Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Academic Cheating, Why its Wrong

Cheating is becoming more and more prevalent in education today. As many as 76% students have reported to have cheated on at least one examination or essay. Recently, The Chronicle of Higher Education had an article written by a professional plagiarist. There are odd stories about how plagiarists are caught. Also, people have lost their jobs and reputations when they were caught plagiarizing.

Part of the reason for the increase in academic cheating is because it is so easy. For instance, I could easy cut and paste most of this blog post, or any of my blog posts from other blogs and claim the work is mine. I just wrote an essay this past weekend, and could have simply copied part of a wikipedia article or online source if I wanted to. No one would know.

There is controversy as to what plagiarism is and if it is wrong. In ethics, there are dilemmas and gray areas, cheating is no exception. But in this post I want to discuss two harms that occur with plagiarism.

Real World Harms
First, when one is outside the academic world, the consequences for making mistakes can result in a loss of large amounts of money and death. (This is not to say that the academic world is not important or its an ivory tower.) Furthermore, when one cheats, the consequences can be extremely great. Enron is a great example and if one attempts to cut corners in the medical field the consequences can be catastrophic. The point, in the real world, cheating can cause great harms.

When you're in the academic world, you're most likely being trained to use your skills in the "real world." If you cheat or plagiarize, the likelihood of these activities developing into habits that follow into your career are more likely. For instance, if you're a pre-med biology major who cheats occasionally on your labs, on small stuff of course, what's wrong with you then carrying that habit over into medical school, then when you're working as a nurse, doctor, surgeon or whatever people in medicine do?

Second, when someone is publicly caught cheating, the institution is publicly embarrassed. When Steve Glass was caught for plagiarizing many articles when he was writing for The New Republic, it was a grave embarrassment. When Floyd Landis was caught cheating, his team, Team Phonak, was dropped and a couple years later, skeptics to the legitimacy of professional cycling have increased tremendously.

If the academic world allows cheating to occur or does not engrain their students with the ethical habit of not cheating then the above consequences are just as embarrassing for universities. The point, cheating causes harms for society and so the academic world should not budge on holding to high standards regarding cheating. It is my personal opinion that cheating is never worth a better grade or a job. One's conscience is of greater value then any grade or job that one can hold.

Monday, March 21, 2011

"Unbroken" and Reading on an IPad

I just finished reading the book called "unbroken"by Laura Hillenbrand. I enjoyed the book immensely and had an interesting experience reading it on an ipad. This blog post is also on an iPad and I have. Found very quickly that I don't like the keyless key pad. I find typing to be very hard but that may be because i have larger hands.

Unbroken in a true story about a World War II soldier who fought on a bomber in the pacific. His plane crashes, and along with three other survivors, he stays alive on a raft for many days. Eventually he is captured by the Japanese and put in an internment camp. I won't ruin the rest of the story, but it is truly an incredible about the grace of God through the worst conditions a person can live through. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys World War II history, stories of heroism and good writing.

Some have argued that reading on an ipad is not the same as reading a book. After doing so, I agree, it is different reading a book on an iPad. Some have also said that reading on a computer screen reduces comprehension. Since iPads are computers then reading comprehension is reduced by reading on an iPad. I can't say this is precisely true in my case since it was a different experience then reading a book on a computer screen.

To me it was like reading a book. I didn't have trouble following the story or forget what I had read, at least not more then i usually do. There were two consequences that I noticed. The first is that I found it harder to listen to my pastor's sermon after read for an extended time. It could have been because i found the sermon uninteresting, and i wasn't taking notes which is what i usually do, but it felt rather strange because i was trying fairly hard to keep up, but my brain felt different. Second, I notice that it took me a little more motivation to read another book I am working through. That may be because it's a more politically heavy reading,, but again there was something odd about it. I cant put it into words, but it was like looking at regular words didn't feel as enticing and exciting. With that said, don't try editing with an iPad, it takes forever and a day!

I think there are consequences for reasding on an iPad both good and. Bad. For me personally, I will probably end up with a kindle or an iPad some dash, but ceurrnelty I'm going to stick with books arnd paper.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Don't Get Frustrated

Today I had my lab for Junior High and MIddle School. I go to a middle school and help a teacher with his/her classroom. Today was a rough day. I haven't been getting much sleep for the past couple weeks and tomorrow is the last day of classes before spring break. I wasn't going into the classroom 100%. The first hour was rough because the students tend to talk out of line and be disrespectful. There was one individual in particular that I let get on my nerves.

