Cheat Sheet on Academia

, Malcolm A. Kline, Leave a comment

Currently, the FBI director is scratching his head trying to figure out how many agents cheated on their agency exams. All of us might ponder where this drive to take what was once deemed an unacceptable shortcut comes from.

“Eighty percent of high school students admit to cheating,” Caroline Crocker of the American Institute for Technology and Science Education said at a Capitol Hill press conference on July 28, 2010. Another study found that “70 percent of students at Duke cheated,” Dr. Crocker said at the news briefing, which was sponsored by the Traditional Values Coalition.

A cell biologist by training, Dr. Crocker has seen this deterioration in standards up close and personal at universities she has been affiliated with. “I found that cheating by pre-med students was being winked at at George Mason University [GMU] and Creighton and now I see it when I tutor,” she said.

Nor is the practice confined to one side of the podium in lecture halls. “I’ve seen medical slides in medical school that come from Wikipedia,” she averred.

She personally will not stand for it, a policy that has cost her professionally. A student she caught cheating at GMU accused her of teaching creationism.

Although Dr. Crocker can produce students to rebut the claim, guess who got asked to leave GMU’s Fairfax, Virginia campus. For posing “questions about evolution” at George Mason, she was “banned from lecturing.”

“She has two letters from the provost complimenting her for the high student ratings she received before the Darwin lecture,” we noted in 2007.” She has a few letters and e-mails from students who heard the lecture on Darwin and attested to her fairness in presenting the often-times contentious material.”

“They switched my 3-year contract to a one-year contract,” she stated in her recent appearance in the Capitol. When she took legal action, the school hired away the law firm that her attorney worked for.

Dr. Crocker is the author of Free To Think: Why Scientific Integrity Matters. Full disclosure: I wrote a jacket blurb for the book.

We first covered Dr. Crocker’s travails three years ago. “Want tenure?” I wrote.  “Learn to love Charles Darwin.”

“Want to keep your tenure? Work his name into your license plates. Want to keep your job? Never, never cast aspersions upon academia’s favorite butterfly expert.”

Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.