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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

NY Times Forum: The College Cheating 'Epidemic'

Following up on last week's post, NY Times: Colleges Deploy Tech Tools to Combat 61% of Students Who Cheat: the New York Times has a Room for Debate forum on When Did Cheating Become an Epidemic?:

For as long as exams and term papers have existed, cheating has been a temptation. But with Web technology, it's never been easier. College professors and high school teachers are engaged in an escalating war with students over cutting and pasting articles from the Internet, sharing answers on homework assignments and even texting answers during exams. The arms race is now joined between Web sites offering free papers to download and sophisticated software that can detect plagiarism instantly.

Is this apparent increase in cheating a matter of shifting morals in this new generation or something else? Are students defining cheating differently than in past decades?

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"Intellectual property" is more honestly the monoploly protection of selected idea presentations. Most folks with home computers have copied in violation of IP laws.

If you're willing to be a criminal to listen to music or see a video, it's not hard to be willing to copy/ plagiarize other's ideas.

There's even a logic that says those who can best copy the best web-found articles are those most likely to do well in real life when faced with such issues or questions.

The professors have to do a better job of clearly expressing what is allowed, and not, and create borders of behavior that are easily enforced.

The first, and in my view most important part of any law or rule, is the enforcement mechanism.

Better software to find cheaters is a good race.

Posted by: Tom Grey | Jul 14, 2010 4:22:07 AM

This was true in law school also. The dumb kids actually read and carefully outlined the cases, thinking deeply about the contents. The smart kids just got a copy of last year's outline, which is essentially a word for word transcript of what the teacher will say this year, and studied that. Guess who did better on exams?

Posted by: anon | Jul 14, 2010 4:57:38 AM

As the article itself says cheating has been going on forever, long before term papers and exams, I'm sure. As it also says technology has just made it easier. I think the ease of cheating, rather than a shift in morals, is responsible for any increase in cheating.

Posted by: David Stokley | Jul 14, 2010 5:49:13 AM

It's an interesting line to draw between cheating and using things at your disposal to progress. The reality is that in the real world of business cheating is very much par for the course. I don't like it, but it just is. Nathan C.

Posted by: contractors tax | Jul 14, 2010 10:10:28 AM