My story about college debt is a little different.
I’m 64. I went to Brooklyn College from 1968-71. For most of my life, I was not a good student. In the 2 ½ years I went to Brooklyn College (CUNY), I barely acquired 4 semesters worth of credits.
I went to Brooklyn College knowing I was not academically inclined, but also feeling strongly that I should give it a try. The additional incentive I had was that the City University of New York (CUNY) tuition was cheap; only hundreds of dollars per year for tuition and books.
I dropped out of college rather than flunk out, but have drawn two conclusions about the experience after having over 40 years to think about it:
That limited and unhappy time at college nonetheless had a profound effect on my intellectual formation and growth. It impacted how I saw and made sense of the world from that time, forward.
The second and perhaps most important thing I have realized is that if I had to make that same decision today, given my academic weaknesses, my calculation would have been to not go to college at all rather than go into debt for what was likely going to be a failed enterprise.
Extending this same scenario to many kids today, I feel the fundamental question to address is this: Do we want kids to seek out as much education as possible in order to make them wiser and better people and citizens, or do we want our young people only to seek as much education as makes them employable as worker drones?
When examining the question of free or affordable college for all, our national goals for our young people and the kind of citizens we want them to become must be examined.
What makes these two articles a perfect back-to-back read ? It’s because one is written by the teacher who discovers the cheating, and is forced into hard decisions about how and whether to blow the whistle. The other is about one of the enablers: A man who makes his living by writing the material these cheating students use.
A university student once posed a tough question to me. She’s in a high-performance, high-stakes, competitive school. Many of the students use unprescribed ‘uppers’ — stimulants — in order to find the extra energy, wakefulness and alertness to get the grades they feel they need to compete. This student asked me if she should consider this strategy, and if it might be considered cheating.
My responses were, respectively, No (don’t do it; the health penalties aren’t worth it) and Yes (it’s as good as outright cheating, just as if an athlete was ‘doping’). She ended up writing a class paper on the topic of the ethics of academic stimulants, and I was proud of her take on it.
We live in a tough, competitive world, and we are often faced with classic cases of ‘situational ethics’. Cheating is wrong. Enabling cheating is wrong.
“Cheaters never win, and winners never cheat”: Would that it were always so.