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William is an Assistant Professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in the Department of Business Administration and Tourism and Hospitality Management. He is fascinated by research around how individuals construct and create their social realities, intrigued with the powers of creativity and innovation, and an avid proponent of outstanding service experiences. When not teaching, writing, or researching, he tries to spend time with his family and occasionally paint. He is currently completing his PhD in Management at Saint Mary’s University.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

When Ideals meet Reality

A decade of teaching. I still have the rose coloured glasses on when it comes to my students. They come in the first day and I’m eager to see who will shine, who will strive. I’ve learned that natural ability is only a small portion of the equation. It takes drive, integrity and the will to succeed.
By the end of a semester, I has undoubtedly seen my fair share of short cuts taken by students, under the name of pressure, or desire for the richest of grades, or that next scholarship. Generally, these instances have to do with the lack of ethical boundaries, or what we call ‘ethics by consequences’ in class. If no one is getting hurt, then the actions, whatever they are, must be ok.
But who is getting hurt. The educational system? Undoubtedly. If the educational community cannot self-police (ah yes, I do mean police) issues of academic misconduct, it erodes the fundamental building blocks of the entire system. The class? Yes, in fact the class is being damaged. Firstly, one of their peers is showing such little regard for their fellow classmates as to flaunt the hard and long work the others put in. Secondly, should they be successful in their misconduct, it not only raises the assignment assessment level but demonstrates that there is more value in purchasing / borrowing / plagiarising than in actually doing the work; the good students immediately understand cost/benefit and will invest resources appropriately.
How about the student – are they hurt? Without a doubt. $600 in tuition for one course plus $100+ for the resources, and they decide to borrow/purchase the knowledge of others instead of collecting what they have paid for. Some already get this and fail to care; others (and this is even worse) do not have any understanding as to the problem of cheating for higher grades. School has been commoditized to such an extent that skill sets have been exchanged for papers in a frame.
It is truly disheartening to have yet another conversation with faculty peers and students about academic misconduct, to read about mass offendes being caught at schools in this province, to have to deal with the issue in my own class on assignments designed to help my students really understand critical concepts. Most often, it is simply insulting; there is an assumption that we, as trained professionals, cannot tell the difference between original and borrowed work. I watch as academics become jaded, cynical about the new crop of students. Unfortunately, it is also understandable (not acceptable, just understandable).
However, regardless of the extent of what my grandparents would call ‘tom-foolery”, each and every semester, there are success stories. Events that recharge my battery and bring hope to the wonders that the next generation are bringing. The student who makes a good first impression that ends up shining by the end of the semester; the meek one who lacks confidence but has desire and achieves authentic success; a student with various learning challenges who not only survives their first university experience but thrives with straight A’s.
So this posting tonight is to thank those who work hard, who choose to earn their stripes, and bring passion to their learning journey. You are often the gems that keep us in this profession, even when we are forced to spend a disproportionate amount of time with negative issues. Know that we would rather be investing in your success.
When faced with obstacles, I often return to the wise words of Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States, when he said,
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”
Press On! Happy Holidays everyone.

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