Useless things I learned in undergrad

Last week, I was proctoring a midterm, and a student was identified as having his notes with him at his desk. As far as I can tell, he had no intention of cheating. He merely wanted to get a good look at his notes before the exam started, and then just placed his notes under his chair for the duration of the exam. Kind of like a security blanket. He made no attempt to hide his notes, and they certainly didn’t resemble any summary of content. It was a full notebook with regular-sized handwriting, in plain sight. But nobody noticed.

At the end of the exam, the professor saw the student as he got up from his desk, with his notes in hand. The situation was escalated to some sort of academic hearing, and he received a zero on his exam. He was found guilty of possessing an unauthorized aid or something.

He came to me to chat about the situation. Of course there was nothing I could do, but I was an ear who would listen and commiserate.

I sympathized with him, and coached him on how we have to take an active role in appearing innocent. When we come to an exam, bring a pencil, but don’t bring the pencil case. Bring a calculator, but don’t bring the calculator cover. I explained that we have to work to ensure that we don’t give the authorities any reason to suspect us. Then I realized, all those strategies I learned were useless now. Nobody cares any more. Exams are such artificial measures of knowledge and understanding. In the real world, you do the work, or you don’t. You use the resources that are available to you, or you don’t.

Yet another useless thing I learned in undergrad.


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  • November 2011
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