May 11, 2002

In Defense of Cheating
Don Norman points out why GPAs aren't always everything they're cracked up to be. I can say that my GPA was always pretty good, but I've also found that often the best employees are well-rounded individuals who don't have perfect grades. I've seen many 4.0 students (a perfect grade-point-average) who can't figure out how to deal with real business situations where the path to success isn't clear. The whole grading system is messed up and doesn't reward the behaviors we need in business.

As Don says in his essay:
"Consider this: in many ways, the behavior we call cheating in schools is exactly the behavior we desire in the real world. Think about it. What behavior do we call cheating in the school system? Asking others for help, copying answers, copying papers. Most of these activities are better called "networking" or "cooperative work." In the workplace these behaviors are encouraged and rewarded. Thus, many experts will tell you that their real expertise lies not in what they know but rather in who they know: that is, expertise is often knowing whom to ask and where to look. When we have problems in the real world, we want answers, no matter the source, which means searching to find someone else who has experienced the same problem, asking others for help, and cooperating."

I can't say I agree with all of Don's ideas on "fixing" the system, but recognizing the flaws is a first step.

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