Monday, October 08, 2007

Ocean's 11 or the Notorious Nine

Students at Hanover High School stole a teacher's key, and then used it to get into the school and steal copies of their upcoming finals. They are now facing criminal charges and the community is debating whether this punishment is appropriate. While they are not facing jail time, the trespassing charges could go on their permanent records because in New Hampshire 17 is considered adult.

I'm not sure how I feel about this situation. I remember feeling the pressure of grades and tests, and I didn't live down the road from Dartmouth. I can appreciate how the expectation to attend an ivy league school increases that pressure beyond anything I felt in high school. On the other hand, they pass out As in this country like Halloween candy. Sure you have to dress appropriately and learn the lingo, but overall, good grades aren't that difficult. Points are passed out for just being present. I think that most of the difficulties students have in class is because we tell them it is going to be difficult. If we would start believing in their ability to learn, so would they.

As far as prosecution goes, I think I support it. If 50 students were involved, it wasn't a spontaneous, bad idea that they had while trying to kill an afternoon. If there was damage done to the school, it needs to be fixed. Fixing requires money, and money requires documentation. Somewhere the school has to write down that there was a breaking and entering incident, and pressing charges is continuing the documentation and covering themselves. I don't want the students to go to jail, and I think a fine would be a slap on the wrist. What I don't want to see is the excuses people are making for them win out. They exist in the same society as we do so our 'notions of honesty' need to coincide.

The problem isn't that this generation doesn't think of downloading music as stealing because this generation hasn't come to an consensus about what to think of downloading music. The problem is the confession of the teacher who said he doesn't talk to his students about academic integrity. Why not? Plagiarism is a growing problem and everyone attributes it to the ease with which students can access papers online. Maybe it is because we don't treat our students like adults. Academic integrity is an adult problem facing graduate students and PhDs so we don't worry our students with it. We need to be appreciating who they are instead of building imaginary relationships with who they will be after graduating from Dartmouth.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


As a freshman and sophomore, I spent very little time in my dorm room, but my tv was always on. With the exception of the semester that I had a roommate hooked on BET, CNN was always on. They said generally the same 15 minutes of news repeatedly all day long. There was also the scrolling update bar on the bottom that I could focus on if they were saying something that I had already heard. At the time it was the perfect way for me to get my news. I could pickup a story or two in between classes, or I could quickly get a full update after dinner.

After I moved off campus, it became easier to drive to campus during an NPR hourly update. When I moved back on to campus, I didn't go back to CNN. I spent a couple months trying to keep up with the news online, but I have to admit, I prefer to have someone else package it up and get it ready for me. When the hubby bought me an ipod everything became perfect again. I have several NPR shows set to automatically download and I enjoy listening to them at my leisure (often while I knit).

This past week without internet in my residence hall left me without NPR podcasts, so I sought out an old friend in CNN. It is different now. The format is generally the same, but the content is now (outrageously) sensational. I should have noticed this when I watched it in Kentucky. I remember feeling uncomfortable with it, but the major news story at the time was the trapped miners and I had convinced myself that they were just doing a poor job of trying to continue conveying the urgency of the situation (as days passed by with no news). I was making unwarranted excuses for them.

I've always been sensitive to biases in my news sources, and I've been taught that sensationalizing is a way of being biased. This was different though. People or topics weren't sensationalized. The whole presentation was just at a different level than I remember. It felt like a used car commercial not a news story. It had reached the point of insulting. Whether it was more insulting to the viewer or the subject of the story is debatable, but either way, I was disappointed.

A related anecdote that I don't have a proper transition for:
In Europe, I watched a lot of British news. While I was in Spain, Paris Hilton was going in and out of jail. One evening the newscaster began her story of Paris being released (the first time), and her co-anchor stopped her and asked, "Why are we reporting on this?" She didn't fully shrug her shoulders, but her body language became clearly unimpressed and slightly annoyed, and she answered, "Because this is all that they are talking about in the US." While we were making fun of Paris for going to jail, the rest of the world was making fun of us for caring.