Editorial – Short Cuts

DocZone over on CBC recently had an episode called “Faking the Grade” which examined cheating in post-secondary schools. One of the more alarming facts to come from this documentary was the estimate that at least 70% of university students cheated some time during their high school years, and that many continue to cheat all through their post-secondary schooling and further on in their careers.

Various reasons and justifications are given for this, including how competitive it’s becoming to get into post-secondary can make refusing to cheat seem like self-defeating behavior when faced with competition that will. Or how a university degree is more often being seen as a type of certification rather than an education, so cheating is simply a shortcut to getting the piece of paper, not a failure to have received an education.

One cause that isn’t explored, however, is how our entire education system is looking for short cuts. Businesses want trained people without having to do the training. Politicians want people educated without having to pay for it, which forces university administrations to want the same things. But the shortcuts that get taken to reach these goals, larger class sizes, standardized tests, do nothing to hinder students who might be tempted to cheat. Shortcuts are taken at the educational level as well, because it’s a lot easier to create a course that tests for information retention rather than comprehension. And when a course consists of nothing more than one-way communications: lectures, readings, and the occasional exam, of course it’s hard to see how this is providing an education. After all, if a course is just providing information, we could probably have just found it on the internet ourselves. And then there’s short-cuts that teachers take. It doesn’t take a lot of talking with students to find that there are some courses at AU where simply submitting any drivel with your name on it will net you a nice A- grade.

The best courses I’ve had were ones that had an oral final. I called my tutor, and we had a conversation. She asked me questions, some of them open-ended, and I answered as best I could, on the spot. Even if I’d wanted to cheat, doing so in that kind of situation is almost impossible. Of course, doing a course that way is the long way. There were no shortcuts available.

And speaking of shortcuts, you’ll note that this is a short issue of The Voice Magazine. Creation of The Voice Magazine runs pretty close to the wire every week, so once in a while people run out of inspiration, or get delayed, or, in my own personal case, don’t give interview subjects enough time to reply. And once in a very long while, this all comes together on the same week. But “Primal Numbers”, “In Conversation”, and “Meeting the Minds” should all be back next week.

This week however, in addition to most of our regular content, we also have our feature article from Tamra Ross who takes a look at why even as the number of people exercising, buying gym or yoga memberships goes up, so to do the number of health problems in our society. It’s an article that will hopefully make you stand up and take notice. Or perhaps the other way around.

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