Cheats Pay a Heavy Price in the Long Term

cheating boxes

Many of us will have seen these recent images from a college exam room, as students were made to wear cardboard boxes on their heads to prevent cheating and copying (did anyone consider the scope for writing notes on the inside of one’s box?)

Whilst many were shocked at such inhumane and demeaning treatment of students, there were also no shortage of weary shrugs as people reflected that it’s really little surprise if this is what the system has been reduced to.

For my fourth article written for Gulf News 6 years ago, I turned to the issue of cheating and an aspect that doesn’t get enough attention – the long term effect and impact on the cheat themselves. In the article i highlighted three examples that had happened in some of the finest seats of learning in the world. Six years later we have new examples, including the collusion between well-heeled parents and agents to secure seats in top Ivy League universities in the US which have already seen one TV actress sent to prison with more to follow.

gulf-news-article 4-15092013

However, I’m still an optimist on the nature of humans. I do believe that as educators we need to be prepared to have the hard conversations with young people – to help them understand that it’s not consistent to believe in a right to high and lofty goals to be achieved by short cuts and acts of low integrity. High goals are great, if we’re prepared to put in the hard work, accept the tough journey for its own intrinsic value as well as the outcome. Young people need to be reminded that the people they put on pedestals have often been hurt, even scarred in the processes that took them to the top.

For proof that the journey is as important as the destination we need only look at all the lottery winners who declare bankruptcy later, failing to make the critical life changes of their new gains because they didn’t travel the road to their wealth. Their acts weren’t dishonest, but they lacked the learning of the journey that would enable them to enjoy the fruits of their labours.

Do NOT Let Your Child Play Rugby

I love this piece, so subtle in its use of irony (or is it sarcasm?).

We need to guide the young very wisely!

In the Loose – Article
(Click on link to find out why you should keep your child away from this nasty nasty sport!)

We Need to Care …. Wow, Who’d Have Thought It?

Here’s an interesting article from Mindshift that makes a brief visit to some of the latest research findings about the power and influence of belief, expectations and attitude in learning outcomes.

Mindshift Article – Believing in Possibilities

There are a couple of aspects of the piece that left me saddened. Firstly, that some of these things really need to be said. Over 10 years ago i coined a phrase that has been part of the bedrock of all my approaches in education; “We’re not here to teach stuff, we’re here to teach children.” What I sought to convey was that the child and not the silly old nonsense in the textbook (or our administrative convenience) had to drive decision making processes of every teacher and administrator in schools. The second concern was the fact that the author of the article felt the need to acknowledge that despite the growing mountain of evidence, mainstream education is so woefully, painfully slow to change.

Somewhere, do we have to face an unpalatable truth that dare not be spoken – are there vast numbers of people in education who actually, really don’t care very much about children? People for whom it’s a job to be done to pull in a salary, for whom the idiosyncrasies of individual children are a pain in the neck?

I believe the writer is spot on when he talks about the crucial impact of care and acceptance for a learner to truly flourish and fulfil their potential. let’s face it – vast numbers of children today can’t even find much of these in their own homes, let alone in their school.

The final paragraph that talked about the critical fifth ‘C’ really struck a chord with me. That fifth C is Character – something I made a very particular point of including in the four core values of our current school. We’re in the early stages of the school’s development, but it’s heartening that Character already figures on the agenda in discussions amongst teachers, teachers and students and in the leadership team. In time, I believe the importance of Character and effective development will see subtle changes that will further enhance the ways that we build character development in to the school experience of every child.

Don’t ‘Teach’ Ethics and Values

Here’s a great TED talk that’s very thought-provoking from an educator’s perspective. How do we nurture moral skill and moral will? Barry Schwartz was very clear in this TED talk – we don’t do it by teaching morals and ethics in ‘capsules’ – in fact that ensures that children know we’re not serious!

Instead, what he advocates is we need to be ‘every day heroes’ and moral exemplars to children (and for those of is in leadership roles we owe this duty to every person in our organisations).

