Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Academic Honesty: Is There any Such Thing?

No, this is not the topic with which I will bore readers for the duration of this blog. It is, instead, is the topic of my entire year's research and writing for my Advanced Placement Advanced Inpedendent Studies course. My intent is to demonstrate that failure to allow students to re-submit previously self-authored works is a violation of the students' First Amendment rights. In past years, I would have practically completed my project by this point in the year. I haven't even begun this project, and I really don't know where to begin. Logic and precedent are the areas I will embrace or ignore, depending upon what I find in the course of conducting reseaarch.

I don't plan to use this topic for all of my classes this semster. I will use the statistical information from this or from another of my projects for my statistical analysis, but such is actually allowed under the present regime (only because the statistics instructor is not a complete imbecile). I have pre-declared that watching each episode of "Judge Alex" that airs between now and the due date for the project is essential to the successful completion of my project. If the truth were to be known, in all likelihood, not a single episode of "Judge Alex" will pertain even indirectly to my proposed topic, but I cannot be expected to know that until I watch the episodes and determine that to be the case.

On Thursday I watched "Judge Alex" at school for the first time. I've mentioned before that Judge Alex Ferrer is in the "just under fifty" age bracket. I would be admitting to virtual sexual deviancy here were I to say I found the man physically attractive. I'm not saying that I think he's ugly. I just don't think about men in that age bracket in that way.
The women who work at my school do not share my sense of restraint, if the ones who ended up in my area while I was watching on Thursday are any kind of random sampling, although most of them are enough older than I that
it is not akin to admission of mental illness to find attraction in someone in his age range. When I began watching "Judge Alex," I was seated by myself on a sofa in one of the media areas of the course's expansive workroom. Within five minutes, one of the three instructors (a female) assigned to APAIS had joined me. Before another five minutes had passed, a secretary from the counseling department (also female) had joined us. Before the first half hour of the program was complete, two other secretaries and one teacher in prep time (all female) were watching with us. Each woman present was heard to make at least one favorable comment pertaining to the judge's physical appearance.

All this means to me is that I won't actually get anything done for my project or for any other class in the assigned room. (It isn't against the rules to study for another class during an APAIS period, which is consistent, since virtually no other activity except sex and illicit drug use is against the rules.) I am a proficient multi-tasker, and usually do my best work while watching TV, reading, and doing at least one other thing simultaneously. Even my skills, nonetheless, have their limits. I cannot concentrate on what I am writing with buzzards all around me playing chopsticks on an out-of-tune piano (I haven't been able to reach the piano technician yet), throwing basketballs in the immedaite vicinity of my head, and moaning about how hot Judge Alex is. Even I have limits to what I can do under such circumstances.

In any event, I plan to establish, through some combination of logic and precedent, that one should be able to use his or her own previously authored works to which one has not given up the rights as one chooses. Furthermore, submitting an assignment for credit does not, I will argue, constitute giving up the rights to the work.

This issue isn't personal for me. I write incessantly just for fun. A written assignment is to me a captive audience: someone actually has to read what I wrote or risk giving me credit for having written something totally bogus. People who like to write crave an audience for their writing. I am no exception. Thus, it is not I who desires to complete fewer written assignments. I have disks filled with papers I've written but never turned in, given away to friends, or sold.

Instead, I'm contributing to society's overall good by making this the focus of my research. My mother says my head is filled with delusions of grandeur. (She has a doctorate in psychology and loves to spout psychobabble.) She's wrong; I'm not taking myself or the assignment that seriously. Still, I don't think my topic is without merit. If course intructors cannot be bothered to come up with assigned topics that are orignial, why should students be required to complete original work to fulfill such assignments? I intend to answer that question and many others in the course of my research.

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