Let me be honest, I’m not much of a reader. It tends to bore me and my ability to absorb the words in front of me is pretty pathetic. At the same time, I was a terrible student. Not shocking when you consider the two go hand in hand. I knew school was not for me from a young age. When I was in grade school, I went to one of those “progressive” hippie schools where you called the teacher by their first name and every class had about 8-15 kids in it. You would think type of this close knit group learning would lead to every student getting the attention they needed…and it did. The problem with this is that it made it hard for students like myself to really flourish. And by “Flourish” , I mean cheat. Nope, this close attention was actually a thorn in my side. When there are 10 kids in the class all taking a test and a teacher sitting there watching, it’s not easy to subtly take a peak and your neighbors work and copy everything they’re writing down. That shit takes finesse and acting skills. Honestly, the same way grade school teaches you the basic foundations of learning, it also taught me all about short cuts and the art of “getting by”. Walking that line of near failure and mediocracy without ever falling too deeply into the dark side. These lessons are ones I’ve kept with me in life way longer than any historical facts or geometric proofs.
From 5th grade through High school , I squeaked by in all levels of schooling by bullshitting and cheating. Whether it was copying other peoples homework , plagiarizing or simply being a competent enough writer to whip up a 5 page paper about a book I never read and somehow, getting a C on it, I got by.
In fact, looking back, I’m actually kinda proud. There is a real sense of victory in writing a paper on something you’re absolutely clueless about and getting it back to see you got a B. It’s like kicking the system in the balls. With writing, I always found a way. Partially cause I somewhat enjoyed it but also cause I figured out how to word things , for research papers and book reports, in a way that must have appealed JUST enough to the teachers. After all, they were reading through countless boring papers written by kids who would be forgetting every word they had just written the second the ink left their pen. That must be mind numbing. A well worded 5 page piece of bullshit could easily slip through the cracks. Obviously, I didn’t know this then but it must have been the case. The teachers were very likely as bored by these papers as we were. So, with that, I got by. On a side note, there was one thing I used to pull of all the time that, unexplainably , worked time and time again. Simply saying “I don’t get it”. The beauty of this phrase is how open a statement it is. It could mean I didn’t understand the wording to a particular question/assignment Or perhaps I didn’t understand a larger theory that is crucial to getting the work done. Whatever that “thing” I didn’t understand was, it always got me off the hook. Seriously, I can’t believe how well that shit worked.
Tests, however, were a different story. Here’s an admission: I’ve never once, in my life, studied for a test. I’m not even saying this as a “Ohhh, look at me! I’m a scholarly rebel” statement. Nope. I just could never do it. I’d start going over my notes and within minutes my mind would drift elsewhere. After a few more failed attempts , I would eventually give up and , oh, I don’t know, Watch Tv for 4 hours. Now, with my admission of not studying you might be expecting a follow up of “But I still aced my tests blah blah blah”, but this was not the case. No, I failed tests all the time. The ones I didn’t fail, I was somehow able to cheat on. The thing about it was, I never felt bad about my incompetency. Sure, my parents would flip out on me and I’d get punished but the fact of the matter was that I was failing in something I had no interest in succeeding in. It’s not like I tried really hard and then failed. I went out of my way to not try so failing kinda came with the territory.
Through all that, I somehow graduated High school. Sometimes I’ll think back and think of the terrible work I did and I seriously don’t understand how they gave me a diploma. I mean, I didn’t even do any community service and I failed out of Spanish II three times (Do you know how many times I’ve had to watch “El Norte”?)…yet, I have a diploma. Whatever…score one for the system!
However, when I got to college (Um, how the fuck did I get into any college?), the jig was up. Cheating was impossible. My papers had to actually have substance and real “learning” had to take place. But, not surprisingly, you couldn’t teach a stubborn lazy young dog shit. I got epic grades on tests. I don’t mean that in a good way. I mean, like unbelievably terrible. I used to put them on the mini fridge in my dorm room. On one science test (that was multiple choice) I scored an 18%. Seriously…What the fuck? a flipped coin could have done better. But, i was used to failing tests.
The difference with college was the papers. No longer could I plagiarize the Encyclopedia. I actually had to do work. And I did. I wrote papers that I actually researched and , for the first time in my life, put real time and effort in to. Only to get back C-‘s by the truckload. That shit shattered my view on the world. Not only did I apply myself , but it garnered the same outcome as one of my old high school bullshit papers. did this mean real work didn’t matter? Obviously not. I had just come from such low standards of work that a cute turn of words in a research paper wasn’t gonna account for anything now that I was in the big leagues. Suffice to say, I was frustrated. But that word sums up my existence as a student. Frustrated. I rarely cared enough to try and ,the few times I did, the results were the same as when I didn’t.
All this came back to me today cause I read this article:
It’s about a guy who makes a career writing papers for college kids. He writes all kinds of papers for many different levels of college students and gets paid to do so. Upon reading this, part of me
had the obvious “Where was this guy when I was in college?” reaction, but what really popped out at me was how bullshit this makes the process of learning look. I was cheater. I did what I had to do to pass. It got me out of high school but it didn’t fly in college. If this dude is getting kids like me through college, we’re in trouble. A guy like me is not supposed to graduate college. My type doesn’t make it out the filter. For good reason. College is really a “separate the men from the boys” type deal. Sure, some people are just as bad at school as I was and somehow scrape by (at the same time spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for a 6 year stint in a frat house) , but those who aren’t cut out for that level of learning drop out for reason. It simply not in the cards. I understand that things like parental expectations and ,more so , the prospect of being successful and getting a job , loom heavy over most kids but ,the fact of the matter is , school isn’t for everyone. Thus far, I’ve been very lucky. I happened to fall into something that had nothing to do with my level of education. It could have easily gone the other way. I worked behind the counter at a bakery (not even baking, just selling the baked goods) for 5 years before I quit to do music full time. I have no skills that could lead to a career elsewhere. If I hadn’t luckily stumbled into this music career (within a niche genre that’s barely still breathing at this point within an industry that’s dying even faster) who knows what I’d be doing. College drop out don’t have many options. But , to think, I could have cheated my way through college , got that diploma and landed some job I otherwise could never have gotten. All the while, being just as dumb and misinformed as my actual college drop out self…It’s pretty crazy. But it happens. People make careers on “getting by” and “getting over” and most of them do so in a corporate setting.
Whether this is a good or bad thing , I can’t tell. It is what it is, I suppose. Do cheaters never win?
I’d say cheaters do pretty well for themselves. They may not win as big as the honest people and they do , for the most part, eventually get exposed BUT if they keep their profile low enough and they don’t get greedy, cheaters can get by just fine. They may not always win, but they don’t always lose either.