Monday, September 10, 2012

Cheating at College And the New Morality

That's the headline affixed to a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal weekend edition.  The letter itself:

The continuous demonstration of serious character defects by our nation's "leaders" has eroded the expectation of proper behavior of our populace ("Harvard Investigates Allegations of Cheating," U.S. News, Aug. 31). What at one time was universally viewed as wrong or criminal is now considered to be quite normal. Thus, this country is beginning to practice Third World, banana-republic morals.
The "leaders" and individuals who pretend to be cleverly fooling all the rest of us through their reprehensible behavior are only fooling themselves. In the process, however, they are training the rest of us to emulate their own shameful lack of values.
Donald D. McCauley
Los Altos Hills, Calif.

It has to be asked, "Why wouldn't college students cheat?"  They're being cheated by the very institutions that supposedly require them to adhere to a code of moral conduct.  Let's not even consider that the cost of a college education in no way reflects the value of that education.  A sheepskin is merely a very expensive identification card that shows a person spent some time in a classroom.  The  grading system devalues the efforts of dedicated but naive students that are actually making an effort to improve their minds.  When an instructor fails to show up for class, there's no refund of tuition to the student.  The cost of regularly updated instructor-typed texts, akin to what was once the price of tuition itself, is a scandal.  Great amounts of resources are devoted to meaningless sports programs and abstractions like diversity.  A left-wing agenda pervades even the physical sciences.  The list goes on and on. 
The general morality of "Third World, banana republics" is probably on a higher plane than that of its American counterpart.  Celebrated politicians like Elliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner, and, yes, William Jefferson Clinton, take a backseat to nobody in depravity.  The very US Secret Service, protector of the life of the president and the integrity of the nation's currency, stiffs a lowly Columbian whore of her hard-earned pay.  It would be interesting to compare the rate of unwed motherhood in purportedly barbaric Columbia to that of the District of Columbia.

And there's antithesis to " What at one time was universally viewed as wrong or criminal is now considered to be quite normal."  That's that things that were once neither wrong nor criminal have been criminalized by a power-mad bureaucracy enabled by legislative pandering to minority interest groups.  Thus we have volumes of legal restrictions with draconian penalties for once normal activities like the sale of unpasteurized milk, consumption of marijuana, curfews for teens, cockfights, internet gambling, etc., etc.  Part of the problem is the confusion between what is illegal and what is wrong.  Everybody can identify basic wrongdoing.  Stealing the neighbor's newspaper is wrong, no attorney is needed to determine that.  But insider trading, giving a tip to someone on a stock purchase, that may be illegal but it might not be wrong.  

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