It turns out that “easy A” classes can lead to complications–even at Harvard. Last week the university announced that around 60 students were asked to withdraw for one to two years after a cheating scandal emerged from the much-derided “Introduction to Congress” course. The students who enrolled in the course last Spring did so on the advice of upperclassman, who told them to expect “an easy class with optional attendance and frequent collaboration.” Sadly for the younger class, the professor caught wind of this sentiment and dramatically revised the course. The students subsequently faced “tests that were hard to comprehend.” The horror!
Fortunately, Harvard has a staff of Teaching Fellows that help students navigate complex assignments, including the take-home final for “Introduction to Congress.” Unfortunately for these students, when their peers used the same resource for a challenging assignment in a course they thought would be anything but, their exam answers turned out to be remarkably similar. The students saw nothing wrong with this. Indeed, they argued that if Teaching Fellows are a Harvard-sponsored resource, why is widespread use of their instruction considered cheating?
These students may have a point. However, their argument – and the story as a whole -underscores how these students devalue their own education. To begin with, they enrolled in the course thinking they would excel without breaking a sweat. Once the professor dispelled this illusion, they outsourced their work to Harvard’s employees and simply parroted their answers. They have strenuously avoided anything resembling real education.
Amazingly, some Harvard students who were interviewed by the media see nothing wrong with this sequence of events. In fact, they’re astonished that Harvard has branded these students as cheaters for engaging in what they believe to be standard procedure. The best and the brightest continue to amaze.