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.