Are you an honorable person?
Are you an honorable person? Or do you cheat on tests? This conversation happened with my students recently. I have been a teacher for nearly three decades, and I have witnessed a lot. I remember the old days of blue books (my American readers will know what I mean), when I used to hand out a cyclostyle question paper (later a photocopy), and I would "invigilate" during the test time, as the students wrote out their answers in a book which had a blue cover, watching to see who the honorable student is and who peeps over the shoulder of the person nearby. I really never spotted anybody doing that. Because they were honorable people. They understood that there is a moral standard to be maintained. Many are not like that. They cheat. They are dishonorable men who cheat in everything they do - from their dishonesty to their bondhus, whose wives they take for the night, to the dishonesty to their professional ethics when they secretly make others do the work that is supposed to be theirs. Given the evidence of dishonesty around us, the notion of honor amongst students is a matter of great concern to a teacher. I want to assume honor and integrity, but I am often reminded that there are many grey areas. For instance, with the advent of online education things have become complicated. In the era of online testing and offsite examinations one needs to be creative as a teacher to ensure that the possibility of being dishonorable is reduced. While I attempt to create quizzes that cannot be "aced" by cheating, I also realize the key to demanding an honorable stance is fear. It is somewhat concerning that honor is intimately connected to the fear of getting caught. The fear of getting caught becomes the driving principle. When "caught" the person looks away, wants to believe that the person escaped; in the Bangla language there is a well-known saying, "churi bidya (the lessons "bidya" of thievery "churi") bodo bidya (is a good "bodo" lesson) jodi na podo dhara (if "jodi" you don't get caught "podo dhara")." Yet, one does get caught - almost always. And the cheater knows that: it is the fear that drives the entire honor system in many ways. Absent the fear of getting caught, would you be dishonorable all the time if you knew you would not get caught? The answer to that question determines the "honor" index of a person. And most cheaters know the answer - they will get caught. It is impossible to hide the cheating and so they have to make up (and remember) elaborate lies to hide the cheating. But yet they cheat, it is almost like a habit; so they plan things in a way that reduces the chance of getting caught, because there is a genuine sense that something to be gained by cheating. For students the answer is easy - better grades in a test without putting in the work or learning what is being taught. In some cases, learning has left the building because now the grades matter and not much of anything else, thus cheating to get the grade seems acceptable because the alternative is living an honorable life - which requires work. Those who abhor work find the easy way out - the dishonorable path - a cheating husband refuses to work on the strained relationship with the spouse but finds the easy way out in the roll in the hotel room - that is easy (until someone sees you) - just as plagiarism is easy when you refuse to engage with the material and broaden your horizons. But in the end, you will get caught, perhaps you are already caught - you just do not know it yet. In the end, we are increasingly in a place where, as Billy Joel said, “Honesty is such a lonely word.”