Cheating on Tests

I’m adding Parkway Rest Stop to my blog roll. The blog roll here is not a list of stuff that I approve of, but just a convenient place to keep a list of blogs I like to read. I ended up directed to Parkway because of a comment at The Mind of Dr. Pion that pointed to this post, about Army tests, and cheating on them.

And I’m wondering if Global Pioneering has moved on. His (well, her, according to Kea) website is coming up 404 now.

One of my buddies in college, Mario Pagliaro, got accused of cheating on a mineralogy exam. These were very long exams and the situation was that he turned in a sheet with absolutely all questions right except one, which he missed. And another student also missed only that question. What are the chances? Well they were studying together and got the same wrong idea.

Mario had been in the US Army for six years and went to college right afterwards. I have no doubt that he would have got the 300 questions in the Parkway Rest Stop exam all correct, on the second try, because that is how he lived his life. He expected to graduate with a degree in computer science and a perfect 4.0 grade point average. However, he earned a B in an English class. His explanation was that they brought in a new teacher and so he stepped into an unknown situation. Shouldn’t have. The English teacher’s reason for giving him a B was that, while his work was A quality, he could have done even better but was just skating by. It is at least possible that the fact that she was making about $15,000 per year teaching without tenure at a small technical school influenced the grade as well, I don’t know.

Our school had computer programming contests and me and Mario teamed up, and beat the competition, graduate students and all. This was kind of odd because I was not a computer science major, but I wrote a lot of Fortran, which was the language used at the time. He had a brief but stellar career in computer science. When I graduated with a MS in math, he got me a contract working for Burroughs Corporation. While Mario was in the Army he was very much into physical fitness. He grew quite fat afterwards. and died of a heart attack back in 1997, aged 42.


Filed under Blogroll, engineering

7 responses to “Cheating on Tests

  1. Kea

    Re Global Pioneering: she hasn’t been around for a week or two now. I guess she had a change of heart about the blog. A shame your friend died so young.

  2. Jimbo From Irmo

    Testing is irrelevant.

    You will be tested in real life, first thing tomorrow, more accurately, more thoroughly, and more properly than any Ivory-Tower simulacrum ever devised. And there will be no “bell curve” for you to exploit there! You pass, you live; you fail, you die. Welcome to the real world!

    Testing, in the collegiate sense, is only there to gratify the egos (and justify the salaries) of those who administer the “tests”. That and to help herd the “sheeple” into their pre-assigned pens.

    “Are you going to think for yourself today?”
    (in unison) “NAAaah-ah-ah-ah-ah!”

    Do you suppose Sir Karl Popper was ever affected by the notes his economics professors wrote at the tops of his classroom assignments?

    Euphemistically speaking, if ‘you’ don’t learn — bloody quickly — how to “cheat on tests” (by having the Quick Reference handy for your chosen programming language, by bringing a good map and compass into the woods with you, or by ignoring the “apply for jobs in the Human Resources department” line) “Life” will chew you up and spit you out without further ado, and the world will forget you like the billions of others who went down that path before you.

    You may find your own solace and ego gratification in recalling some twisted syntax or obscure co-valence reaction, but the guy beside you who “cheats” by just looking up the facts s/he needs & blasting ahead to the successful conclusion of the “test” will be your boss before you retire.

    Please acceept my condolences on the loss of your friend. But his craving for “external validation” led him down the proverbial “wide path”.

    Chew your own cud.

    Forget about “tests” and all similarly irrelevant artifices!

    Wring all the value (to yourself ONLY) that you can from every possible educational experience you can find, including those you have to invent (autodidactism) for yourself!

    And ignore the opinions of others!!

    Starting with this one!!!!!!!!!

  3. carlbrannen

    I agree with Jimbo on the real world versus tests. In academia tests are used to prevent “everything from happening at once”.

    It’s not that Mario wouldn’t cheat on a test. Prior to college, his title was “sniper” and he was very practical in things that others might call violations of the rules. He would push the limits of what could be done in any way possible. What he would not do would be to get caught. In the case of the mineralogy (or was it geology) exam, I think the two students were given retests and passed again with near perfect scores. In any case, he got his A. That class was quite strictly graded; only about 4 of the 100 students would do that.

  4. Carl, condolences for your loss. Such losses humble me. All the external things I value, the great (great only for it’s complexity, not genius) tower that is my life, could be brought down with the single stroke of an ax. Such loss of life causes me to look outside of life for my foundation.

    As to Jimbo’s comment, perhaps I don’t quite follow, but I cannot see how Mario’s ability to do well on a test reflects a fundamental “craving for ‘external validation'”. A gifted mind might come to see through the sham-cloak of value that society places on testing. Should that mind then attempt to perform poorly on tests? I don’t think so. Rather, this understand should only effect how much stock we put in the outcome of tests.

  5. Thanks. Hope the site is working now.

  6. I remember Mario’s name from the long ago, though I don’t think I met him. I’m sorry to hear about the early death of your friend, bro.

    I love giving tests. I make ones I’d like to take. There are no surprises; they just give my students a chance to write interesting things about the interesting things we’ve been reading.

    On the other hand, if people do “A” work they get “A”s, cause it’s none of my business if they could have done EVEN better. What the hell.

  7. jaike

    I knew Mario in high school, and the way you describe him is exactly as I remember him – brilliant to the point of pushing other people’s buttons. It is hard to imagine him growing fat, and I am sorry to learn of his early death

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