Harvard Cheating Scandal Presentation

Cheating Prezi

My group made a Prezi about the recent cheating scandal at Harvard and the implications and knowledge questions related to this.

We also created a survey (http://tricider.com/brainstorming/Xpfn) for those who watched our presentation to take afterwards, to gauge their reactions.


Liar Card Game

In class, we split up into groups and each group received a pack of cards with various types of deceptions on them, ranging from “Using a performance enhancing drug” to “Saying ‘I’d be eternally grateful if you passed the salt'”. We had to arrange them in order from least acceptable to most acceptable.

The easiest to place where the ones we felt were necessary deceptions, whether for safety (secretly infiltrating a terrorist group) or for science (giving someone a placebo). We had a very hard time deciding which lie deserved to be the worst and in the end, we hadn’t reached a conclusion that satisfied everyone. We were split between “Using a performance enhancing drug” and “Lying under oath”. We found it fairly easy to initially group the lies into groups: bad, not too bad, polite, and finally necessary. However, within these groups, it was often very difficult to decide how to arrange them, particularly in the polite group because we felt they were all acceptable and social niceties that really aren’t better or worse than each other.

I didn’t have very much time to look at other groups, but I do know that, at least in terms of which lie was the worst, we were fairly similar. I’m not surprised by this, however, because there were really only two that the group even considered for the worst and I would be very, very surprised if anyone had chosen anything else.

I think there were definitely some that could have benefited from some context. For example, one reading “Artificial flavoring” or “Giving someone a placebo” were very unspecific and could have applied to a wide variety of situations. The one that I felt needed the most context was “Deceiving someone in a psychological test” because there are very types of deceptions, some of which are acceptable and some of which are entirely unethical. We placed it on the necessary side of the spectrum, but if it had been deception that could be seriously harmful (the Milgram Experiment comes to mind) we would have to reconsider.

When looking at myself, I saw that I had participated in slightly less than half of the deceptions (if I remember correctly). However, it was difficult at some points because the cards were either too specific (no, I’ve never told my grandma how much I loved the socks she had given me, but I’ve done something very similar) or too vague (I’ve eaten artificial flavoring and I’ve cooked before, adding flavors, but does that really constitute a lie?).

I think that deception is obviously very widespread but I don’t think that necessarily is a horrible thing. When my group went through the cards, the majority of them were not greatly offensive to us; they were things we had done or would do if the situation called for it. The word deception has a negative connotation and honest has a positive one, but I don’t think this is accurate in all cases.

A lie is simply something that isn’t true, and so all of the cards would be lies (except, perhaps “Artificial flavoring”). Some of them were hardly lies, however, because though you are saying one thing, you obviously mean another, everyone knows what you mean, you aren’t trying to conceal the truth, and it is harmless (examples from the game include “I would be eternally grateful if you passed the salt” and “Would you like to come up for coffee?”).

I think that there are many circumstances under which it is appropriate to lie. There isn’t something objectively good about telling the truth. Happiness is infinitely more important (although long term happiness must be considered as well, not just short term). If your grandma asks if you like the sweater she knitted you, what excuse could you possibly have to say no?

This I Believe Film Reflection

The process that I went through to make my This I Believe video was fairly simple. It had to start, of course, with my beliefs. I made not quite a list, not quite an essay, but a list with a little bit of explanation into each beliefs. I realized I had a lot of small beliefs that really didn’t fit into any the paragraphs which I had written, so I decided to include them all at the end. I took eight pieces of paper, one for each paragraph, and sketched out a design in pencil. I erased this until there was only a very faint outline that wouldn’t be noticeable in the video. I set up a camera and tripod and then proceeded to ink in my designs on camera. I then imported all the tapes into iMovie and sped them up to 800% (except for one section, which I ended up speeding up to 1600% and the very end, played at a natural speed). I had to cut some parts out to ensure that it flowed well and also so that is was not too long as to lose the attention of the audience.

The part that was the most fun was definitely the planning phase, when I sketched out all the designs in pencil. This was when I got the chance to be the most creative and figure out how to best represent by beliefs on paper and in a way that would also work in the video. The most challenging part was definitely the editing. However, the filming itself, though it was just tracing over what I had already drawn, was also difficult in that I knew I couldn’t go back and fix things if I made a mistake. Instead, I had to rely on what I could do in editing the clips to cut out and correct and problems. If I had to go back and do the project again, the one thing I would do differently would be to make sure everything in the video was legible. Before I made it, I had no idea a) how small my words would appear on the screen b) how quickly my video would go and c) the quality that it would be uploaded to YouTube. All of these were large factors that I would have to adjust.

