Students, nothing I assign you is ‘bullshit’

Tuesday, @Jezebel‘s Lindy West came to the defense of cheating.  West’s defense included the following…

Some forms of “cheating” are actually more akin to savvy time management—it can be just a disparaging term for “efficiency.” Some cheating is about determining which bullshit counts and which doesn’t, and then cutting out the bullshit bullshit. A lot of school is bullshit. And I feel like a big part of a high school and college education is learning how to navigate around bullshit. Because it’s bullshit. You know? [source]

I’d like to talk directly to students right now.

Students, let me be (bold-all caps-large font) clear…


Students, if you’re in my class this term, you’re there to learn general chemistry.  Perhaps you want to be a chemist, engineer, medical doctor or nurse.  You need an understanding of the basics of chemistry and I’m here to help you “get it”.  I don’t assign things to waste your time, I assign things to help you learn.  That whole assignments-for-learning scheme only works if YOU actually DO IT.

Let’s say we’re discussing the topic of intermolecular forces (IMFs).  I assign a chapter in the text, a video or two, and a dozen problems on top of that in-class lecture and that lab experiment.  All that work for IMFs may seem redundant.  There is a simple reason for this redundancy – that shit is IMPORTANT and repeated exposure might help that shit sink in.  There is a method to the madness.

Students, there is also a very selfish reason I don’t assign bullshit.


I grade your quizzes, tests, lab reports, and lab notebooks.  When you come to office hours, I go over problems with you.  When you email saying you can’t get #17, I’m the one sending you a detailed response.  I spend hours grading.  You really think I’d assign you bullshit that I’ll have to grade?  You must be out of your damn mind.

 To summarize, nothing I assign you is bullshit because (1) I’m here to help you learn and (2) I have no time for bullshit.  My intolerance of bullshit also applies to whatever bullshit excuse somebody might cook-up to justify cheating.   

@Jezebel‘s Lindy West doesn’t ”conceive of cheating as a black-and-white issue”.  I do.  Students, if you commit any act of academic dishonesty in my class, I will pursue any and every disciplinary action the university/college affords me.  Part of my job is guarding the value of a degree.  That degree means YOU accomplished something – something amazing and difficult.  Cheating devalues that degree, the university/college, and the academic program.  There’s no way I’ll stand by and let that happen.  Neither should you.




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