Phi Beta Cons

The Bright Side of Columbia U.’s Cheating Fest

David Whidden, a doctoral student in theology at Southern Methodist University, finds a silver lining in the professor/student cheating-imbroglio at Columbia U., about which I reported here and here:

I read your denunciation of the recent cheating episode.  What was actually stunning to me was the fact that they actually make their students read those books.  Who knew that anyone actually required the basics of the Western canon?  I checked the Columbia website and this is the description of the core class that all freshmen must take:

“The principal objectives of Literature Humanities are to teach students to analyze literary texts and to construct intellectual arguments. An interdepartmental staff of professorial and preceptorial faculty meets with groups of approximately twenty-two students for four hours a week in order to discuss texts by Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Herodotus, Thucydides, Aristophanes, Plato, Vergil, Augustine, Dante, Boccaccio, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Austen, Dostoevsky, and Woolf, as well as Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament writings.”

Obviously cheating is not to be condoned and it is too bad that the professor saw fit to subvert the process by giving out information in advance.  On the other hand, I think Columbia deserves praise for requiring students to engage with such texts. 
Heck, I wish I’d been asked to read some of this in college, especially, in light of my current interest in Thomistic theology, Plato and Aristotle.

I join him in giving credit where credit is due (and have long shared his interest in Aquinas).