Jesus Creed

Some students cheat. I heard a story yesterday from another North Park professor of two new ways students cheat, and each of them surprised me. Some students text message questions from the classroom to friends outside the classroom who, in turn, text message back answers. And, this one boggles: some students take pictures from their cell phone of a question and send it to friends outside the classroom, and then (once again) the friends answer back. Good grief, what energy it must take to figure out how to cheat!
Do you have some stories of cheating? What do you do? Is there more cheating in the Church? In the business world? Do you think cheating in general is on the rise? What do you tell your children about cheating on tests?
In our syllabi is a comment about plagiarism, and we refer students to the Student Handbook which also spells out in strong terms that cheating is grounds for expulsion from school. My policy is that if a student is caught cheating, the students flunks the particular assignment.
Here are two stories from my experience as a professor. I once graded two in-class exams with such remarkably similar answers that I knew cheating had occurred. When I graded the first set of answers, I thought the student was just trying to be funny on some questions he had no answer for.
It wasn’t so funny when the next exam I graded had the same “funny” answers. I did not know which of the two students was cheating — maybe they had conspired but I didn’t know. So, I decided to call them both up to the front after everyone else had dismissed, and I made them this offer: “At least one of you was cheating; maybe both. I’ll give you both until next class period to confess. If one confesses, I’ll give that student a 50% for the exam and the other student the marked score. If neither confesses, I’ll give you both 50s.” At the end of the next class, one student approached me with these words: “Hey Prof, I’ll take that big 5 – 0.” He walked out of class, never returned, and didn’t even take the Final Exam.
Can you believe students cheat in Bible classes? How about in the Jesus class? Yes, they can cheat there too! Sometimes I threaten imprecatory prayers on those who cheat in Bible classes! Perfectly Deuteronomic and Psalmic.
Another student once turned in a paper in my Jesus of Nazareth class on the last day. He came to my office and explained to me how hard he had worked. I expressed my gratitude for his efforts. As I remember the story… when I began to read his a paper about an hour later, it didn’t sound like him. In fact, he suddenly began quoting the Toledot Yeshu, a medieval text about Jesus, but he didn’t have a footnote. Then I read a paragraph or two that could not have been the student; then I realized more of the paper was not from him. Pages of text that did not sound like him. It was a classic case of plagiarism. So, to gain evidence, I marched over to the library and asked to see the books that had just been turned in. I found a few books that were about Jesus; the first book I opened seemed to be a possibility; within a few minutes I had found a section on the Toledot Yeshua and then, right in front of me, five or six paragraphs the student had plagiarized. I copied them, stapled them to the paper, and gave the student a failing grade.
At the beginning of the next semester the student asked me if I had made a mistake on his grade. I asked him to come to my office. He did. I said what I have always said on final paper plagiarism: “I have concrete evidence that you cheated. You can either confess or challenge my judgment. If you confess, I’ll fail you for the final (which was substantial enough the student failed). If you challenge me, we’ll meet with the Dean and we’ll let him decide. Remember, if he decides you cheated, you could be expelled from school.” The students said immediately: “I cheated; I’m sorry. I deserved to flunk.”
Part of the responsibility of a teacher is to teach students consequences for dishonesty. I have a colleague who told me he once spent eight hours at a library trying to find where a student had plagiarized material; alas, he found the magazine.
Part of the skill of a professor is that most of us can recognize in an instant the difference between the prose of a published piece and the prose of a student. As long as students don’t know that (and even if they do), we’ll still discover them cheating — even in Bible classes. I always feel sad when I have to confront students regarding cheating, but I pray that they will learn a tough lesson.
HT: Ginny Olson

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