Archive for January 2023

Facilitating Academic Dishonesty   Leave a comment

ChatGTP and Other Ills of Education

ChatGTP is a major topic in the news.  This AI writes documents, including essays and articles.  I, as a former classroom instructor who assigned written assignments, am alarmed.  My alarm increases as I read that the creators of ChatGTP are only now developing a watermark for such documents, and that a third party wrote the code for the ChatGTP detector.  Why did the creators of ChatGTP not think about the potential of academic dishonesty sooner?

I understand why some colleges, universities, and school systems have banned ChatGTP on their computers while I realize that this measure is of limited effect.  They cannot ban ChatGTP from students’ computers.

Regardless of what some people–including certain students–have said and thought about me, I am not naïve.  I understand that many students lack compunction regarding academic dishonesty.  I recall, for example, one student who asked if I would share the test bank with the class before the test.  (I said no, of course.)  I remember one college student telling me that he did not think that plagiarism exists.  (It does, of course.)  I understand that students who cheat on assignments cheat themselves, too.  But they want the easy way out.

One factor that makes ChatGTP appealing to many students is that they do not know how to write well.  For example, students may graduate from high school without mastered composition, grammar, and usage.  So, when they matriculate at a college or university and receive writing assignments, they are ill-prepared or unprepared.  Composing and revising even a five-page-long essay or report may seem like writing an epic novel to such pupils.  I know whereof I write; I have experience teaching such students.  I recall their comments about having to “write a lot.”  By “a lot,” they meant twenty-eight to thirty-six pages, spread across four assignments, during a semester.  I also remember the professionally worded paragraph this attitude inspired me to include in my syllabi.  I thought of this as the “cut-the-crap clause” on good days.  And the quality of the students’ writing, with few exceptions, deteriorated alarmingly over the course of more than a decade.  Along the way, I issued duly harsh penalties for plagiarism–earning a zero on the assignment and a failing grade in the course.

Finally, I gave up on writing assignments and gave Scantron tests instead.  Even then, most students I taught were ill-prepared.  I taught at the University of North Georgia, not the Middle School of North Georgia or the High School of North Georgia.  I refused to dumb down the courses and to share my test banks with pupils before tests.

Without denying that ChatGTP has legitimate and honest applications, I decry the potential for facilitating academic dishonesty.  Conducting one’s research, drafting a text, and revising that text require one to think critically about the material and to hone one’s writing skills.  Thinking skills and writing skills are low priorities in schools which focus on standardized testing.  Thinking skills and writing skills are crucial in a free society, too.  ChatGTP does more harm than good.




Is a Consistent Standard Too Much to Expect or Maintain?   Leave a comment


Unlike many other people, I feel no compulsion to express every or every other thought that I have–certainly not in writing.  Also, my historical methodological bias inclines me to sit back, read, and observe before writing or speaking much.  Nevertheless, I do feel free to comment in developing events in the news from time to time.

The handling of classified documents has been in the news recently.  Donald Trump’s case is in a league by itself, given that the federal argument asked for the return of the documents, he refused, and the federal government finally acted to reclaim them.  This is an easy case to evaluate.  However, the cases of Joe Biden and Mike Pence, who have been consistently cooperating with federal authorities, are alike.

For the sake of truth in advertising, I lay my partisan cards on the table.  I cast my first vote in a presidential election in 1992.  I have voted in every subsequent presidential election.  I have always voted for Democrats.  My partisan bias does not mean, however, that I give Biden a pass in this case and condemn Pence mercilessly.  And I do not mistake a partisan affiliation for a cult of personality.

Rather, I sit back, read, and watch.  I also vow to apply one standard to both Biden and Pence in this matter.  I refuse to assume any negative intention in the absence of evidence for it.  I assume, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, that these are cases of the accidental misfiling of papers.  This does not mean that such misfiling is unimportant.  I also guess that such misfiling may be more common than many people may think.

