MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

February 26 2007
MAIL BAG

MAIL BAG

February 26 2007

'Why not check out what’s going on in high school? Most students don’t get out of grade school without cheating.’

MAIL BAG

CHEATERS IN THE LIGHT

YOUR WRITERS Cathy Gulli, Nicholas Köhler and Martin Patriquin shed light on a major problem at our institutions of higher learning (“The great university cheating scandal,” Cover, Feb. 12). Over the past four years of teaching, I have noticed an increased sense of entitlement among my students. Some of them believe that because they are “purchasing” an education, they “deserve” to get the highest grades and they will do what they feel is necessary to obtain them, without regard for the morality of their actions. Students are encouraged in this pursuit of high grades at any cost by an administration that caters to their every demand, and errs on the side of student rights at the expense of a rigorous education. When I have endeavoured to enforce standards and deadlines in my classes, I have been frustrated by an administration that appears to be unable to say no to students, much like the modernday parents criticized by author David Walsh in his Q&A with Kate Fillion (Interview, Feb. 12). The appeals process is such that it is far easier for a professor to cave to student demands than to challenge a student in front of an overprotective administration. As your editorial states, “universities have to do better,” not just in supporting their honest, hard-working students, but in supporting their faculty.

Jenny Godley, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Calgary, Calgary

IN ELEMENTARY and high school, teachers fudge marks in order to allow failing students to proceed to the next grade, due to some misbegotten idea of damaging a young person’s self-esteem. In our society, people everywhere, not just students, are bombarded with messages that glorify the individual who can do an end run around the system and play it for a sucker. Those with integrity and honour are portrayed as losers. Children listen to, and emulate the actions of, those around them—parents and teachers, as well as their sports and entertainment idols. How can we expect them to value integrity and honour if we don’t do it ourselves?

Karen Sinclair, Kanata, Ont.

RUNNING A FREELANCE writer agency, I can tell you that the second most-frequent writing request, after books, is for school papers.

We have even been asked to write Ph.D. entry essays. We respond to all such queries by refusing to help students cheat themselves out of an education.

David Leonhardt, The Happy Guy Marketing, Chesterville, Ont.

THE NOTION that 53 per cent of university students admitted to serious cheating on written work strikes me as rather excessive. One would expect that with serious cheating, average grades would be on the rise. I have not noticed this in my 20 years or so of uni-

versity teaching. But supposing it were the case, then one could also assume by implication that Canada’s Magazine of the Year is infiltrated by a rather large percentage of cheaters. And by your own admittance, they seem to be doing a rather fine job!

Gerard Naddaf Department of Philosophy, York University, Toronto

THERE WAS A TIME not too long ago when people went to university to become intelligent, prudent and wise. That changed when knowledge became a commodity. Now, universities sell credentials, professors are lowpaid sales reps, and students are customers. Universities are ranked by sales volume, customer satisfaction and market placement (your own annual survey proves that). Students shop for the best deals, they shop where they can be seen, and they move effortlessly between Prada and McGill. We have convinced every teenager that being seen in public with-

out the latest degree from the best school is simply embarrassing: the difference between Gucci and Giant Tiger. Of course don’t believe me based on the intrinsic intelligibility or wisdom of the observation. Believe me because I own all the credentials listed after my name. I bought them fair and square.

Paul Lewis, Ph.D., M.BA., MA., B.Sc. B.Ed., Iqaluit, Nunavut

THE REASON students cheat and profs don’t care is because they don’t have an incentive to do otherwise. The goal of faculty is to keep their jobs. This means their primary goal isn’t education, it’s research. If a student’s current goal is to earn a focused education, maybe he should go to college.

Steven Cherry, Lethbridge, Alta.

LISTEN, I SPENT five years at the University of Western Ontario and I never cheated—I swear. But I did hear about a lot of good techniques, and not just plain old plagiarism either. Toilet paper rolls are a good place to hide your cheat sheets. Take note, kids: go to the bathroom often during exams. You can get a lot of good reading done in there. And Maclean’s, why not go a step further and check out the cheating that goes on in high schools? In fact, most students didn’t even make it out of primary school without cheating.

