Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Reviewed the mid term examination in my PL/SQL class today. The test I wrote contained a question portion, and a programming portion. One of the students came to me very anxiously because I had given him a zero on the coding portion, which is one third of the grade. He actually did a pretty good job, and even added some unique features that were not required by the assignment. The problem was that I found another script that was identical to his. There is no way this could have happened accidentally. Everyone gets the same assignment, of course, but the odds that they would all solve the problem in precisely the same manner are small indeed. At the risk of boring you to death, I am going to show you the code, so that you understand what I mean:

v_major students.major%type := '&major';
v_id students.id%type;
v_firstname students.first_name%type;
v_lastname students.last_name%type;
v_credits students.current_credits%type;
v_id_copy students.id%type := 1;
v_error number := 0;

cursor c_find is
select * from students
where major = v_major;
open c_find;

if v_major = 'History' then v_error := 1;
end if;
if v_major = 'Computer Science' then v_error := 1;
end if;
if v_major = 'Economics' then v_error := 1;
end if;
if v_major = 'Music' then v_error := 1;
end if;
if v_major = 'Nutrition' then v_error := 1;
end if;

if v_error = 0 then
dbms_output.put_line('No this major error!!!');
end if;

exit when v_error = 0;
exit when c_find%notfound;
fetch c_find into v_id,v_firstname,v_lastname,v_major,v_credits;
exit when v_id = v_id_copy;
dbms_output.put_line('Student ID: '||v_id);
dbms_output.put_line('First Name: '||v_firstname);
dbms_output.put_line('Last Name : '||v_lastname);
dbms_output.put_line('Major: '||v_major);
dbms_output.put_line('Credits: '||v_credits);
v_id_copy := v_id;
end loop;
close c_find;

This is a simple PL/SQL code block that produces a desired output. The two students in question had both turned in this exact piece of code. So I gave them both zeros for no other reason than that their code was identical. The student who came to be was very distraught. He insisted that he had written the code himself without help. I asked him how these two assignments happened to be exactly the same. He told me that he had shared his code with another student using QQ (a popular Chinese chat client). I told him that it was not appropriate for him to share his code, that sharing code during a test was cheating, and that he was just as guilty as the one he shared it with. He said, "But he was my roommate!" He further remonstrated that he had not expected his roommate to actually copy the code. "I was just trying to help him"

After class, I went to meet my language tutor. I told him the story without the names. He told me that I didn't understand Chinese culture. "We Chinese cannot say no to this kind of request." I told him that was nonsense. "I taught in an American university. American students cheat, too. Cheating is wrong, and it doesn't matter what culture you are in."

So what are we to make of this idea that cheating is somehow part of Chinese culture? I, for one, do not buy it. Cheating does not come from culture, it comes from human nature. True, China has had a reputation for chicanery and corruption. But I say again, the problem is not culture. It is Godlessness. I suppose then, that you could say it is a result of the spiritual culture. But beyond this, it is a mistake to write this off to culture. The simple fact is that any nation or people that has lived without God, or submission to His dictates, will tend toward corruption. I have long said that the primary problem with Communisim is not the folly of Marxist economic philosophy, but the atheism encouraged by Communist systems.

This morning I was reading in the Wall Street Journal about the credibility problems besetting most Chinese banks. This is because many times, loans are given with no collateral to people who have no intention of repaying their debts, because of their relationship to the Communist party. And I have not met a single investor who has expressed any confidence whatsoever in the Chinese stock market. But I maintain, again, that the roots of this unrighteousness are to be found in the lack of moral accountability inherent in an atheistic society.

America, of course, has a different problem. America is a nation which once knew the truth, but has turned from it. America is a culture that is turning from light toward the darkness. More and more, Americans are inclined to rationalize dishonesty or shadiness by pointing to the desirability of the results produced by that lack of integrity. The recent "war" (America has not declared war since World War II.) in Iraq is no doubt the most prominent example. America's invasion of Iraq was justified on the basis of what we now know to have been, at best, an appalling presumption, and at worst, a complete fraud. Yet, you would not believe how many people have told me that this chicanery was justified because "Saddam Hussein is a bad guy, and Iraq is better off without him."

If you asked the average American if they believe that the end justifies the means, I would submit to you that most of them would say they did not. But the reality of life is that most Americans do, in fact, believe that the end justifies the means. "All's well that ends well." The recent democratic elections in Iraq have been lauded by freedom lovers the world over, and rightfully so. But I am betting on history. The chickens will come home to roost.

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