To apply one standard to Biden and another standard to Pence in this matter is to show one’s colors as a partisan hack.  I have no difficulty applying a consistent standard in this case.  Yet acting accordingly is more than one can reasonably expect from many people–including some members of Congress and the punditocracy–unfortunately.




Personality Types and Religious Affiliations   Leave a comment

In my first Episcopal parish, in the early 1990s, a woman–a convert to The Episcopal Church, and an extrovert–recalled her impression from years prior, when she had left her previous denomination.  She said of her Episcopal congregation from that previous time that she had never seen so many introverts in one place.

This statement has the ring of truth.  Many Episcopalians are self-described refugees from denominations with overzealous extroversion.  In terms of personality typing, the main characteristic of Evangelicalism is extroversion.  For me, an introvert, this is off-putting and alienating.  I prefer the quieter side of Christianity.  Holy hermits (both male and female) are some of my favorite saints.

I wonder what a study of clergy, their personality types, and their denominational affiliations would reveal.  I suspect that such a study would reveal that more clergy in the Roman Catholic/Eastern Orthodox/Episcopal corner of Christianity are introverted that in most Protestant denominations.  The existence of monasticism and of great openness to mysticism in those denominations is consistent with the acceptance of introversion.  I also guess that most Evangelical ministers are extroverts.

My priest is an introvert.  Whenever he makes comments about the social and spiritual aspects of introversion, I always resemble his remarks.  I have yet to compare notes with him, but, via my life, I understand the truth of what he says about the social and spiritual dimensions of introversion.  Our inward focus is an asset.  Yet, if we are not careful, our minds can be so busy that we are not inwardly quiet, although we are not saying anything.  I can easily go for long stretches of time without saying anything, but my mind is usually working.  I recall that, in 1995 or 1996, I finally quieted my mind for up to half an hour.  I remember this as being a wonderful experience.  I also recall that someone opened the door and ruined everything.

My society values extroversion and looks scornfully upon introversion.  So does much of the Evangelical tradition, with its disdain for monasticism and mysticism.  All that is unfortunate, for we introverts have much to offer the Church and society, too.  For example, we understand the importance of being quiet.




Diversity, Tolerance, and Acceptance   Leave a comment

I have read that one difference between conservatives and liberals is the values they prioritize when values come into conflict with each other.  Conservatives choose law and order over diversity, tolerance, and acceptance.  Liberals establish the opposite priority.  This does not mean that all liberals oppose law and order or that all conservatives oppose diversity, tolerance, and acceptance.  However, I suppose that adherents of the far right–xenophobic, homophobic, openly racist, and frequently antisemitic–oppose diversity, tolerance, and acceptance, by definition.

I am a liberal.  I am an orderly person who manifests a meticulous nature and great attention to details.  My domicile is a masterpiece of organization.  I also understand that freedom cannot exist in anarchy, so order is essential for liberty.  However, certain types of order are antithetical to freedom, civil liberties, and civil rights.  The question is not whether to maintain order per se, but what kind of order to maintain.  I also approach this issue from the perspective of one who has spent his life being a square peg in a round hole, and being keenly aware of not fitting in.  I insist on trying to be my best possible self, not the person others want me to be or to become.  So, if someone has purple hair, this does not disturb me.  Besides, some people look good in purple hair.  And that person’s hair color is none of my business.

I, as one accustomed to not fitting in, have a bias for diversity, tolerance, and acceptance of most differences.  Why not?  Life would be boring if we were all alike.  Variety is the spice of life, is it not?  My commitment to mutuality, a Biblical virtue, is consistent with this attitude.  We all need each other.  We are all responsible to and for each other.  The old-school conservative value of building community makes sense to me but conserving unjust exclusion and enforcing conformity offends my morality.  I regard “conform” and “conformity” as the obscenest words in the English language.  I know the consequences of refusing to conform.   And some purple-haired woman may have something essential to contribute to the community.  How dare anyone exclude her!