Cheaters Never Prosper

By Jay Shifley

My mother used to tell me that “cheaters never prosper.”  And while a cheater’s inner life never does, it is naïve to think that someone who cheats doesn’t benefit in some way.  I mean, after all why cheat at all if it doesn’t benefit you?

I tried to do a language learning game in my very first class at Dynamic.  It was that game where you sit in a circle and pound out a rhythm with claps on your knees and finger snaps.

Well, it failed miserably.  No one could keep the rhythm—I guess I should have modified it to be a Punjabi beat!

That was the beginning of my challenge to introduce games into my class of lower, middle class Muslim students.  Games like Scrabble, Taboo, Telephone, Lifeboat, etc.  were met with skepticism—after all, what could a game teach you?  My students were there to learn English!  Break out the books and let’s learn some grammar and vocabulary words! 

But the biggest challenge playing games in the classroom posed was, you guessed it:  cheating.

It was rampant.  I usually played games with two or more teams, and all kinds of sly strategies were employed in order to gain some advantage over the other team.  Sneaking looks at cards, sign language, slips of paper:  you name it, it was done.  I gave up trying to control it, and used the games as much as I could.  But the cheating sure made it less fun.

The same thing happened when it was test time.  Tests and exams in Indian schools are regulated really rigorously, and our philosophy at Dynamic has always been to rely heavily on the honor system.  So copied answers, looking at each other’s paper, cheat sheets, etc. were pretty common.  We confronted it when we saw it, but we were not prepared to treat our students like they had no honor.  As a result, we had lots of papers that had the same answers, and the same mistakes.   These students, as you can probably deduce, did not learn well and usually did not last the full length of their enrollment.

Cheating happens on all levels, in all societies, and it has the same consequences as all shortcuts do.  Avoiding the hard work by cheating does get you to where you are going quicker, but most of the time when you get there you find you are ill prepared—unless you continue to cheat.  Cheaters do prosper, but their expertise is very shallow.

 

Originally written: January 21, 2017

 

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