Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Big Lie

It's the national pastime, you know. With Donald Trump as President, black is white, day is night, and up is down. No more waiting for Wacky Wednesday.

I once had a student hand me several unsolicited extra credit papers early in the term. One was about the delights of reading Shakespeare. Bear in mind that this was from an ESL class. I had been reading this girl's writing fairly consistently, and it wasn't hard for me to distinguish her writing from that of some hack on the internet. She absolutely expected me to give her credit. I declined.

Another student of mine wrote an A paper for an assistant principal who was teaching a class. I was in a department office when some students, who had the paper for some reason, showed it to me. I knew immediately it was 100% plagiarized. I took the paper, looked up the student's schedule, pulled her out of her class and told her if she had handed that to me, she'd have gotten an F.

"You're not gonna tell Ms. Grundy, " she said.

I told her no, but if I could recognize it others could too, and she wouldn't get away with it forever.

More recently a student gave me a medical note. This was a student I knew to cut class. The top of the paper had the name of a medical clinic, but no address or phone number. I also noticed that the signature was not live, but rather copied. If that weren't enough, I saw the student's handwriting in two places. It said __________________ was absent on ___________________. He had written his name in both places.

I told him I had a problem with these things and I was going to call the doctor. He said go ahead. So I looked up the number on my little computer, I called, and I found out that the clinic had no record of this student. I then brought him into the hall, where he explained that he had gone to that place, but just not on the day he was absent. This was also a lie, since the clinic had never heard of him.

I really don't understand this. The student could've just admitted that the note was false before I called. This would've saved me a lot of trouble. Now I'd have to write the thing up, call the parent, summon her to school and have a meeting. Had the student copped to what he'd done, I'd have marked him cutting and we'd be done with it.

Here's the thing--I am not terribly surprised that students cut class now and then. I was a teenager, and in retrospect I'm surprised I didn't cut more than I did. Actually most of my cuts were a result of classes being too early for me. Making that 8 AM health class was a challenge. How I passed it and graduated high school remains a mystery to me.

But if the teacher had asked me why I wasn't there, I'd have said I overslept. I wasn't proud of it or anything, but tt wasn't anything more than that. Why would I complicate the situation by lying about it? Why bother bringing in a phony note? And if I'd gotten caught, and the teacher had a phone in her hand, why would I tell her to go ahead and call? Could it be that the kid thought I was making an empty threat? Why would I do such a thing?

Evidently there is a school of thought that once you create a lie, you stick with it. If you get caught, you mitigate or adjust it so that it appears to be less of a lie, even if it isn't.

When I screw up, I just say I'm sorry and move on. I don't see the advantage of doing otherwise. I sometimes wonder whether I'm growing out of touch with our national culture. 
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