A hole inside where my optimism used to be.

I have discovered that whatever patience I may have once had for students who think it's a reasonable strategy to try to deceive their way through "meeting" requirements in an ethics course has completely eroded. There's not a bit of it left, just a gaping hole where it used to be.

What's more, I think I came to the mistaken impression that I still had some patience in reserve largely due to my lack of inner shout-y-ness* about these students.

It turns out the inner shout-y-ness is gone because the part of me that regulates it has concluded that it's wasted energy. I cannot save adults who have decided to cheat at ethics for a grade. This is not to say I believe they cannot change -- just that I cannot change them. At least, not with the tools at my disposal.**

This realization leaves me feeling kind of sad.

Also, I think it has changed my strategy with regards to setting explicit expectations (for example, specifying that students are only allowed to use class readings and notes, discussions with classmates, and their own wits on certain assignments, and that using any other materials for these assignments is forbidden), and then enforcing them with no wiggle-room. At this point, if a student specifies (in writing) that he or she understands the rules and agrees to follow them else fail the course and face administrative sanctions, I am going to treat that as an enforceable contract.

Because honestly, with a critical mass of students who do seem willing to conduct themselves ethically in an ethics class, it's probably better for everyone if I can remove the few who are not.

I only wish removing the bad actors didn't leave me feeling dead inside.

*Shout-y-ness is so a word.

**This is not an oblique request for a torture chamber. That's not really my scene.

6 responses so far

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    Culling the herd is a good thing. I suppose it is a triage thing. Some students need little guidance, some can be made to understand, but some will not. No need to waste time on them once identified.

  • becca says:

    You did two PhDs and you had any optimism for the professor phase at all? You're a saint.

    Nobody is hopeless in an absolute sense. Many people are hopeless for your intents and purposes.

  • bobby says:

    It is understandable that it would pain you to "abandon" hope for those that willingly behave unethical in of all places an ethics course. The unfortunate reality of our society is that some people appear to have no altruistic side and instead behave solely on whether the reward versus consequences are worth the risk of getting caught.

    It would be interesting to find out if the long-term results of harsh consequences has an impact on future decisions by those individuals or not. If anything, one would hope you are doing others a favor by hindering their potential to do harm to others in the future. So, thank you.

  • ecologist says:

    ... wondering where to get my irony meter repaired, since it sort of exploded at the idea of cheating on your ethics homework. Perhaps you could say "Ethics. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means," just before you fail them.

  • a says:

    Thank you for doing what is right. Anyone who would cheat their way through an ethics course probably cheats their way through the rest of their courses as well. Cheating is rampant even in medical school.

    "A survey of 2,459 medical students found that 39% had witnessed cheating in their first 2 years of medical school, and 66.5% had heard about cheating. About 5% reported having cheated during that time."


  • dan says:

    i think the technical term of such students is called the christmas grad...