Having to pinpoint one belief to be included on my poster is difficult, but I think I’ll go with “Things don’t happen for a reason”.

Belief and Doubt

After reading the article “The Uncertainty of Knowledge”, I had some disagreements about the author’s position. I think that his ideas are generally sound: how can we possibly be sure that what we “know” is true? And, of course, it is impossible, by his standards. His argument about the supposed knowledge of our ancestors was a sound one, and something I had previously thought about. What things will the people of 3000 look back on with ridicule, as we do when we consider the possible flatness of the world? It is true, I’m sure that many things will be proven wrong as time goes on. However, I don’t think that means we should completely discount all sciences and all knowledge that we have acquired because it isn’t “true”. There are things that I know beyond a reasonable doubt, that there is evidence and many studies and experiments to support. Some of what we think we know now may certainly be changed in the future, but I certainly believe that some of it is correct. Some of it is at least a step in the path to comprehension of the world we live in. One of his final lines, “I find comfort in the thought that the creative mind fashions the world in which we live” speaks about his philosophy that this mass of inscrutability which is our universe can be interpreted in endless different ways by humanity. And I don’t necessarily agree with this. The creative mind may interpret the world in which we live, but it cannot actively change it. Though the creative mind may believe the world is flat, you can sail forever without finding an edge. I do, however, think that if you interpret his statement to mean that creativity is very important in our quest for new knowledge and our deciphering of the universe, than it is much more agreeable.

After this article, I watched a PSA (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjVjr-qOpNk&feature=player_embedded) about climate change. I thought it was very well done, especially in the parallels between cigarettes and climate change. It connects with the article we just read because it plays off of the fact that knowledge is constantly changing: we once had no idea the effects of cigarettes which are now painfully obvious and now we are somewhere along the process from ignorance to acceptance in regards to climate change.

I decided to look into an advertisement supported by science, but ended up finding one that I felt was more negatively impacted. The ad is for Cymbalta, an antidepressant, and the list of possible side effects and concerns takes up nearly a minute of the video. Of course, this occurs while video is playing. The woman reads in a monotonous and fairly quick voice, making it easy to miss some of what she says.

Lastly, I wanted to see what people on Twitter were saying about a fairly controversial topic: climate change. Twitter is a different medium because anyone can say anything with no filter. One of the first tweets I found was:

This account makes a claim, and many of the claims on Twitter can be very hard to believe. However, this one lends itself some credibility for several reasons. Firstly, the account isn’t simply a personal one, but the Sustainable Business section of the British national newspaper, The Guardian. In addition, it provides a link to an article in their online newspaper, which cites scientist Michael Mann.

This I Believe

This is my personal video based around my personal beliefs, inspired by the This I Believe organization (http://thisibelieve.org/). The song is Holland, 1945 by Neutral Milk Hotel. This is the full text for the video, as I know it can be hard to read:

I believe there is no meaning to any of this, besides the meaning that we ascribe to it ourselves. Things don’t happen for a reason. There is no fate. There are no soul mates. There is no destiny. The universe is random chaos. Everything that makes up our world is coincidence. There is no cosmic force or almighty creator or guiding light at the end of the tunnel.

I believe that does not mean we should live with any less hope or happiness or goodness. The world is impressive enough by itself.

I believe that the universe is more complex than we can fathom. I like to believe that we’re slowly getting closer though.

I believe in balance. I believe most dichotomies we create for ourselves are false. Quality and quantity.  Success and shenanigans. Freedom and stability. I believe in having the best of both worlds.

I believe the truth resists simplicity. I believe that generalizations are impossible. There is no black and white. I believe in grey.

I believe there is no objective good and evil. There are only repercussions of our actions. Some are positive. Some are negative. And more often than not, they’re all jumbled together.

I believe that what works for me will not work for everyone else. I believe in avoiding broad statements about what should be done or what could be done. I believe in having your own beliefs, but considering those of others.

I believe in lots of small things: in thinking (and preferably a lot of it), that there is nothing wrong with watching lots of TV as long as it’s really good, in Harvey Dent, that we all change quite a lot,  in listening to music that is good for singing along with, that the internet is immeasurably useful, in eating food that makes you happy, in doing many things instead of having a passion, that sports are often silly, that you shouldn’t be able to describe yourself in 160 characters or less, that not all things deserve to be taken seriously, in only spending your time with people you really like.