The other night, I was thinking about this age old saying,” Cheaters never win” . It’s a nice little saying we tell ourselves whenever we try our best and come up short while someone else takes a shortcut and is victorious. This saying really bugs me for some reason and the more I thought about it, the more I started thinking that that saying possibly has a few flaws. Now, I’m not talking about fidelity in anyone's marriage ( I looked this up on Bing only to see that that is what everyone thinks “cheating” is about) I’m taking about taking a shortcut during a test, fixing a machine without proper tools, winning a war through deception and lies rather than brute force….You may see where I’m going here.
First, I am the worlds WORST cheater! I’ve never been successful I was always either caught by my teacher or failed to copy the proper material. I eventually gave up and concluded that I was an just going to have to be happy being average. I remember the first time I was caught cheating on a pop quiz in grade school. We were supposed to correct our own quiz and I decided that my answers were “close enough”. The teacher did not feel the same way, though. And I ended up writing the same sentence over and over again ( I think about 100 times) I still remember it! “I will not cheat because cheating is stealing and a SIN against God!” That is correct. I went to a Christian school, so in addition to breaking the 7th commandment, I was also on my way to HELL! BURNING! DAMNATION!
The funny thing about it was that, even as a Child, I could not see how I was “stealing” from anyone. I did not copy anyone’s answers. My grades did not effect anyone else in the class because there was never a curve on a quiz. Who really was hurt here? The teacher? He was the one who GAVE us the information to begin with. Me? Well, If stealing from myself was going to get me into trouble. I would give myself a pass! Looking back at that whole scenario with my “adult” eyes, I still fail to see who was harmed by my “generous” interpretation on the quiz answers. In fact, I can’t even remember what information was even on MOST of those quizzes. Why was I forced to even memorize such trivia?
Moving on to high school, I decided to take each grade that I earned as just how things are. I was always a little disappointed that I never made Honor Roll when almost everyone else in my class did. There was an incentive! Make the Honor Roll and you could get out of 2 study halls! It mattered not to me, I was happy with a “B” average and getting out of just one. It was years later at my high school reunion when I discovered that all those “Best and Brightest” Most-Likely-To-Succeed students were very good at cheating on tests and assignments. Despite this, they were in good paying careers living the American Dream ( You know, 2.5 kids, dog, house, 2 cars, vacation home, Etc.
In the end, is the saying really true? Do cheaters NEVER win? Do we tell children this so they will “work hard” and “do what we tell them” rather than thinking for themselves and coming up with new and better ways to do things and give themselves an advantage. Let’s look at some examples.
Restaurants serve up delicious “home cooked” meals every day to thousands of people. However, they Cheat by either thawing out pre-made pies, soups, and breads that they did not actually make themselves. Is this Cheating? Or advanced planning. I’m sure Betty Crocker does not make all of those cake mixes herself. And I KNOW there are people who feel that selling out to the corporate “MAN” is a cheat. But are those people who sell out not successful?
We live in the age of Google, Bing, And Wikipedia. Just about every question you have can be looked up with the touch of a button. Those people who have hand held devices at their disposal can seem like the smartest person in the room with this resource. Are they “cheating” with this tool they have. It gives them an unfair advantage when compared to people who have to rely on their brain for details, dates and trivial answers. Even simple math equations can become twisted in ones mind. For this reason someone developed a calculator to help out with simple tables, charts and equations. To save time. To help them remember. To “cheat”, if you will.
Here in Iowa, we have Amish people who still work their fields using technology from the 1800’s. While they may look at a field of 1000 acres as “impossible” without a vast labor force, a farmer with a tractor and hybrid seeds can plow and plant fields this size in a short amount of time with only the tractor to maintain. Is he “cheating” because he is using the modern day technology of 2014 to his advantage?
Every time a student is asked to do a report on a subject, and goes to the library, does he not “steal” the research and ideas of published experts in that field. You might say that credit is given through work cited footnotes or end notes. But who really discovered the wheel or invented fire? Does everything have to be credited to someone who has come before, no matter how trivial? Music artist “barrow” bars and lyrics from other artist and composers all the time, putting their own unique spin on things. Are they Cheating? Money changes hands is some cases, in the form of royalties only if it is a HIT. But where is the line drawn when someone builds upon the ideas of others to come up with their own unique idea. A Better idea!
Of coarse, the problem with relying on technology for every day things is that we quickly become dependant on our “ knowledge crutch” Why learn anything like history or numbers when we have wikipedia and quickbooks? Inevitably, batteries die and handhelds break and the people who depend on these items must either purchase an new crutch, or learn to live without one. And, as with many thing in life, experience in the best teacher that can not be reasoned with.
In the Army, we had a saying: If you ain’t cheatin’ you Ain’t Tryin’. I actually see the value in that saying. As soldiers, we were often encouraged to figure out a better way to do things. To “ think on your feet” . There is little honor in running blindly into the enemies best defenses only to get killed. We were encouraged to find the weakness, not play fair, to Cheat the enemy out of his hard fought victory. Sure Drill instructors would ensure we could shoot straight and pass the physical exams. But they would offer advice on how to “game the system” to better your marksmanship score, PT score, or EIB exam. If you struggled at a certain subject, go ahead and blow them off, but make up for it in the times or scores of other events/targets. Was this Cheating? I do not think so. They are there to make sure you survive WAR while being able to carry out your mission. They say all is fair in love and war. In war, there is a victor and a loser. It does not matter how you achieve your title.
I could continue, but this is getting rather long. In the end I conclude that society does not want people to cheat, take short cuts or steal ideas. They do, however, want winners, Fast service, and Better ways of doing things. Seagulls are perfectly capable of catching their own fish out of the ocean, but they find it easier to steal food form the puffin, or eat garbage thrown out by humans. By human standards, this is shameful! But by Mother Nature’s standards, this is a successful strategy that has added to the growth of seagull populations around the globe. There is more to cheating that the simple Good Vs Evil standard our teachers want to indoctrinate into us as small children. As an adult, I see many more shades of gray in most topics these days. And sometimes the “hard work” of success is not going to be the intense labor of studying or physical pain. It might be using the God given brain to figure out an easier way to do things.