Home' Teacher : February 2010 Contents REVIEWS 73
Cheating -- plagiarising, copying and other
forms of academic misconduct -- is a prob-
lem and not just, as the authors of Cheating
in School put it, 'problematic,' since 'prob-
lematic' means merely open to question.
Cheating is not open to question; it's wrong.
I point this out because the issues raised
in this book depend on careful language.
The argument made by Stephen Davis,
Patrick Drinan and Tricia Bertram-Gallant
on page 3, for example, is that when parents
'help' their children on homework their chil-
dren are cheating. This 'help,' however, is
not adequately problematised, in the sense
of questioned, let alone defined. In what
way is the parent who 'helps' his or her child
different from the one who helps? What are
'help' and help? If we were to get an answer
in Cheating in School, and were to agree on
it, is all 'help' unhelpful? Where does help fit
in with the teaching role, and where should
'help' remain outside it?
These are not small questions, since
at their heart they ask: what is teaching?
Whatever it is, and whether you're a con-
structivista, an instructionista or something
in between, teaching and by implication
learning happens in what Lev Vygotsky
called the zone of proximal development.
As Vygotsky put it in Mind in Society, this
zone is somewhere 'between the actual
developmental level as determined by
independent problem solving and the level
of potential development as determined
through problem solving under adult guid-
ance, or in collaboration with more c apable
pee rs.' The emphases are mine. As Wiki-
pedia puts it, the zone of proximal devel-
opment is 'the difference between what a
learner can do without help and what he or
she can do with help.' Again, the emphases
The argument made by Davis, Drinan
and Bertram-Gallant is a slippery one.
Essentially, as they put it on page seven,
'Students who persistently and uniformly
complete their academic assignments in
ways that shortcut effort and garner unfair
advantage will learn habits of a cheating
character. These children may eventually
grow up to take shortcuts in life . . .like the
baseball player who takes steroids.'
I don't wish to appear to be arguing for
cheating by students, but I have some prob-
lems with this. Yes, I don't want some stu-
dents to have an unfair advantage, but I'm
not convinced that shortcuts in effort are
an unfair advantage. The 'and' in 'shortcut
effort and garner unfair advantage' makes it
seem that the two go together, but do they?
I'd say yes if you were running a marathon
that required you to run 42.195 kilometres,
but no if you were running for the bus.
A shortcut in the way students handle
academic assignments may be a very good
thing, so long as they don't take shortcuts
to cheat, and they're only 'like the baseball
player who takes steroids,' again, if they
take shortcuts to cheat.
There are two steps back we need to take
if we're adequately to address cheating.
The first step is to articulate precisely
what is legitimate in helping a student to
learn. Teaching, after all, is about leading
forth, if we believe that 'educere' is the Latin
root of educate, or to bring up or rear, if we
believe that 'educare' is its Latin root. Either
way, someone does some helping some-
where, so what's allowed, and what's not?
The second step is to examine institu-
tional honesty and dishonesty in education
broadly, rather than addressing the honesty
and dishonesty of students as though they're
academically honest or dishonest in isola-
tion. In my experience, plagiarism is not the
preserve of students; researchers have been
known to fabricate data and academics have
been known to claim coauthorship of works
they haven't written.
Put simply, if we want to address 'student
academicdishonesty,' we needto address the
elephant in the room, academic disho n e st y.
I struggled with the first and last parts
of Cheating in School, but liked the mid-
dle section -- chapters three to five -- since
they address actual cheating and effective
short-term deterrents. The focus, mind you,
appears to remain on students -- senior high
school and undergraduate students in par-
ticular. Why is that?
Yes, the web, cut-and-paste and new
technologies make it easier for students and
others in education to cheat and, yes, we
ought not to sit on our hands. Davis, Drinan
and Bertram-Gallant, though, want 'an
academic integrity movement. . .driven by a
vision of education as the pursuit of truth
and the transcendence of the divide between
learning and testing (at the K-12 level) and
teaching and research (at the higher educa-
That's an ambitious goal. I'm not con-
vinced that Cheating in School offers much
to help anyone achieve it. T
Steve Holden is the editor of Te acher .
L .S. Vygotsky. (1978). Mind in Society:
Development of higher psychologic al
processes. Cambridge, M A: Harvard
Wikipedia. (2009). Zon e of proxi-
m al de velopme nt. Available at http://
m al_development Last modified 14
October 2009. Retrieved 19 October
CHEATING IN SCHOOL:
WHAT WE KNOW AND
WHAT WE CAN DO
By Stephen Davis, Patrick Drinan &
Published by Wiley-Blackwell
ISBN 9 781 405 178 044
Reviewed by STEVE HOLDEN
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