The Feb. 3 edition of The Triangle contained two articles, one lamenting the decline in term-paper assignments and the consequent deficit in student intellectual skills, and the other noting the rise in Internet-abetted plagiarism. May I submit that these two issues are not unrelated? I have come to look first in the papers I receive not for acuity of thought and expression, but for the spelling and grammatical errors that will indicate that they are actually the work of students themselves. It’s a cliche that cheaters only cheat themselves, but they also cheat the teachers who assign, supervise, and grade papers, and as a fourth function now find themselves obliged to use search engines to ferret out plagiarism. Is it any wonder that the remedy that occurs for this is simply to stop assigning papers? That, of course, penalizes honest students who are deprived of an important learning skill.
The rise of cheating, however, is not solely linked to the greater ease of electronic plagiarism. It is also related to the pernicious idea that students are “customers” whose needs it is the duty of faculty to satisfy. That fundamental corruption of the student-teacher relationship is the consequence of a corporate model of education that reduces it to one between consumers and providers. In other words, it becomes a mutual jockeying for advantage instead of a common enterprise of learning. In that, false coin will inevitably be met by short weight.
Professor of History