Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Skill Of Cheating

I can count on one hand the number of times I've cheated in school (pretty sure it's three). It's not something I'm particularly proud of doing, but I am incredibly happy that I knew how to do it without getting caught.

Cheating is what we call it when you accomplish a goal with a method that is forbidden by an established ruleset. When you are tested in school, you are traditionally not allowed to use any source materials or notes. You are being tested on your ability to answer questions purely with retained knowledge (and sometimes with reasoning skills).

The goal of a test, though, is to answer the questions correctly. Any method of bringing in notes or direct answers to questions is cheating because you have accomplished the goal but broke the rules.

However, there is value in learning how to cheat. After all, one of the critical lessons we are always taught is to "think outside the box", isn't it? We should find creative, nonstandard solutions to problems. We need to find answers beyond the obvious ones. We need to be aware of our situations and our circumstances, and know how to use them to our advantage.

The argument against cheating is that we "cheat ourselves out of an education", but that is simply no true. What we have done is learned a different lesson. Trained a different skill. We learned how to break the system. That is a damn important skill in life. Sometimes the system is broken. Sometimes the rules are stupid. When you realize that, and you know how to circumvent a problem, you can accomplish your goals without causing a whole lot of commotion.

Eventually, you learn that if you are in a situation where you need to cheat, then either the goals are stupid, or the rules are. And whichever it may be, they should be ignored. From there, you should realize that the only thing that really does matter is important goals. In writing for example, your primary goal is to entertain. That is a pass/fail goal. It does not matter whatsoever how you do it. You can make intense, gripping drama, whimsical farce, or toilet humor. If you entertained, you won.

But, regardless of what you may believe is and is not important, rules still exist. And if you want to have a hope of reaching people and having an effect on the world around you, you have to make it look like you're obeying the rules (even if you are breaking them in order to do something better than you otherwise could have). Cheaters never prosper [if they get caught].

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