Homeschool your kids so they learn to cheat

Eric Anderman, professor at education psychology at Ohio University, has studied cheating for decades, and he says that 85 percent of students admit to cheating. (The number is probably higher since some do it but don’t admit it.) Harvard recently had to have a public discussion about campus cheating, and Stuyvesant, a New York City magnet school that’s harder to get into than Harvard, had an incredibly organized cheating system that rivals best practices for productivity types in Fortune 500 organizations.

It’s completely ridiculous that schools are so uptight about cheating because what schools call cheating is what people in the work world call effective workplace behavior.  For example:

1. Networking
In school, looking at someone else’s paper to get the right answer is forbidden.  But in the work world, the people who rise the fastest are the ones who know the right person to ask to get the answer.

What made Stuyvesant’s cheating system so effective was that everybody had a certain topic that they would be expert on, and everyone else knew how to get the answers from that person.

That’s a great workplace skill, and you do kids a disservice by training them to think that it’s improper behavior.

The story of the 17-year-old who just sold Summly for millions to Yahoo is a great example of the importance of networking. Nick D’Aloisio could never have turned his little startup into a million-dollar startup without getting other people to tell him the answers to how to build a company, how to fund a company, how to sell a company.

2. Collaboration
The biggest difference between Millenials and people who are older than Millenials is productivity because Millenials are incredibly productive because they’re great collaborators.

They don’t think in terms of hoarding information. They think in terms of installing better and better software to share information. It’s miraculous that they were able to do this after 18 years of schooling where they were told that collaboration is cheating.

3. Leveraging technology
Lisa Nelson has lobbied hard from within the New York City Department of Education to allow all kids to use cell phones in school because they’re such amazing learning tools.  Of course, every answer in the whole world is somewhere on the Internet.  Maybe you have to search for a person who found the answer or maybe you have to search for the information and put the answer together yourself, but it’s all there.

So it’s absurd that schools ban cell phones because kids would be able to find answers online. School is effectively an anti‑education system in this regard.

In the age of information, sharing information rules the day, and there’s no longer a place for a Lone Ranger at the office who works independently of everyone else. Today’s business world is too complicated and too networked for people to work so independently as to not be getting information from other people.

When my son was taking his first exam, it was in a music theory class. He had to ask me what a test is when they told him to prepare for it.  I told him that they would ask the class what they learned, and then the class would tell the teacher what they learned. He spent the week at the piano, studying.

It didn’t occur to me how nuanced the answer was because during the test, my son started looking at all the kids’ papers around him.  The other kids were horrified, but they didn’t say anything.  I just sat and watched.

It was so interesting to me that my son has a natural inclination to get the answers from the people around him when he didn’t know.  I let him do it.

It’s unclear what he knows by himself about music theory, but it’s clear that he knows how to get answers to questions when he needs them, and that will serve him well in life.


15 replies
  1. redrock
    redrock says:

    interesting point about banning cell phones – they can be used to great advantage, but they are also a huge distractor. No matter whether you teach 2 or 20, we all get distracted by many sidelines when using cell phone (or internet).

    My observation is actually that students instead of trying to solve a problem on their own search for long stretches of time for the solution in online resources. However, not at least trying to solve a problem on your own does prevent you from learning – I am talking creative problems here not those where you just pluck in a number.

    So, for complex problem solving the reflex: let’s just look it up somewhere is not helping but actually prevent students often from thinking deeply. Often students who try the solution on their own are faster, and more able to see when they go down a wrong path. And don’t get me wrong: I am not talking about memorizing equations – they can look those up as much as they like.

  2. Kate C
    Kate C says:

    Collaboration is fantastic in certain settings. But would you really want to collaborate with a competitor?
    In the case of music theory class, I wonder why there was a test. If it was to help identify weakness in certain key areas (ie rhythm, solfege, harmonic analysis,) maybe getting answers from the kids around you isn’t the most helpful thing. I don’t know what your class is like, but in many conservatories, theory class helps fill the gaps that individual instruction doesn’t have the time to cover. But, having suffered through years of Dannhauser and other methods, I would say that there are better ways to learn theory. Singing in a good children’s choir, for example, playing in a drumming ensemble, and hanging around with composers.

  3. karelys
    karelys says:

    Calling collaboration cheating leads to people not knowing how to be effective managers and leaders from a young age. And then people have a terrible time at work because they are constantly pressed by someone in a managerial position that doesn’t know how to make the best of the team they are responsible for.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      there often is a difference: collaboration is give and take, cheating more often then not is just take.

      • karelys
        karelys says:

        It depends. If you’re counting the give and take solely on what is being traded then you are not receiving much.

        What is called cheating in schools is a give and take of information, opportunities, relationships, leadership, and trust.

        At work, when you collaborate, there is no sense in doing something you’re bad at, instead, get out of the way of the one who’s good at it. Then be there to give what you got when it’s your time to do what you’re good at.

  4. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    Reading all your homeschooling posts is making me see the subject everywhere. I just finished Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin and it seems the most important takeaway for her is to follow her own interests. Something she says she wished she learned earlier in life. I can’t help wondering if she’d been homeschooled she would have found her own interests at a younger age.

