I’ve never understood cheating, probably because I never cared much about my grades. I instinctively knew that the grades didn’t measure anything meaningful — usually just my ability to quickly memorize information I’d just as quickly forget. I was good at this, and so did well on tests when I bothered to try, but I didn’t have any truck with them after a while. My test scores were highly variable as a result, and I didn’t want or need go to Yale. But I loved learning, which was different from doing well in school.
I came across this video in my travels around the web. It is a video of Professor Richard Quinn of University of Central Florida telling his class he has discovered that many — it turns out more than a third! — cheated on their exam. In an article in Inside Higher Ed it says “Experts in cheating and testing security have said the UCF incident is generally no worse than what takes place in many universities” and this doesn’t surprise me.
I’ve said before that entrepreneurship, one of my primary interests, is something that flourishes under an apprenticeship and not a factory model of education. I’m not sure what the business students in the UCF class were aiming for. The lecture usurped by the cheating conversation was meant to be about “Mergers and Acquisitions”.
Quinn was accused by the students of being lazy, and offering a ‘test bank’ test offered by the textbook publishers. Teaching from a textbook is almost always crappy teaching, so the whole system is flawed. It seems to me that cheating is the almost inevitable consequence of test-giving and test-taking. It doesn’t have to be this way. The best method for assessing learning progress is self-assessment, with the input of someone passionate and knowledgeable about the subject. This would require a lot of trust in the student, but also more work on the part of the teacher — who would not really be a teacher at all, in the traditional sense, but a person in love with a certain topic, probably a practitioner of the subject in question, maybe retired, maybe active.
Here’s my idea of what an ideal school would be like, borrowed from David Albert’s book And the Skylark Sings with Me a book about a family’s experience in home and community based education. It’s how I’ve envisioned, but never articulated, my own perfect school.