Caravaggio The Cardcheats
I was up late last night grading quizzes and trying not to lose my faith in the next generation. I came across several examples of blatant plagiarism, something that always surprises me, then depresses me and then makes me just plain mad. There’s a scene in a movie (I’m a bit sleep deprived so I can’t remember which one – is it Family Man?) where an angel is pretending to be a clerk at a convenience store and he deliberately gives someone back too much change just to see what he’ll do. The person glances at the money, realizes that it is too much, and then pockets the bills and walks out of the store. The angel says something along the lines of “They are willing to sell their souls so cheaply.” That’s how I feel when I find a student cheating. Why sell your integrity for a grade on a piece of paper? It’s not worth the exchange.
As much as I’d love to spend the morning ranting (and quoting statistics) about what I fear is a rampant trend, I’ve decided instead to take the high road and find a way to make a profit from it. I’m preparing a book proposal for the first edition of Cheating for Dummies. And this book really will be for dummies since the smart ones never cheat, or if they do, they are good at it and certainly don’t need my advice.
How to cheat – stupid style
1. Avoid attending class as much as possible, flunk the midterm, and prove yourself incapable of stringing together a complete sentence on any of the first assignments. Then on your next quiz be sure to steal a few juicy lines like “The sublime natural world, embraced by Romanticism as a source of unrestrained emotional experience for the individual, initially offers characters the possibility of spiritual renewal.” Your teacher is so vain that she will actually think your sudden transformation from Bart Simpson into John Steinbeck is due to her expert tutelage.
2. By all means, if you’re going to risk your academic standing and embrace the dangerous, adrenalin-filled life of a plagiarizer, do it on a little bitty quiz that is worth 8 points.
3. Don’t bother with creativity when it comes to picking your internet sources. Go straight to termpapers.com. Your teacher will never think of looking there.
4. If you have an assignment to read a 15 page short story, save yourself all that trouble. Hunt for a while until you find a good synopsis online, then read the 8 web pages that summarize the plot, the 6 that discuss characterization, and the 3 that suggest themes and symbols. Cut and paste the phrases you like and spend some time deleting the ?extra characters^* that websites use now to make online plagiarism more difficult to detect. Take a few minutes to add some deliberate typos to throw off the scent. Then turn in your paper with one hand and use the other to pat yourself on the back for doing things the easy way.
5. If you have an assignment to write a 3 page response to a campus production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, no one will ever suspect you stayed home to watch Lost if you turn in a 10 page single-spaced biography of Shakespeare. Close enough.
6. If you are going to copy your roommate’s answers, be sure to sit right next to her in class so when you pass in your assignments, yours will be right after hers. This will never give you away since your teacher will be grading at 2am and will not notice the word-for-word identical answers. Either that or she will attribute them to a case of déjà vu.
7. When caught, play dumb (as indeed you are). Practice saying this line with a straight face: “Oh, so you use that ultra picky definition of plagiarism? I thought plagiarism was only when you beat another student unconscious on your way to class and steal their paper so you can pass it off as your own. It’s just an simple difference of opinion.”
Hmmm. Perhaps I need to cool off a bit before I head to class – you know, calm down, take a deep breath, and wipe the venom from my fangs.