Wednesday, April 08, 2009

How to cheat in Extemp

Another comment, this time on computers in extemp: “I think that there is a genuine concern less about people getting outside help, although that certainly is a possibility, but that people could store entire pre-prepared speeches on countless topics.

“Extemp by its very nature is an event designed with the idea that you aren't giving a speech that you prepared before the tournament started. While any comments that you say won't be purely of the cuff like they are with impromptu I think that we would be dramatically changing the nature of the event by allowing people to have a canned speech that they just had to open up on their laptop.”

Again, this may be true, but it is really not unique to computerization. There’s nothing stopping people from illegally storing entire pre-prepared speeches already, is there? Here’s the relevant rule from the NFL:

5. Preparation: As soon as a topic is chosen, the contestant shall withdraw and prepare a speech without consultation and without references to prepared notes. Students may consult published books, magazines, newspapers and journals or articles therefrom, provided:
A. They are originals or xeroxed copies of whole pages.
B. Provided those originals or Xeroxed copies are uncut.
C. There is no written material on that original or copy other than citation information.
D. Topical index without annotation may be present.
No other material shall be allowed in the extemp prep room other than stated above. Extemp speeches, handbooks, briefs and outlines shall be barred from the extemp prep room. Underlining or highlighting in extemp will be allowed if done in only one color on each article or copy. No electronic retrieval device may be used.

Obviously, prepared speeches are not allowed. But how clever would I have to be to smuggle some in? The thing about cheating and technology is that, regardless of what technology is available, anyone who wants to can figure a way to cheat with that technology. On the other hand, I would have to expect that any decent extemper has already outlined, mentally, speeches on a variety of likely topics. We don’t suggest also that we brainwash students on the way in, do we? Egregiousness aside, however we patrol (if we do) extemp prep now for violations, it would be no more difficult to patrol a computerized prep room as well. And, more relevantly, we can set rules of proper behavior, which most people will follow; I am a believer in the basic goodness of humanity. I’m willing to suggest also that the stinkers who don’t follow the rules have very little to gain by misbehavior. Aside from some blockbuster team with a couple of dozen extempers prepping on every possible topic and churning out polished speeches for each them (is that even possible?) I can’t imagine a scenario where all the work going into cheating wouldn’t be exponentially greater than the work required for not cheating, especially since cheating (a prepared speech) is only marginally more likely to succeed competitively than an extemporaneous speech, really. It’s not like having a hidden list of all the state capitals for a test about state capitals, after all.

Again, all of my thoughts are in aid of the reality of the world in which we live. Why shouldn’t we develop great extempers whose success is predicated on their ability to manipulate internet resources, a life skill, versus their ability to manipulate tub resources, an irrelevant skill in a computerized universe? If we fear malfeasance, it shouldn’t be hard to prevent it or at least catch it. Ultimately our goal is supposed to be the education of students. Shouldn’t we educate them for the world in which they will live?

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