us you have your name and your word to carry forward. Any marks against it would take just a minute to scar but a lifetime of effort and conduct to erase so better avoid it in the first place.
i am aware of the perceived competition for grades and the like but in that era profs would hand out a test and leave the room not to be seen ..." leave your tests on the desk when you are done ... we will pick them up later " now it seems they prepare by going to a spy store yikes

John Craig said...

Dave --
Amherst was evidently a more honorable place than my college; we always had proctors in the room. No overhead cams though.

Your comment actually provides proof of Ed's comment above that we are living in increasingly narcissistic times.