The Salem Witch Hunts of “The Prep” If you were to walk by the dean’s office on a particular day towards the end of a particular school year, you would have gotten an earful of screams and arguments. Why, you may ask? Because on this particular day I was being interrogated, interrogated by a system that had long since left the realm of reason, far behind. The argument was between me and the dean, and it would go on for quite some time. Many people have heard about the “2008 Geology Cheating Scandal”, it has forever tarnished the senior class and branded us as liars and cheaters. The event could easily be considered one of the darkest times for our class. In the dean’s office, the sobs of students echoed through the halls. In the faculty lounge, there was wailing and the gnashing of teeth. Notes, beaconing for students, came out of the administrative office faster than you can say “Saturday”. Yes, many people have heard about the “Cheating Scandal” but few have heard my side of the story. Mine is a story of hardship, tough choices, and a battle of wits. For the first time I, John E. Borst II, will share with you my experiences in, what could be, the biggest cheating scandal to ever take place at our high school. It my sophomore year, the first year that “The Prep” was offering the “Environmental Geology and Natural Disasters” class. Everyone had signed up for the class thinking it would be a walk in the park, but sadly this was not the case. Every day we had three question quizzes on reading which had been completed the night before, and every day a majority of the students would fail them. The quizzes were very difficult and they heavily influenced our grades, the chapter tests were even more difficult. After a couple of months, students began to get scared, and that’s when the trouble started. I personally don’t know who the cheating started with. Perhaps there were multiple instigators? All I do know is that it got out of hand very quickly. The students went into a cheating frenzy; they started swiping tests, texting answers, and passing notes. Soon they became organized; they planned
out how they were going to cheat, who was going to supply the answers, and how they were going to keep it quiet. It was elaborate, and I must admit, very well orchestrated. I however, did not choose to participate. I was determined not to cheat. Long ago, when I was in grade school, I got caught cheating with a group of people on a particularly difficult science assignment. The teacher, who caught us cheating, was my very own mother. I will never forget the look of sadness in her eyes when she found out that I was one of the cheaters. Nor will I forget the conversation we had afterwards in which I told her that everyone cheats and that the only way to succeed is through cheating, and I will certainly never forget how when we got home my father told me he could have helped me complete the entire assignment. It was a difficult and powerful learning experience for me; through it I learned that I was wrong about cheating. You do not need to cheat to succeed, and the people who do cheat to succeed are wrong and corrupt. I vowed from that point forward I would never cheat again, and all through sophomore year I remembered that vow. About a month into the class, the cheating was running rampant. Mr. Kolb started making the tests harder, thinking the class was excelling and in need of a challenge. Unfortunately for me, who was not cheating, I was struggling through the class with a “D”. I can remember numerous times when Mr. Kolb told me I needed to try harder and that other kids were getting it just fine, and this infuriated me. On November 12th I snapped. In an act of indignation, I sent an email to my counselor and told him that there was “enormous amounts of cheating” and that it was throwing off the class average, making me look like an idiot. Do you want to know what happened after I sent that email? Absolutely nothing! Nothing changed in the least bit! The cheating continued, and I was forced to dig myself out of an everdeepening grave. Unbeknownst to me, that email would soon prove to be my “ace in the hole” during the trying times ahead.
So a semester went by and the cheating escalated, I managed to make it through the class with a “C” which was passable. Eventually somebody found practice tests on the internet whilst googling a question from a previous chapter test. These tests were somewhat similar to our class’s chapter tests and they proved to be helpful study guides. Some people chose to print out said practice tests, bring them into class, and use them during the actual test to copy down answers. I however, chose to use them simply as a study guide, and supplement them with my usual study routine. They did help my grade, but not enough to be a game-changer. One day, towards the end of second semester; the shit hit the fan, and nobody was left unsplattered. It was a warm, spring day and I was enjoying one of Mr. Lopez’s thought provoking English lectures. I had noticed that Garret, one of my good friends, was not in class that day; but I figured he was playing tennis or something. Towards the end of class, a very pale looking Garret crept, sheepishly, into the classroom and started to gather his things. The students could sense that something was rotten in Denmark, and finally somebody asked what was bothering him. He looked around at all of us and with a look that screamed murder said, “It’s all over”. It did not take very long for us to figure out that Garret was our very own Abigail Williams, and he had cried “witch!” on the entire sophomore class. Somehow Garret had been caught cheating and he was turning in anyone he could think of. All over the campus students were in a panic, knowing that they could be called in for questioning at any moment. A few days after the administration had collected enough people willing to talk; the dean came into geology class with a large stack of “tattle tale” papers. He told us that if we wrote down everything we had done and everyone we knew who had cheated, we would be saved from expulsion. So I wrote about how I had used the practice tests from the internet and I listed all of the reasons about why that was not, in my opinion, cheating. Unfortunately, the dean thought differently on the matter.
One day while I was enjoying one of Mr. H’s discussions on World War II, the dean poked his head through the door and asked to see me for a moment; but a moment it was not. I was promptly escorted into the dean’s office where we began to have a little chat. I suppose it started out nice enough; He asked me about the Google tests, and I told him about them. But then he looked right at me and said, “Well there you go man, you have to accept the punishment with your classmates. You cheated man”… “You cheated man….” The phrase floated around my head for a few moments. I thought about all the times I was tempted to cheat but chose not to. I thought about how for the entire year I had suffered through such anguish and torment over that one, little class. And now this man was going to look me in the eye and tell me that I was a cheater? I don’t think so! My patience for the situation, and the mediocre way that our administration was handling it, had reached its end. I looked at the dean for a second, and then I began to scream at him. The interrogation lasted for two hours; it was a dogfight of opposing viewpoints and logic. After screaming at each other for awhile, the dean suggested that we quiet down. I could see people peeking in through the little window in his door, and I could feel them wishing me a silent blessing of encouragement. I won’t go into all of the details of what we spoke about in the office; it would take far too long. We fought and fought; at times it was exciting, mostly it was miserable, but I endured. He tried, for two long hours, to break me, but I would not crack. After every ten minutes or so he would say, “So you admit you cheated?” to which I would respond with a firm, “No.” In the end the email I had sent back in November was my life preserver. It was proof that I had tried to report the cheating, and that I myself was not cheating. I eventually told the dean that I would never admit to cheating, and he gave up. He told me I could choose whether or not I felt I deserved to be punished, and I told him that I would not be partaking in any punishments.
The Rest of the class received their assigned Saturday Jug, where apparently they dug holes and cleaned up a dirt lot. I heard one story about how some of my friends sang ethnic slave songs whilst they dug, which I would have enjoyed seeing. I learned two main lessons from this experience. The first lesson I learned was that cheaters never prosper. I suppose I always knew this, but the experience reinforced my beliefs. The second lesson I learned was to never back down from somebody who is trying to compromise my beliefs or morals. I know that there are people who want to break, and mold, me; but I will never let them, no matter how hard they push. As the great Fatboy Slim once said “Don’t let the man get you down!”
Published on Dec 13, 2010