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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    English: The subject it’s OK to cheat in

    Justyn DillinghamEditor-in-Chief
    Justyn Dillingham

    Imagine what life would be like if you got to skip entire days and read short summaries of what you missed the next morning while walking to class.

    I couldn’t help but imagine a world like this the other day, when WildLife’s usual daily cluster of unsolicited packages included a press release for something called NotePods.

    NotePods, evidently, are a series of audio downloads designed to help students cheat in literature classes. Of course, no one actually uses the word “”cheat,”” just as military types prefer phrases like “”securing the area”” to phrases like “”killing people,”” but that’s certainly their aim.

    The downloads, which go for “”only”” $1.99 each, are audio summaries of classic novels that are frequently assigned in high school and college.

    “”By formatting the summaries for use on an iPod or MP3 player, it means that students can study while riding on the bus, jogging, biking, laying on the grass and even walking the dog,”” brags Jack Bernstein, president of InterLingua Educational Publishing, in the press release.

    The garbled syntax of this quote (what is “”it””?) suggests that Bernstein did quite a bit of this so-called “”studying”” himself in his college days. And look where he wound up: president of a company that helps students get through college without reading! And they say diligence pays.

    “”If you can’t be bothered to read your own books, why not go ahead and hire someone to take the class for you? Better yet, why not just break into your neighbor’s house and steal his degree?””

    It gets better. The NotePods Web site even includes a section where, “”to help fellow students,”” students can, seriously, “”post the questions they had on their exams after the test is over.””

    “”To help fellow students.”” It sounds so innocent, doesn’t it? If bank robbers started calling themselves “”self-interested bank philanthropists,”” the police probably wouldn’t even bother to chase them.

    I recognize that the world is full of teachers who can’t teach; I’ve had a few of them myself. But that’s no excuse for students who don’t even try to learn.

    Not only is using a NotePod to read a book not learning; I’d characterize it as the opposite of learning.

    A study guide that helps you learn differential calculus, advanced Latin or economics isn’t cheating. But the difference between reading a book and reading about a book is like the difference between eating dinner and reading a cookbook.

    While I can certainly understand why one might need help plowing through William Faulkner’s great but notoriously difficult classic “”The Sound and the Fury,”” if you need a plot summary for “”Lord of the Flies,”” “”Fahrenheit 451″” or, for God’s sake, “”A Christmas Carol,”” what are you doing in college?

    If you only listen to a synopsis of “”All Quiet on the Western Front,”” you’re not going to understand why it’s the most powerful anti-war novel ever written. If you only listen to a description of Falstaff’s antics in “”Henry IV,”” you’re not going to understand why he’s the greatest comic character in the English language. And if you only read a summary of “”The Scarlet Letter”” – well, actually, you’re a lot luckier than I was.

    If you can’t be bothered to read your own books, why not go ahead and hire someone to take the class for you? Better yet, why not just break into your neighbor’s house and steal his degree?

    In fact, why bother doing anything at all for yourself? Instead of getting into a relationship and suffering through the ensuing nasty breakup, just buy a study guide, listen to it on your iPod, learn a painful lesson, spend a few minutes brooding and move on. See? Much easier.

    The basic concept behind this isn’t new. CliffsNotes have been around since 1958. But at least those things required students to read.

    By finally taking that element out of the equation, NotePods will finally allow students to get through college without cracking a single book. (At this point, I invite every reader to come up with his own President Bush joke.)

    Unfortunately, since I doubt that anyone who’s going to use these things will have bothered to read this far, this column was rather a futile one. Join me again next week, when I’ll be tackling the topic “”Why We Should Get Rid of Cell Phones and Bring Back the Telegraph.””

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