Cheating is a valuable workplace skill

Homeschool your kids so they learn to cheat, writes Penelope Trunk on her homeschooling blog. What schools call cheating — getting the right answer from others — is “effective workplace behavior” and a valuable skill, she argues.

Some 85 percent of students admit to cheating, Trunk writes.

. . . Stuyvesant, a New York City magnet school that’s harder to get into than Harvard, had an incredibly organized cheating system that rivals best practices for productivity types in Fortune 500 organizations.

. . . What made Stuyvesant’s cheating system so effective was that everybody had a certain topic that they would be expert on, and everyone else knew how to get the answers from that person.

That’s a great workplace skill, and you do kids a disservice by training them to think that it’s improper behavior.

Compared to their elders, Generation Y is “incredibly productive because they’re great collaborators.”

In the age of information, sharing information rules the day, and there’s no longer a place for a Lone Ranger at the office who works independently of everyone else. Today’s business world is too complicated and too networked for people to work so independently as to not be getting information from other people.

Teachers have been pushing collaborative work on projects and peer tutoring for many years now. Collaborative work on tests is another matter.

Does Trunk have a point?

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  1. Cheating is not collaborative work. “What schools call cheating — getting the right answer from others — is “effective workplace behavior” and a valuable skill, she argues.” and she would be wrong.

    She wants to mask the true problem with excusing cheating by equating it with workplace skills. In school, you are learning how to do things. You are developing the abilities and information base and your “production” is that development. Collaboration doesn’t “work” unless you learn the material or skills. No one is expecting students to produce an advertisement campaign for real even though the task might approximate the steps to doing so. School is about that base of fundamental skills that can be applied to any situation and the fundamental knowledge that all future tasks would appear to require.

    Copying from other students isn’t learning, necessarily, because it doesn’t promote learning either material or methods, it merely provides you with a meaningless result, quickly forgotten. School isn’t about the result, it is about the learning.

    Why is the workplace different? Because it is assumed that the workers already have achieved the “learning”, the acquisition of skills and methods, and the acquisition of a fundamental knowledge base. You can tolerate “research” and “getting the answer from others” if the job to be done is a unique job compared to the skillset of the worker. It is cheaper to pay for usage rights, or copyright, or independent contractor.

    If the worker cannot produce on his own, can ONLY copy from others, it is in the company’s best interest to fire that worker and hire someone who can.

    Teaching students that cheating is okay and “effective workplace behavior” is directly damaging to the learning process even though it appears, on the surface, to be allowing the student to show more “knowledge”. It may seem more efficient and effective in the short run and certainly develops the person who can copy but fails at the long term goal of developing the person who can be copied from.

    If you give me the choice, I will always choose the method that develops the one who can tutor others, who can think and take responsibility, and who can be the source for all the lazy, stupid people, because that is how I define a successful and educated student, the “A” student: The kid you copy from.

    • cranberry says:

      Allowing a classmate to copy from you is also cheating.

      Trunk willingly overlooks one of the essential duties of schooling, which is to sort kids. The kid caught cheating on a test won’t be invited to the next level, because he won’t have developed the skills and knowledge necessary to function at the next level.

      Coming up with outlandish excuses for coworkers’ bad behavior might be useful in the workplace. It’s a really, really bad habit in a mother, though.

  2. GEORGE LARSON says:

    I hope Penelope Trunk invests all her life savings in the next Enron fiasco.

  3. I’m with Curmudgeon; no cheating. I’ll go even further and promote severe limits on group projects and the abolition of peer tutoring, as presently practiced. Group projects are filled with free riders, who do no work and offer another way to bring playground dynamics into the class. The most socially adept, usually teacher-pleasers as well, take control and may run roughshod over the shy, the quiet and/or the ASD kids. Peer tutoring should be restricted to completely voluntary help; no kid should be forced or “encouraged” to teach another kid; that’s what teachers are paid to do. The school is not the workplace and students are not experts, ready to contribute in a defined area.

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    “Does [Penelope] Trunk have a point?”



    • Stacy in NJ says:

      This was my response as well. She’s a nut who like to say controversial things. You either know something or you don’t. Bosses are usually, not always, very good a figuring out – eventually – who does and doesn’t know what they need to know. The this is called long term unemployment, or barista.

  5. GEORGE LARSON says:

    Penelope Trunk is a bomb thrower. I found this on her site

    5 reasons why you don’t need to teach math
    1. Learning fundamental math is like reading – kids will take the lead.
    2. It’s like science. You can learn on the job.
    3. Math is learning a way to think. There are many ways to do this.
    4. Teaching math beyond the basics is useless. You have to teach to curiosity instead.
    5. If your kid is good at math, you don’t need to teach them.

    I truly wish this all was true

    • This lady sounds like she need to be committed to a psych. hospital.

      The penalty for cheating when I was in school was a zilch on an exam, lab experiment, or homework (no exceptions).

      But we lower standards so everyone can get a diploma which is about as useful as toilet paper.

      • If you have ever read her stuff with any regularity, you would know that she is something of a kook. (I dont’ read her blog anymore. If you read 5-10 blog entries, you have pretty much read the other 500+ entries.)

        She writes the same thing over and over and has nothing of relevance to say. She stretches any situation as a means for justifying homeschooling her kids. If you want to homeschool your kids, great. I just don’t see the need to constantly convince yourself you are doing the right thing..and that is what her writing is about – constantly trying to convince herself she has made the right decision for her kids.

        She is also a narcissistic self promoter. She tweeted her miscarriage in a very crude way as a means to draw attention to herself. The woman is nuts.