“Dude! Did you know that if you increase the font size of the period, it cuts out a lot of space in a paper, and it’s not even noticeable? Try it on your next assignment!”
“Hey, wanna know how I got a 100 on my test? I smeared Chapstick on the Scantron, and it blocked all the wrong answers.”
“Did I read? Heck no. We never have quizzes anyway.”
It has come to my attention over the last few months that the majority of students, myself included, cheat in college. Through many means, we have achieved ultimate Jedi mastery in cheating. Not in cheating the system, or in cheating on tests, mind you, but in cheating ourselves.
“Ourselves?” you may ask. Exactly. Ourselves. We cheat ourselves out of learning, and we cheat ourselves out of a lasting education. We do this in a variety of ways, but two such ways are more prominent or problematic than the rest: failing to read, and drafting off other students on group projects.
Perhaps the worst (and most immediately gratifying) way that we cheat ourselves is by failing to do assigned reading. Usually, a class is driven by the reading. What is discussed in class and expected to be known for tests will likely be all about the reading.
The excuse can be made that one simply needs to know the key terms or important facts from the chapters. This excuse is most often given in history or literature classes. (ATC, anyone?) However, the point of continued reading is that it links everything together in a logical and comprehensive way. It points out the relation of one thing to another — why these facts are in the same chapter. Without reading, one only sees a loose set of facts, unattached to anything else. It’s like having a hundred pieces of a jigsaw puzzle lying on a table. Maybe some of them are attached to each other, but the puzzle as a whole is not complete. The individual pieces may look nice enough, but the real beauty of the work is found when every piece is linked together.
If I may continue the analogy … we cheat ourselves out of an education by not reading because unrelated facts are easy to forget.
We may remember that Barbarossa (not the guy in “Pirate of the Caribbean”) was the emperor of the medieval Holy Roman Empire, and we may remember that the Holy Roman Empire participated in the Crusades, but unless we link the two facts together by understanding that Mr. Barbarossa took part in the Crusades, it will be much easier to forget these two facts. By simply knowing that Emperor Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire participated in the Crusades, we know who he is, what he did, and that he participated in the Crusades, as well as having a frame of reference for when the Crusades occurred.
It is easier to know that there are missing pieces in puzzle once it has been completed rather than when it is a pile of pieces in a box. It is not good enough to simply know. We must read and understand.
Group projects! Either you love them, or you hate them. Sometimes you can learn a lot from group projects, especially by listening to the knowledge and advice of people who are more learned in a certain area than you may be. However, it is easy to cheat oneself out of genuine learning in this way.
I am sure that most of us (myself included) have been, at one point in their lives, “that guy.” We all know him. The guy who contributes in no way to any part of the project nor tries to actually learn anything about the topic, and just lets himself be carried along by the good virtue and honest labor of the others while quietly copying down all of the answers. Such people can be in any group: a study group, a group project, a homework group, a resistance movement, a D&D party (the worst place for such sloth!), or a starship crew.
It is a really easy way for us to go, because such projects are usually required, so the group has no choice but to share with all of its members. We must remember that, in order to gain lasting benefits from a group project, we have to either try to learn or try to contribute in as many ways as possible.
“Student cheating” in the academic world is much more about the student cheating himself than it is about the student cheating a professor or a test. We students have invested a great deal of money into an education, but we are squandering it by skipping out on reading, being carried along in group projects, cramming, skipping classes on a whim, or daydreaming about kittens, Skyrim, and chocolate in class. It’s true that sometimes we need a break, or that sometimes we simply fail to devote enough time and effort to what needs to be done. In this, one could argue that poor self-management is the ultimate way to cheat oneself out of an education.
The goal of education is to be educated! Shocking claim this is not. Education is not about knowing enough to pass a class in a semester, but about knowing enough to win at life. Your knowledge will stay with you as long as you care to maintain it. If you genuinely try to educate yourself, to know, to understand, you may find that you know far more than you ever expected, and that your knowledge will be at your fingertips well beyond college. With this mindset, you may live long and prosper.