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Friday, March 2, 2012

Idle Hours...

About a year ago I began to get the feeling that I needed to do more with my life. This, granted, is hardly the world's most original thought but I was beginning to be bothered by the fact that I hate my job and had little, if anything else to fill my time and was starting to while away the hours maintaining an online farm. Now, granted, once I made level 38 and was able to buy and plant grapes I turned my farm into a vineyard, complete with a French Chateau, but I think you get the point.

I decided I needed a new, modern a go-go degree. I was in college back in the early 70s. I watched my kids going off to college and realized they don't use quills and inkwells anymore and thought, well, okay, maybe I'm stuck at an unrewarding job because I'm just antiquated. So, armed with my online expertise I found a school that was actually accredited, has an above average graduation rate for its online students and offered to waive the application fees if I applied online. I transferred my antiquated records, was accepted and got one of those "let's send old ladies to college" grants. I got a student loan, confident that, by the time I finished I would be dead and not obligated anymore. I was given an academic coach and a counselor and we were off to the races.

Sort of.

In the first place, there are a LOT more requirements now than there were when I was in college. I had to take Political Science, which I did. And yes, those units transferred. But now one also has to take a class in the Constitution. That sounded cool, I picked a class in Constitutional Law and one in Media, which is my new, modern, hip major. The Media Class was fine. The Constitutional Law class was a nightmare. The professor didn't give a rats ass whether or not you knew how many amendments the Constitution has, he only cared that you wrote it down in proper APA format. He said I was a wonderful writer and had an obvious and firm grasp on the subject matter but my title page wasn't centered correctly so I was a screw up.  I could have discussed the 31st Amendment and, as long as I put the title in italics he would have given me full credit. He sent me a sample essay to follow. I thought "um, yeah, up yours" and proceeded to test his boundaries.

I cut and pasted the paper into a new word .doc. It was about the 1st Amendment. I then proceeded to overwrite it. I wrote a paper on the 4th Amendment. When I got to a citation, I went to the website shown on the example and found information pertinent to the paper I was writing and left the citation as it was. On the reference page I changed the page numbers and the dates I had retrieved the information.

Now...and this is important...I didn't copy anything, I wrote my own paper. BUT...I used his sample sources (which were all legitimate sources, btw) and in the exact same order. I used the exact reference page, an changed the defining information on it, such as page numbers, the dates I downloaded the website, etc. In a nutshell, I used his sample essay as a template.

When I got my grade back, I realized...the guy didn't recognize his own sample. Wouldn't one not assume that he would have seen a pattern? As in..."hey, this sounds familiar...". Now, frankly, I doubt there was anything he could have DONE about it, because I didn't break any rules but it was evident from his comments and my grade that he didn't realize what I had done. When it came time for my final paper, a paper who's subject I had never submitted for approval because I couldn't stand the guy and it was only at the last minute I decided to NOT drop his class, well, I did a search of free term papers on a Supreme Court decision. Now WAIT! Let me finish...

I found some high schooler's paper on a decision I'd never heard of. I read the paper. Then I went on line, did some research, wrote a better paper and turned it in. Took me all of four hours to do an 8 page paper. He gave me an "A". I didn't lift anything except the subject matter from the term paper which, for what it's worth, is posted on the Internet.

This brings me around to this semester. Having just completed a grueling and thoroughly rewarding class in literature analysis, I am now stuck in two classes which are also currently required by the State for graduation. One is an orientation to college. Really? This class has a teacher who is SOOOOOO enthusiastic and we're going to learn to use today's technology in new and wonderfully helpful ways. Like how to identify a Boolean search. This will, of course, change my life, knowing what to call it when I type "those shoes that make your butt small when you walk" into a Google bar. And we're going to BLOG! Isn't that exciting? Please allow at least 45 minutes to set up your blog, it's complicated.

It took me all of 4 minutes to set up the new blog, largely because I kept screwing around with the background color. I imagine it took most of the class less time than that. And anyone under 40, which a majority of them are, find blogging so yesterday and are now burning up the Interwebs on Tumblr. I guess I'm lucky, she could have assigned us to set up a "My Space" page.

The second class is run by a jackass who got on my bad side when he told me I didn't write well and my grammar was bad and it would "behoove" me to improve my skills as my abysmal habits would NOT serve me well later in life. We had to take a test on line, the results of said test tell us what kind of learner we are. Our assignment was to post these results on a community discussion board telling the class what we thought of them (the test results, not the class) and how we could improve our skills. I stated that the test indicated I am an intuitive learner, I wasn't especially surprised by this information and was quite comfortable with it.

The teacher asked what I intended to to about this. I replied "nothing. What part of "I'm quite comfortable with this" don't you get?" He said I was closed minded and unable to accept change and would fail in life. I pointed out that I was almost 60 and it was probably a little late for that. He told me I was wasting all this wonderful advice and the opportunity to improve my college experience and how sad I intended to leave all this great and glorious opportunity on my screen. I pointed out that, while I suppose I could make an idiot of myself spouting new age learning tools and improve my A grades to an A+ grades I was, by nature, an underachiever and was content with my lot in life.

Then I told him to get bent.

Now I have to give him a two page essay proving that I understand what plagiarism is and giving a detailed description of at least four different methods of avoiding it. This isn't just for me, btw, it was assigned several years ago if I'm reading the syllabus correctly.

Plagiarism: Copying and pasting something you find on line and not telling anyone where you got it, thus leading the reader to think you have a functioning brain. Buying term papers falls into this category, btw. 

How to avoid it: Don't do it.

Frankly, I'm stumped as to the other three ways. I suppose "do it better so you don't get caught" isn't an option.

And...more these people REALLY think that college students didn't learn about plagiarism in freaking GRAMMAR SCHOOL?  What part of "If I catch you copying I'll give you an "F"" do they think doesn't apply here?  In middle school they were all given its actual name and in high school they all learned how to spell it, because, frankly, it's tricky, I always want to use "ai" in the middle instead of "ia". This, btw, was done during Freshman year and by the time they graduated anyone so inclined had learned how to plagiarize without getting caught.

Do these people REALLY think that putting people in a class and saying "okay, this is intellectual theft and it's unethical and if we catch you we'll kick you out" is going to stop anyone who wants to do it? Dude...all it's going to do push kids to invent new and better ways to copy without getting caught. Do you know ANYONE who quit token' because they heard Nancy Reagan tell them to "Just say no"? Me either.

Meanwhile, I've pretty much finished this week's adventure in  basic breathing and decided to check out next week's work, maybe get it done early because there is no spring break in online school.

Next week we have to take the CRAAP test. No seriously. CRAAP is a method of evaluating websites. It stands for  "Currency, Relevance,Authority, Accuracy, Purpose." CRAAP.

They're quite serious about this. Google it.

Maybe it's my age but, frankly, I've been able to identify CRAAP when I smelled it for years now. Fox News, "Twilight" movies and "The Tonight Show starring Jay Leno" come to mind.. Hell, with the new criteria I should have a Ph.D. by now.

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