  5. Lizarino
    Lizarino says:

    I wonder what collaboration will be like for Generation Z… you mention Gen Y a lot… but Gen Z might be even more creative and talented… my kids will have never known a time where the internet didn’t exist. What will it be like for them I wonder….

  6. Sarah Mast
    Sarah Mast says:

    Fascinating post. I can see your points so clearly, but in traditional school the case of cheating (with a negative connotation) is really about some kids doing the work and others just taking it, and them getting rewarded for doing nothing.
    I see how with this topic you’re proving the whole system is broken down to seeing the need that a new paradigm of thinking about education, and how it doesn’t prepare you for adult work, but as someone who was *constantly* asked for answers to give out (I didn’t) in high school, I found the other, asking kids to be lazy and annoying. I wanted my own credit, and being as I had no incentive to share it (in fact, a negative one!), why would I?
    Every post I read from you and other home school blogs I follow I’m that much more passionate about homeschooling, and how much more I’ve learned as an adult through doing it with my kids.
    Sarah M

  7. Kristin
    Kristin says:

    When I was working for a large corporation I always hated when people would reinvent the wheel. It seemed like all this work was being done over and over again and so much time/effort wasted. When I was presented with a problem I always liked to see first who had done what and learn from their mistakes. I would then implement my own personalized solution. Personally, I think this is a more efficient way of doing things but this was not very common among my colleagues who were mostly hesitant to share their work or ask for ideas from other people. This type of attitude is highly counterproductive yet its the type of psyche that is bred in school today. I see very clearly the same kind of information hoarding in the office is the same kind I saw in school! Great post Penelope! I never thought about it this way before. Schools should encourage the kids to work together and ask each other for answers! If this happened, we would have much friendlier and more productive workplaces.

  8. Maggie
    Maggie says:

    Not long ago I made the mistake of telling my 10 year old homeschooled boy that he was cheating when he was looking up cheats online to get through levels on his wii games, but I came to my senses and realized that he was actually acquiring a very good skill by searching for answers on his own. I now encourage him.

  9. Betsey
    Betsey says:

    As a parent of 4 children who are in the public school system, and a School Board Member for our District, I can tell you that almost all of my 3rd, 7th and 12th grade student’s work and projects are done cooperatively – in groups. Schools are getting away from many “old” methods of educating, and are implementing much more effective ways to help all students think and learn – individually and cooperatively. Our high school also combines subjects – (i.e. English and Social Studies) for a full course and teachers and students work in a collaborative fashion which facilitates learning on so many unique levels. From Standards Based Education to Mass Customized Learning there are different approaches being used in public schools around the nation that have similarities to Homeschooling. Our schools allow cell phone use as well – students are expected to be respectful in their usage – schools modeling appropriate cell phone behaviors help youth to know how they will be expected to act in the “real world”. I don’t live in an affluent community – we’re actually very rural, and mostly struggling economically – but we are, as a district, trying to improve public education, and not have it be the same as when we all went to school.

  10. Connie Abbott
    Connie Abbott says:

    This view is presented convincingly; still, I think we need to instill in our kids both sides of the story: collaboration is fine as long as it’s allowed by those in authority, and when all have the opportunity to participate or withdraw and to either benefit equally through collaboration or go it alone.

    The concept is interesting but subject to debate. There’s a reason why collaboration is not usually allowed on tests (evaluation of how much is learned and understood), which is a different scenario than in everyday life.

    For that matter, I remember having work groups in school. There were always the leader types who did 90-100% of the work, and those who coasted along on their coattails, and all got the credit. The same thing happens with some companies my husband has worked with: When it’s a group and the bonuses get shared by all when only some excel, motivation drops, as it does in a Communist society, and quality of work goes out the window. Then the high performers go on to companies where their work will be recognized as their own and rewarded.

    We need to socialize our children with an understanding of these types of scenarios so they understand where certain behaviors are appropriate and where they are not. If they don’t know for sure, they should ask (in private, if that helps) before they become disqualified or offend others.

  11. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Apple took collaborating with competitors to a new level, allowing anyone to develop apps for them. What a great way to harness other peoples fantastic ideas on their interface. They have a history of being transparent not just with their coding but with the process developers use to create apps and their policies. They want to expose the “dirt” and gliches so that rather than sweeping them under the rug they are fixed.

    I have a family member who owns two of the top t-shirt businesses on the web. He is his own competition. Which is just an example of thinking outside of the neat tidy box of “order” presented @public schools.

    I had a lovely public school experience, magnet and gifted schools and two degrees from Florida State in Political Science. None of it taught me how to be a good entrepreneur. Even the business courses I took taught me how to be a good manager at best.

  12. Jim
    Jim says:

    Be honest: cheating happens because students are unprepared and don’t want to be accountable for it. Who wants to encourage that?

  13. Tiana
    Tiana says:

    I just sent this post to my husband. (Cuz I love it so much.) This is only the second of your posts that I’ve read. I don’t know a thing about you, but so far your words validate my very own deeply entrenched opinions about organic learning. Those last three paragraphs are such a smack in the face of learning in an institution. (I jumped here from Kate’s Skipping School)

    W/a Smile, Tiana

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