What's the capital of North Dakota?

When I was a kid, (or more of one than I am now, depending on how you look at it), I watched this LDS commercial where two students were taking a test. One is busy at work while the other leans over to him and asks "What's the capital of North Dakota?" The other little boy seems to want to help, but knows he can't cheat. He doesn't help the kid and then there was some cheesey feel good ending and the message was sent that Mormons help your family by teaching right and wrong.

When done properly, this is very successfull.

Case in point: Me. Today I took a Concurrent Programming test. It was open book, open note, open homework, open Google, but not open neighbor. Pretty much everything was allowed as open source material. For the programming part of the exam, we were given a skeleton version of some code and asked to fill in the blanks. He provided us with the working version of the blanks filled in code so that we could check our output with the correct output.

As I was doing the program, it dawned on me... I've seen this code before. Where have I seen it before? I shrugged it off and got about 80% finished. I was hung up on one little area that was causing infinite loops and just couldn't get past it. Then it hit me where I remembered seeing this code: in a homework description he emailed us. Everything he gave us is open season, right? So I opened up the email and sure enough, there it was. The entire working version of the exam-- blanks filled in and everything. I saw my error, which was absolutely minor, and fixed it. Then I had a moral dilemma: Is this cheating? Surely he didn't mean for us to have the code when he meant we could look at anything he wanted. The battle lasted a few seconds, and then I breathed a huge sigh of frustration, and called over the Professor.

Me: Dr. Stiles?

Him: Yes?

Me: Do you realize you gave us this code and that I found it?

Him: I did?!

Me: Yep.

Him: Did it help you?

Me: Well, it got me past this one little part, but everything else was mine.

Him: Oh. Oh, well then... We'll have to give you partial credit. Don't worry, you'll still get 90% or thereabouts.

Bah! I could have had 100% credit and been able to rationalize it away. But I didn't. I knew I shouldn't because it was in violation of the principle of cheating. Humans in society today are hung up on application and not principle. If we argued, established, and promoted principles then we'd have a lot more wise people. Today I was wise. Although my test score will suffer, I maintained my integrity. The test score will have little bearing on my life. The way I acted today will have a lot.


peter said...


I am glad you made sure you did what you thought was the right thing.

Chance said...

hm, interesting. I'm not sure if it would've been me justifying or what, but I would've figured that problem would've been meant as a 'gimmie' if we had been paying attention, that is unless the problem was the whole test, in which case I may have gone teh CR route.

Oh, and Bismarck is the capital of ND, named for German Kaiser Otto von :)

sixline said...

Normal response:

Yeah, I really thought about it in those two seconds. He gave it to us, didn't he? Either he wanted us to find it (the flatter's way) or he didn't realize he did it.

Sappy response:

Two roads diverged in a wood and I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.

Eeyore said...

I'm proud of ya. You rarely see a great person that becomes great through the increase of knowledge, but through the application of it. The fact that you would have been second guessing yourself had you not done what you did should be all the proof in the world that you did the right thing.

Whether you get a 90% or a 100%, the professor knows what kind of person you are, and that may help you more than you can imagine.