Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Plagiarism, Plagiarism, Plagiarism

Oh dear. Apparently, lots of shameless students, even the hallowed ones who enter the ruling class by going to Oxford and Cambridge, are copying their essays from the Internet. Gadzooks! Next, you'll be telling me that people are having sex out of wedlock and that Tony Blair tells lies!

This deplorable state of affairs shouldn't be allowed to continue!

But of course, no one even bothers to address the simple question; why is this happening? Because that would throw up just too many worms from the can of offal that is the current British State Higher Education system.

So it's left to us on AngloAustria to consider this modern phenomenon. However, it isn't really that modern, is it? If final degree ratings fifty years ago had also been heavily based on the sacred socialist educational cause of continuous assessment, you can bet your bottom sovereign that every student worth their salt then, would have been copying essays from clever former undergraduates on the same course, for a small fee; in fact a thriving market would quickly have established itself where impecunious doctorate students helped out undergraduate charges perhaps in return for the odd pot of beer or the odd snaffle of chips, to eke out meagre scholarship allowances.

The problem is one of continuous assessment, rather than one of plagiarism, but nobody will even think about mentioning this because life is rather easy at a modern British University, for everyone involved, with continuous assessment in place. When I was a boy, most of us realised that we had to write our own essays, and research them ourselves in the library stacks, and ask impertinent questions of lecturers, because this was the best way of understanding and memorizing the requisite information, in order to get through the final exams with a good mark. With 100% of those marks coming directly from the dreaded finals, those few fools who did plagiarize, so as to be able to spend more time down the bar or in bed with floozies, would get their drunken and debauched comeuppance with a poor degree award on results day. But with so much of the final degree mark these days being staked upon the democratic God of continuous assessment, it absolutely makes sense for bright young students to plagiarize their essays from the Internet, because if they actually wrote their own essays instead, their final pieces of, ahem...'work', would look less good than those who had successfully plagiarized.

One is reminded directly of the same situation occuring with central bank monetary growth. You may be an Austrian entrepreneur who knows an engineered boom is going to eventually collapse in a malinvestment bust, but if you don't join the ride, you're going to lose out to all those schlepps who do believe that the age of financial losses is over; the trick of being a successful Austrian investor is one of knowing when to pull out just before the inevitable crash.

Getting back to education, if a student is honest and does their own essays, in toto, continuous assessment has created the perverse position of singling them out for worse marks.

So there we have it. If you want to succeed on an essay-based British State Higher Education degree course, it has now become essential to plagiarize. Well done, all you socialists who brought this unintended consequence about, through your hatred of the unfairness of finals exams and the unfairness of some doing better because they work harder than the rest or the unfairness of some possessing better memories.

Life is unfair. I do wish you would get used to it.

Instead of having a higher education system where people learn how to think independently, and retain information, we have created a system where to succeed you must lie and cheat your way through to success; and afterwards it is not so much a case of forgetting what you learned but a case of never having learned it in the first place. Alas, this is a good lesson to learn in New Labour's Cool Britannia, because to succeed in all aspects of politics you must learn to lie and cheat successfully and you must also learn to make the facts meet the required actions rather than learn to make the required actions meet the facts. So all in all this horrendous use of plagiarism in British Universities is a splendid Triumph for the political classes. Well done.

But what a situation to have brought about in the first place, to have turned dreaming spires into dreams about Britney Spears. And what a gigantic waste of taxpayers money sending all these people on three year drinking, drugs, and sex holidays, to learn how to lie, cheat, steal, and bend all real world facts to the perverse distortions of political reality, whatever the hell that is; I suppose whatever Tony Blair says it is to get a good newspaper headline the next day.

So what's the AngloAustrian postion on education, I hear you ask? It's the same as with money. If you want a decent improving economy you need a hard money standard, away from government control, preferably based upon 100% gold or silver specie bank notes. If you want a decent improving education system you need a hard exam standard, away from government control, preferably based upon a 100% grading from finals exams results.

The entire education system should be taken out of government hands, immediately.


esbonio said...

I could not agree with you more that palgiarism would not be an issue if we had a pure exam based system. My finals comprised ten papers in five days to assess three year's of work which I foolishly tried to prepare for in less than a fortnight! Oh well. Since then I have done a masters as well as professional exams which did involve continuous assessment to a varying extent. To be fair continuous assessment does create its own pressures which test students in different ways from a pure exam based system but I am a firm believer that exams are the gold standard. But even the latter have been debased with open book exams etc.

Serf said...

This story also suggests that teachers are lazy or stupid.

I am married to a teacher and she regularly takes complicated sentences from student essays and types them into Google. Believe me if it is copied it comes up.

Jack Maturin said...

I foolishly tried to prepare for in less than a fortnight!

Ah. There. You see, this is what I as an employer need to know. If everyone gets good degrees, I can't sort the wheat from the chaff, making the whole three years a pointless exercise.

But if we went back to the old standard of hard exams, people with less good exam passes would fall out the bottom end of the currently skewed normal distribution curve.

Because that's exactly the kind of people I'm looking for, those who were too busy doing social events and extra-curricular activities to sit in the library being a teacher's pet, but who when I interview them display cunning intelligence, charm, and wit (developed doing extra-curricular work), and who despite cramming three years academic work into two weeks flat, still MANAGED to get SOME KIND of honours degree. I'd much rather have them working for me than dreary 'library fodder'. You don't win contracts by spending three years preparing for 'em, but by spending three weeks or three days or thre hours preparing for 'em. That's the kind of people I need.

Contrary? Fickle? Moi? It shouldn't be allowed! :-)

I think the basic point is that government should be removed entirely from the education system. Whatever resulted, in whatever mix (Finals, dissertations, continuous assessment) would be whatever the market (probably of employers) would want. What we now have is what the educational providers want, to make easier lives for themselves.

I myself think the hard exam standard would come to pass again, to provide a normal distribution curve of job candidates, but who knows?

As we've said a few times here on AngloAustria, I think a hard money standard based on gold would also come to pass, given the removal of government from the production of money.

Let the free market decide in both cases of education and money, and get the second-handers out of it.

Jack Maturin said...

This story also suggests that teachers are lazy or stupid.

Not from my point of view, eu-serf. I personally think MOST teachers/lecturers are lazy or stupid, but obviously there are some exceptions. Von Mises himself spent most of his life as a teacher, and my business is heavily involved in the production of private education, so that would make me an occasional teacher too, though not a government approved one.

What I do have a problem with are teachers who are too stupid to see that they have deliberately created a system which by its very nature encourages plagiarism. They should sort that out first, before they start criticizing students for doing the very thing which their continuous assessment system encourages.

I am married to a teacher and she regularly takes complicated sentences from student essays and types them into Google. Believe me if it is copied it comes up.

She seems like one of the few conscientious ones, then. But the students she is spotting are the really stupid ones. The really clever ones are plagiarizing, and then changing enough of the words and phrase structures around to make it seem like their own work. You've got to admire their pluck really; a really good plagiarized piece is a work of art, really, just like a really good antiques fake or a fake 'old master' painting. Terrible, obviously, but still admirable, in the way that we admire a superb diamond thief.

Ben said...

I think this is all a little twisted.

I am currently a student who works hard, doesnt plagerise and gets good grades due to continuous assesment.

I want to be at uni. I believe the problem lies in that 50% of students today go to uni becaus ethey have nothing better to do. They dont care about their degree but cant fail so plagerise.

If we lived in a society where a degree wasnt a standard requirement for every decent job university would not be as alluring. If all students at university were there because they wanted to learn plagerism wouldn't be a problem.

Continuous assessment is not the problem. Mr Blair's 50% is.