Being frustrated in the classroom is not a good situation. Your ability to act and talk rationally greatly decreases. When you're teaching, you're leading, and so if you aren't rational, you will lead poorly. Hence, it was a bad day. On reflection of this hard and long day, I looked at the clock as many times as most of the kids did, something I have learned is to not take anything personal that the students say or do. Also, never great frustrated. Usually taking things personally leads to becoming frustrated.

Something I learned today is to not take things personally. That way, I am less likely to get frustrated and be able to act and speak rationally.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Update - Definition of Success

This is a follow up post regarding my thoughts on "Sex and the Cornfields."

Last night I was able to have a conversation with Dr. McMann regarding what he meant by redefining what it means to be successful. I thought his response was helpful and interesting. He had two thoughts.

First, we should start looking at success in terms of moral success. How successful is a man in terms of his personal moral character? Has he worked to developing an ethical life in which his character is not driven by money but by morality.? (This is a paraphrase of what he said, but I think it captures the core of what he was tying to get at.)

Second, and this was really interesting, according to society's definition of success, pastors are complete failures since the majority of them make very little money. For us Christians, pastors make a good model of what it means to be a successful man. Pastors play an important role in society, and we would be in a very tight spot without them. We can look to pastors as a model for what it means to be a successful man in terms of loving others and sacrificing our time and energy for society and the church.

Note that Dr. McMann is emphasizing the character of a man and not his clothes, the way he talks and his money. Also it take time to get to know a successful man since it takes time and energy to discover a person's character. Often we judge the success of a person in the moment we meet them by the quality of their clothes, whether they make eye contact, do they speak clearly. If we define success in terms of character though, this will have to stop. Our judgment of people will have to be held back.

In conclusion, redefining success for men is a very hard thing to do. We judge people very quickly and often on a superficial level. When people judge us like that it is easy to quickly try to be acceptable to them. If a man rejects culture's definition of success, it is very possible society could look down on him as a failure, and that's hard to take.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What does it mean for a Man to be Successful?

Update: I have updated this post with Dr. McMann's response to my question.

At Taylor this week we are having a series of lectures/discussion on the topic of "Sex and the Cornfields." This has sometimes been misconstrued as "Sex in the Cornfields." Let me clarify that the former is accurate and the latter incorrect.

There have been three talks so far. At the first one we watched a movie about gender and media. Most of it dealt with the commodification of women, but it also touched on men and the media. Tonight and this morning Mark McMann spoke on the issue of hope and fears in intimate relationships between men and women. In this post I will focus on his discussion of a common trait of men and their fear of not succeeding.

The Fear of not Succeeding
McMann explained that a major fear men have are is that they won't be successful. Specifically, this is in regards to communication, views on marriage and financial success. McMann explained that men sense a burden to be financially successful, otherwise they are failures. He used different media images to prove his point. in his conclusion, he challenged the audience (who was mostly a female audience.) that our definition of success for men needs to be broadened, though he didn't define what it means to be successful.

Its About the Money
I appreciated McMann's talk. He is bringing out an issue that needs to be discussed. I thought though he partially missed the issue. From my experience, the fear that men experience regarding success is not the issue of whether they're going to successful, it is whether they are going to have a lot of money. Success in our culture is defined by how much money you have. The real fear that men have is specifically dealing with whether they have a lot money or not. So what men are fearing regarding success is whether they are going to have a lot of money.

Also, I think it would have been helpful for McMann to have given a better definition for Christians to have when we think about what it means to be a successful man. A good definition will include being able to provide the necessities of life for one's family. Yet, the necessities of a family are more then just monetary. They include emotional, spiritual and ultimately relational support/leadership as well.

To conclude, McMann's talk opened up some important talks that need to be raised. I would have appreciated him providing a better definition of what success means in our culture and what it should mean for us as Christians.

Unrelated but great quote: "If a man will set no limit to his labor, God will set no limit to the reward." - Augustine (quoted by Thomas Aquinas in Meditations for Lent)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Women and Leadership

While at Ethics Bowl I was able to have a discussion about women and leadership. I was the only male student in the room and a question regarding women leadership was posed to me. "Do I find it hard to work under leaders who are women?" This question comes about in the context of whether women ought to be leaders.

At first I didn't know and then I thought. In the moment I concluded that it is harder for me to work under women leaders. There are three reasons. First is how I have been brought up. I am supposed to treat women with respect, the "don't hit a girl idea." Second, don't you have to be more polite to a woman who's a leader? You can't just joke around them like you would a guy leader. Lastly, you can't really get close to a leader who is a woman like you can a guy. You can't have your "guy time."

