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John Merrow: A Swift Solution to Solve the Cheating Problem

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Author: dianeravitch

John Merrow has evolved into the Jonathan Swift of our day. You read, I hope, the brilliant satire “A Modest Proposal” by Swift. Therein, he suggests that the way to solve the hunger problem in Ireland is to encourage the poor to fatten up their children and sell them to rich landowners as choice meat. It is a data-driven and logical proposal, according to this summary:

Children of the poor could be sold into a meat market at the age of one, he argues, thus combating overpopulation and unemployment, sparing families the expense of child-bearing while providing them with a little extra income, improving the culinary experience of the wealthy, and contributing to the overall economic well-being of the nation.

The author offers statistical support for his assertions and gives specific data about the number of children to be sold, their weight and price, and the projected consumption patterns. He suggests some recipes for preparing this delicious new meat, and he feels sure that innovative cooks will be quick to generate more. He also anticipates that the practice of selling and eating children will have positive effects on family morality: husbands will treat their wives with more respect, and parents will value their children in ways hitherto unknown. His conclusion is that the implementation of this project will do more to solve Ireland’s complex social, political, and economic problems than any other measure that has been proposed.

Like Swift, John Merrow has figured out how to solve the cheating problem.

He says that cheating has become widespread since testing became so consequential, that is, since No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top raised the stakes, using tests to evaluate teachers and principals, to hand out bonuses, to close schools, and to fire educators.

It is no use, he says, to fire those who cheat, because we have a serious teacher shortage that is getting worse by the day.

So he offers a series of surefire punishments that will stop the cheating by watching closely and by shaming the cheaters.

Increased surveillance will cost more, of course, but we can trim other expenditures, perhaps in the subjects that aren’t being tested and therefore not occasions for cheating. I’m thinking of art, music and physical education, but, if schools have already cut those, then electives like journalism, minor sports, and theatre are places to look for savings.

Publicly shaming the cheaters is essential. Making the punishments more public should curtail cheating. For younger students, the shaming should be temporary. Perhaps cheaters should have to wear bright yellow shirts emblazoned with a huge letter [3] “C” for a month or more.

But for anyone cheating after 5th or 6th grade, a shaming shirt isn’t enough. After all, 10-year-olds are mature enough to understand consequences. Here’s where I think a permanent tattoo would do the trick. The first offense should produce a stern warning. But a the second offense demonstrates they are beyond redemption, so let’s tattoo the letter ‘C’ or the word ‘CHEATER’ [4] on the back of the criminal’s dominant hand. Should there be a third offense, the tattoo ought to be placed more prominently, perhaps on the cheater’s forehead. While I doubt matters would ever get to that point, leadership has to be ready to make the hard decisions, for the greater good. [5]

If public shaming and tattoos on the cheating adults don’t work, he says, the punishments must be increased, for example, “lopping off the index fingers” of repeat cheaters.

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