Krissie Rutherford, Toronto

IF INDEED some young women scrawl dates, math formulas, and Shakespearean quotes on their upper thighs in order to cheat the examiner, the resultant damage to their tender skins can be blamed on the history, science or English professors who are unwilling or unable to construct examinations that test comprehension and critical skills rather than memorization. Students will be forced to cheat and professors will be forced to become inadequate policemen as long as the expectations of the academy and the demands of society diverge; the academy aims to impart learning, while society demands job training. Tony Key, Emeritus Professor, Department of Physics, University of Toronto, Toronto

CHEATING COMES IN many forms. Our schools have been undermined by incoherent policies that have produced inconsistencies in academic standards that have failed to protect the integrity of bright students who

have worked hard to achieve high marks. Teachers make allowances for some students and not for others. A test that is given to one class on a Monday is given to another class later in the week, allowing students to access the questions prior to testing. Technology such as graphing calculators is often programmed, showing all the work that can be copied during tests, while electronic translators often include programs that are used for cheating. Students who cheat and/or have been given special favour in high school are rewarded with the most sought-after spaces in university without the skills to succeed. Is it surprising they cheat?

Jill Bergstrom, Vancouver

TRASHING AMERICA

I OFTEN GET ANNOYED when people say they hate America, so I found Martin Newland’s column on anti-U.S. sentiment in England very thought-provoking (“America-bashing: the new U.K. sport,” World, Jan. 29). Western society and many of its media are so focused on the bad turns America has taken, they don’t realize what improvements it has made. America was hit hard on 9/11 and it responded forcefully. I do not agree with some things George W. Bush has done, but I do not think he is the worst president in history. Both Bush and Tony Blair realize that the problems of the world are not going to go away if they ignore them. The U.S. military is essential to keeping order—it is the world’s police.

Graeme Gillies, Winnipeg

I WOULD SUGGEST that Newland take a better look at all aspects of American foreign involvement and current Middle Eastern affairs. He speaks of the blunders and failings of Bush and Blair, but does not seem to number among them the worst one, the decision to invade Iraq. Given its part in the development of the geopolitical situation, what else could any sane person do but adopt an air of exasperation when talking about the U.S. Seeing Americans as well-meaning rednecks with more power than sense may be a bit over the top—but it is far from idiocy. Donald Macdonald, Sydney, N.S.

ANTI-SEMITISM IN FRANCE

IN HIS COLUMN, Mark Steyn makes a very unfair representation of the French policy against anti-Semitism (“Geopolitical poseurs of the first order,” Books, Dec. 18). The Jewish heritage is part of the French culture. The French Jewish community ranks third after the Israeli and the American communities. Our legislation to combat anti-Semitic acts has been strengthened with the Gayssot and Fellouche Acts, and there is a decrease of

‘I love The End. The one about Howard Hockey from Bjorkdale, Sask., struck a chord because of the portrayal of his love of the prairie.’

anti-Semitic acts over the long term. The rate of criminal prosecution has risen from 178 condemnations in 2000 to 435 in 2005. President Jacques Chirac considers that “an attack against a Jew is an attack against the Republic.” Uncompromising in this matter, France strongly supports the essential right of Israel to live in peace and security within the region. We have set down three conditions for the opening of a political dialogue with Hamas: recognition of the state of Israel, implementation of the Oslo agreements, and explicit renunciation to all forms of violence. We totally share the concern of Israel regarding the open hostility of the Iranian president whose unacceptable speech on Holocaust denial is vigorously condemned by our government.

Daniel Jouanneau, French Ambassador, Ottawa

THE LAST IS FIRST

I HAVE TO SAY I love The End. Over time, I have found myself reading it first because of the human connections it makes in me, and, I would guess in most of your readers. The one about Howard Hockey, the former mayor of Bjorkdale, Sask. (Feb. 12), who died after searching for his missing son, struck a particular personal chord. I lived in Saskatoon for two years in the early seventies and can picture the love of the prairie outdoors as portrayed in this profile. The Canadian content of this piece is always of the most interest to me.

Helga Campbell, Niagara Falls, Ont.

CALLING CHÁVEZ NAMES

MACLEAN’S CALLS Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez a “nutcase-in-arms” of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (“Mahmoud swing,” Good News, Feb. 5). Never mind that Chávez won re-election with a majority George W. Bush could only dream of. Never mind that he has used his country’s oil wealth to improve the lives of its poor citizens. And never mind the leading role Venezuela plays in South America and its relations with the developed world. Seemingly you disapprove of Chávez. That in no way justifies name-calling.

Dr. Lisa S. Price, Gibsons, B.C.

IN PASSING

Barbara McNair, 72, singer-actress. The first black woman to get her own U.S. TV show, McNair started in the late 1950s as a nightclub singer and later became a dramatic actress, appearing opposite Sidney Poitier in They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! Described by the New York Times as “strikingly beautiful,” she starred in The Barbara McNair Show, a variety program, from 1969 to 1972.

Ian Richardson, 72, actor. The gaunt British performer created a sensation in 1990 with TV’s House of Cards, in which he played a ruthlessly ambitious British Conservative party whip with the trademark tag line, “You may think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment.”