After further reflection, I find these reasons I put forward to be poor. The main reason is that I didn't think carefully about how in general I interact with leaders. Every employer, superintendent or superior I work under is different, and so my relationship will obviously be different depending on the leader. I can't really say that it is "harder" to work under a woman who is a leader rather then a man since everyone is unique. The more I have thought about it, to say that it is harder for me to work under women who are leaders is absurd. How I interact with different leaders will change from leader to leader, not gender to gender.

In conclusion, I think that to say women should not be leaders because it would be harder for men to be under them for various reasons (see above) is hard to argue for since all leaders differ in their methods. Also, women are inherently leaders since many of them lead their children every day in the most important leadership position one can possibly have.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

So Much to Talk About

This has been a very full week so I thought that I would take a shotgun approach to this blog post. Below is a wide survey of the topics I have been a part of lately.

1. Illegal immigration - Arizona Law 1070
At Ethics Bowl we had to prepare a case regarding the infamous illegal immigration law in Arizona. After my research I found this law to be unethical because it invites discrimination. Hence it is an unjust law. Discrimination is inherently unjust, the reason being, it is basing judgment of another off of something they can't change. (Note, I am talking about racial discrimination. I am uncomfortable saying that all forms of discrimination are wrong since we discriminate against federal offenders.) I don't think that the amendment changes the law given the social context of Arizona and the U.S. We have a terrible history when it comes to racial relations with Hispanics. For example, the Reparation Act during the Great Depression.

2. Gender Issues - Men
Why is it that men are passive? They hold a slight majority in the world population in comparison to women. Also, men in the United States hold more powerful positions then women. Why is it that men hold more power then women yet the majority of men are passive? Furthermore, why is it that men are often "attacked" for being passive? There seems to be more proactive dialogue regarding the empowerment of women yet the discussion of men is more often ignored or mis-understood. My thought is that whenever we talk about the empowerment of women, we must talk about the empowerment of men. Who causes all the world's problems? Who fights all the time, who doesn't support their wives, is addicted to pornography, rapes others, encourages women to get abortions and is in prison a lot? Men. The origin of many of the problems with women today are in men. We need to empower men in order to help women.

3. Alvin Plantinga - fear of ideas
Professor Plantinga spoke at Taylor this past week. He is a humble, kind and sharp philosopher. I could talk a lot about some of the things he spoke on. (For instance, he spoke on how naturalism can't explain how our cognitive faculties produce truth-oriented beliefs, why religious pluralism fails to be internally coherent and how miracles are compatible with science.) Something that fascinates me about Plantinga is that he is not scared of any idea. This was an observation by one of my professors. Many Christians do not share this trait. I hope that as I grow I can develop the ability to rationally consider an idea respectfully no matter how odd or strange it is. Why should we be afraid of ideas that are false or could be false? If all truth is God's truth, what do we have to fear?

4. Government Control and Information
At the conference for the Association for Practical and Professional Ethics, I heard a discussion on a new book called, "Mass Surveillance and State Control: The Total Information Awareness Project." It was a very insightful and fun discussion regarding the overwhelming ability of the government to watch our lives through the internet. The author, Elliot Cohen, argues that we must push back before its too late. He was critiqued by three others. I am looking forward to cracking open this book in my spare time. I got it through interlibrary loan. I may dedicate a blog post to this subject once I finish the book.

5. Intellectual Open-mindedness - Dr. Jim Spiegel
My professor, Dr. Jim Spiegel, gave a paper at the same conference regarding intellectual open-mindedness. He attempted to show the connection between humility and open-mindedness, that open-mindedness and humility are closely connected. One thought I had is that because of the issue of "moral luck" we have more of a obligation to have humility and hence open mindedness since our situation in life is not wholly the result of our actions and choices, but other people and our environment.

6. We Lost - Ethics Bowl - Nationals
It was frustrating but we did not get beyond the first round. We beat Dartmouth which was a good feeling since we tied with them two years ago. This time we soundly defeated them. The two cases argued were whether "cybrids" (human embryos that are 99% human and 1% animal.) bring about more benefits then harms and whether it is ethical to debark. Debarking is cutting a dogs vocal cords so their ability to bark is greatly inhibited. On the former, we argued for the negative, that cybrids are unethical and man did sparks fly. All the judges disagreed with us, as well as Dartmouth, but in the end, they were fair judges. (I don't say they were fair because they gave us the win, but because everyone else in the room thought we had won.) On the issue of debarking, I believe we argued for the practice being unethical unless the alternative is killing the dog.

Something that took the bite off the loss was that Montana State, who we lost to, went on to go to the finals where they were controversially (they lost by three points0 beaten by the University of Central Florida.

In spite of losing and no longer being an ethics bowler, I am thankful for these past three years. I have learned so much through ethics bowl. By far, it has been one of the most important activities I have participated in at Taylor.