So here is another reason I do not like midterms:
Students who cheat.
Fuck knows I understand that impulse.
Not that I ever did cheat -- oh, not me, not with my intellectual vanity. I was far too good to cheat, me. My giant brains always made me the smartest brat in the classroom and I knew everything and I never needed to cheat, hah, look at this, exams without a net, me, half the time I never even studied, why would I need to cheat, and I wouldn't have anyway, I would have taken an F before I cheated, cheating was for L-OSERS!
On the other hand, as I have noted, lifting small items from drugstores and bookstores? I had no problem with that when I was a kid. So obviously we are not talking moral issues here. It was pride, not ethics, that kept me in check, when I was seventeen and nineteen years old.
And I thieved novels from the chain bookstores because, well, it was easier than working for them, wasn't it? So I understand why my students are thieving their answers off of Wikipedia and Answers.com and Essaysforfree. Beats working for the knowledge, ain't it? So far as they can see, anyway.
I'm also uncertain of what my response should be. On the one hand, I'm the man. I'm the authority here. Obviously I should smack them hard, make them learn that theft of other's work is not the path to wisdom, yap yap yap, and we do not tolerate this in the academy, you know the drill.
On the other hand: I was never caught. I got over it. I grew out of my wicked ways. (I submit to you further that, in my experience, most people do.) If I had been caught -- at nineteen -- I am fairly certain my life would not have been improved by the punishment that would have been inflicted on me. I am almost certain, in fact, that my life would have been made far worse by the punishment the legal system would have inflicted upon me. I would not, I am saying, be where I am today. So isn't it better that I wasn't ever caught? That punishment was never inflicted upon me?
Where was I?
Oh, yes. Smacking students.
I'm not the legal system, heaven knows. I don't send them to prison. But the actions I take sometimes have serious consequences. Students do lose scholarships because I fail them for cheating in my class. They lose health insurance. Their parents kick them out. I can say, as I have said in the past, well, this is not my fault. This is the student's fault. She cheated. He cheated. He should have thought of that before he took his essay off of EssaysAreUs. I said I would do it if they took their answers from Wikipedia -- did she think I was joking? But the fact remains -- am I making the world better or worse by harming the students in this way?
I can also argue that the jury is still out on whether they are harmed or made better by being failed in my class. But Plato said no one is made better by being punished, and I am slowly starting to think he might be right. (Oh, when has Plato ever been wrong?)
So my question is, what should I do about students who cheat on exams? Continue to slam them hard -- fail them for the semester -- or choose a different path?
Maybe a more useful one?
4 hours ago