Thursday, February 24, 2011

the cheating factor

I know this is going to rub you literary folks, especially any of you that teach.  But I have to go here. I need some advice, perspective if you will.

I learned recently that my son teenager has been using Spark Notes.  For those of you not in the know, this is the online version of Cliff Notes from way back when, you know, in the old days back when I was in school I will neither confirm nor deny this author's use of said Cliff Notes, even if on rare occasion.  Hey don't hate!  I was a history major.  Do you know how many books they make you read?

We were discussing classes and school, me giving the usual barrage of "you need to study more" comments.  It always seems like I'm lecturing these days.  Honestly he's been struggling.  It's a difficult year with difficult classes.  The grades have not been good, or at least some subjects have not been good.  Interestingly enough, English has not been one of the problematic subjects causing me him grief.  Curiosity got the best of me and I had to probe and see what was going on in that class.  English is a subject I can converse about.  Chemistry, not so much.

The conversation went something like this:

Me:  Blah, blah, blah.  "And what are you doing in English?  Are you doing any writing?  I know your teacher had lots of books for you to read (this I know based on one of the three Back To School Nights I attended last fall - that's what happens when you have three kids).  How come I never see you reading your books?"

Teenager: "Oh I don't read them.  They're all so boring.  Have you read Brave New World mom?  It's so boring!"

Me:  "Uh, well, how do you pass the class then?"

Teenager:  "Spark Notes, duh, Mom."  Yes, he said that.  Maybe I should lecture him on more respect too?

I played it off.  Of course I am a hip, in-the-know mom.  Spark Notes, duh.  I kept my ignorance to myself, quickly picked my chin up off the floor and babbled on.  We chatted more and I learned all the books they've "read" in class.  It seems that he'll start a book and if he likes it, for example Antigone, he'll read it.  If it's too boring, he jumps over to Spark Notes for the digest version.

My immediate reaction is that it's cheating.  On the other hand, it seems like he is making an effort to try the book and whether he reads it or not, he's getting the plot and analysis.

What do you think?  If it's cheating, how can I stop it?  Even if I block the site at home, he could find another computer somewhere else if he really doesn't want to read the book.  I can be a hypocrite take the moral high ground and express that it is, in fact, cheating and lecture him on one more thing.  Or, I can simply accept the fact and be thankful that he is at least trying first and still getting the exposure?  What is education anyway?  By the way, this teenage crap sucks.  It was so much easier when they were young and believed everything you said without question, like "of course it's your bedtime, the sky is dark."
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