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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What is Cheating? By Whose Rules?

All oppression creates a state of war. -- Simone de Beauvoir
Cheating is not playing by the rules. Whose rules?

In 1796 at age 22 Oney Judge, Martha Washington’s personal slave attendant, fled the President’s mansion and traveled to New Hampshire. The Washingtons were angry at her “ingratitude,” because Oney enjoyed privileges in the Washington household that many free whites could not. Oney offered to return on the condition she be granted freedom. Sending agents out to capture her and bring her back, her masters refused her terms. Escaping capture, Oney remained in New Hampshire swearing she would “suffer death rather than return to Slavery.”

Was Oney Judge a cheater? Cheating is not playing by the rules. Whose rules? Were they agreed to by all participants? Were they freely accepted? Or were they imposed on those lacking power to reject them? Clearly, sometimes not playing by the rules, “cheating,” is not merely excusable, but desirable.

But what about kids in schools who cheat on tests? Cheating is not playing by the rules. Whose rules? Were they agreed to by all participants? Were they freely accepted? Or were they imposed on those lacking power to reject them?

“But it’s for their own good!” you say? Who determines this?

In the United States basic schooling is compulsory. What makes it morally different from slavery? This is not meant to be a rhetorical question, but an invitation to reflection.


To examine these issues further, see Preventing Cheating: transforming educational values

-- EGR