No one ever cheats in college. Isn’t that right? Well, I didn’t. If I got a C, I got a C and I got a few Cs, precalculus and world literature being two of those. I know, I totally got a C in world literature; it’s not something you would expect out of me is it? I got a D once, in precalculus, then I retook the class and got a C. It did actually bring my grade-point average up, so it was worth it, somewhat.
Sherlock and John are not at Baker Street. They’re at a college because Sherlock wants to study all about charters in the library. A man comes to visit them. His name is Mr. Soames. Mr. Soames says he needs Sherlock’s help. Sherlock says, “No, I’m too busy, scram,” but Soames sticks around and says that if Sherlock doesn’t help then the institution will be ruined. I think he was being a little over-dramatic, but whatever.
It turns out that Mr. Soames makes up the essay that students must translate for the possibility of a scholarship to his fine institution. The essay is in Greek and the students must translate it on the spot. If one of them were to have the essay beforehand, they would have a distinct advantage over the other students trying for the scholarship. There are three students who are to try. They all reside in the same building as Mr. Soames.
The proofs of the papers arrived from the printers this very day. Mr. Soames was looking over them at his desk. He left for a bit, but came back to find a key in the door lock. He went inside, but the butler wasn’t there and the papers on his desk had been rifled through. It was clear that someone had been looking at the proofs. Soames confronted his butler about it and the butler admitted having left the key in the lock and collapsed on a chair due to his indiscretion.
The only people who would benefit from the proofs were the students trying for the scholarship. Sherlock wants to check out Soames’ study. Sherlock sees where the papers were. He deduces that whoever was looking at them did so by the nearby window. He also sees they sharpened their pencil, slashed the top of the desk with something, and left behind some strange little piece of triangular clay. The pencil is a particular type of pencil. They go into Soames’ bedroom, where they find another piece of clay. There doesn’t seem to be anything else.
Sherlock tells Soames to have the exam continue as planned after he tries to speak to each of the students. In each of their rooms, he asks to borrow a pencil. One student won’t even let them in. Sherlock assures Soames that they will have their man.
John and Sherlock go out pencil shopping later in the evening. They can’t find a pencil like the one Sherlock thinks was used. It would have to be special ordered. The next morning John wakes up and Sherlock is already awake. He has three pieces of clay now. They go to see Soames.
When they get to Soames they ask to speak the butler. They tell him to tell the truth. Why not go to a closer chair when he sat down to have his nervous breakdown? He passed several along the way; he was hiding something. It all finally comes out. The butler did know one of the students and didn’t want him to get into trouble. When he noticed that the student had left his gloves he sat down on him. The butler truly had forgotten the key and a student had taken advantage of the situation.
The reason the student was able to take advantage was because he was tall. He was outside practicing on the track field, with cleats in a clay area, when he noticed that Soames was looking over something and he also noticed that he left the room. He took this opportunity to copy over the proofs. They called him in and he admitted his guilt as he had done to the butler the previous evening. He had already prepared a letter for Soames and told him he would not be sitting the exam. He was going to be a police officer instead in Rhodesia.
For some reason, I kept imagining the butler in this story to be the butler from Scary Movie. It definitely makes for a more interesting take on the whole story, at least in my head.
Let’s move onto some history here. Rhodesia is mentioned in this story. Rhodesia is actually a country in Africa. Rhodesia was under British rule until 1965 when it declared its independence. At the point of this story Rhodesia would have still been under British rule.
This story was published in 1904. The name of Rhodesia was actually changed in 1898. Modern-day Rhodesia was officially known as Southern-Rhodesia starting in 1898, but that didn’t stop people from still calling it Rhodesia. Modern-day Zambia was considered northern Rhodesia.
So at the time, it might very well have been that this student was actually going to go to Rhodesia to become a police officer.
Also, Arthur didn’t really take the time to look up the official name of the country, but seeing as this student was a fairly normal guy and fairly normal people tend to call things by their informal names, it could be that Arthur wanted to keep it real. Southern Rhodesia/Rhodesia, what’s the difference?
Part of me wonders why Arthur relies on Greek so much. This isn’t the first time Arthur has made the Greek language a major point in one of his stories. It is true that Arthur was something of a doctor and doctors do rely on the Greek language, but doctors also heavily rely on Latin as well, but Arthur never mentions Latin. Maybe Arthur was educated in Greek at some point in his life.
Oh, your poor cheatin’ soul.
This story makes academic cheating out to be such a big deal. Students cheat all the time. We have laws against plagiarism, but students still do it all the time. Heck, I know students Google my 1984 essays and use portions of them for their school work. Here’s the thing–the only person you’re cheating when you cheat in your education is yourself. That’s it. Yeah, the school is not going to be happy if they find out. They might kick you out. The person you plagiarized, if you did, isn’t going to be happy if they find out; they’re not all cool like I am.
In the end though, the only person you’re screwing over is you. Think about it. You pay to go to college. It’s not cheap. If you’re paying out-of-pocket, you’re dropping at least $40,000 on your college education. Specialty schools are going to run you $100K-$300K, and believe me, I know people who have over $300K in student loan debt. You pay for the opportunity to learn. Why are you going to cheat?
Oh, my exam, if I don’t pass it I fail the class. Well, maybe you should have spent less time doing beer pong and more time studying. If you fail, you fail. It’s your fault. Now, if you run into a situation where everyone in the class fails, then maybe it was your professor and not the students, but that often is not the case.
You’re paying money for these professors to challenge you and put new information in your head. If you cheat, you’re defeating the entire purpose of going to college. You might as well go to a fake ID person and have yourself a fake college diploma printed up if you’re going to do that. Then when someone arrests you for impersonating a doctor, then, you deserve that too.
This guy was cheating at his education. Maybe he was really stressed and studied a lot. Well, maybe he should have dropped track and spent more time on academics. If there is something very important in your life to the further success of yourself, you don’t devote more time to other activities. You devote more time to the important thing, you know, the thing that is going to determine how well you do in life. The thing that is eventually going to pay for your food and put a roof over your head. You devote your time to that.
I’m glad that this student saw his way to admitting his wrong-doing, but I’m disappointed that he’s dropping out of school. He could take a leave of absence and try again in a term or two. He doesn’t have to drop out and be a police officer, not that being a police officer is bad, it just doesn’t pay very well. I feel bad for this kid. He was stressed and he tried to cheat, but ultimately decided just to drop out. Sometimes you have to stick through the hard spots, Buddy. You just have to keep trudging forward. It pays off in the end.
On the other hand, college isn’t for everyone. There are people who truly are not cut out of college, and as a result, a lot of college has gotten much too easy. Just anybody shouldn’t be able to get a college degree. It’s higher education after all. It’s not for every single person out there. Our job market is currently saturated with college degrees because college has become too easy to get into and too many people are completing degrees. Not that it’s bad that they have a better education, it’s bad that we’ve tipped the balance in the wrong direction. Having a college degree used to be a special thing.
During the time of this story, a college degree was a huge deal and people were weeded out, just like the student in this story. He couldn’t hack it, so off he went. He’ll probably make a better police officer than he ever did a student of whatever he was studying. College was hard back in the day.
In the end, Sherlock wasn’t needed at all. This situation would have resolved itself.
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Doyle-Sir Arthur Conan, Sherlock Holmes