I particularly liked the way he talked about the work at KIPP schools in the USA emphasizing the vital importance of the development of character. It’s not for nothing that in our own school, one of the four core stated values reads as follows:

“Character Forms the Basis of a Fulfilled Life:
In an age when the media would have us all believe that ‘the cult of the personality’ is everything, we believe that individuality and personality should always be secondary to character traits that manifest in effective habits. These are habits of both self-management and those practiced in one’s relationship with others. In GDGPS, we believe that those who develop positive habits of character live the most fulfilling lives.”

Quote on Character

Sound character provides the power with which a person may ride the emergencies of life instead of being overwhelmed by them. Failure is ..the highway to success.”
–Og Mandino

Personality – Nature or Nurture

Here’s an article about a piece of research that is likely to attract many objectors. It suggests that personality is largely fixed at or close to birth and remains little changed throughout the remainder of a person’s life.

MSNBC Article

In order to make these claims, the research looks at 4 personality features and suggest that in the sample of people they analysed, these features identified in infancy were still apparent in adulthood. My feeling is that this doesn’t automatically mean that personality can’t change, or that there are not other personality traits that can be ‘acquired’ or strengthened in such a way as to provide a compensating balance for these that might be fixed.

If it does prove to be true that personality traits are largely fixed I believe this could be potentially good news in two respects;

a) It would bring an end to the whole ‘personality development’ industry which seeks to convince all that there is a given personality stereotype that is an ideal, that all should aspire to and work to be like. Instead, there would be re-evaluation that would seek to recognise the strengths for different situations in different personalities. For example, it has been fashionable to suggest that extroversion is preferable to introversion (this article even shows some bias this way). However, even as a relatively extrovert person myself, i can see merits in introversion that fail to get enough recognition.
b) If personality is seen as being more ‘fixed’ and pre-determined, this would bring greater focus on to character – something people can put effort in to in a worthwhile way, to aspire to be a more successful person and make a bigger contribution in the world. Character is predominantly determined by one’s habits. The ‘best’ habits to have can be identified in those who exhibit them, recognised and practiced until they become sufficiently internalised to become a habit.

So, whilst this might not be the final word on personality, by a long way, there is reason to hope that even the debate itself can offer positive outcomes.

The Merits of Tough Love

An interesting article from the BBC about a new piece of research coming from the think tank ‘Demos’ that clearly shows the merits of hands on parenting and ‘tough love’ approaches.

This should be read as a massive wake up call by the parents who have convinced themselves that laissez-faire parenting is somehow ‘modern’, emphasising the merits of not stifling the child. We know who they are – the parents whose children run amok in restaurants turning a potentially enjoyable trip out in to a nightmare for every other diner. They are the parents who figure that any compromises inherent in having your child brought up by a maid are all justifiable.

Tragically, too many parents don’t always want to hear what educators have to say on such subjects because what we say is uncomfortable, inconvenient and faces them with a stark reality that their self-centredness is leading them to make too many compromises, too many excuses in the pursuit of their own upward mobility or other personal goals.

Recently, we had an Open Day in the school. In an elementary classroom children had made a tree on which they had attached little paper messages of things they woulfd like their parents to know. As I read them my heart went out to these young children. Such a large proportion of the messages related to how much they want parents’ time – not for elaborate purposes, but just to BE together. They told of how hurt they feel when mummy and daddy go out a lot, go out without them, leave them with others etc.

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched parents approach the tree. They would read a couple of the notes, mutter to each other and then walk away shaking their heads. Inconvenient truths?

The reality is that we can’t ‘do’ tough love if we barely spend time with our children. We can’t ‘do’ tough love if we are inconsistent, contrary, operating from a guilt mindset which means we give in to every childish whim and demand. I firmly believe, most of the time when children make ‘unreasonable demands’ on parents they actually WANT you to say ‘No’ deep down – to prove that you’re there, being a consistent, guiding force in the shaping of their young lives. They want us to show that we stand for something, that there are some fundamentals in life which should be non-negotiable.

The other great value to come out of this research, in my opinion, is a continuation of a growing recent trend which acknowledges that the development of ‘Character’ actually matters in a person’s scope for long term success. Somehow, character lost out for a time in favour of ‘personality’.

BBC Article