This is sparked by a reddit thread. Here’s the scenario:
A professor is overseeing the final for his class. He notices that one of his students has their pen down, they have their hands over their face, and they are not paying attention to the test in any recognizable way. He goes to the student and asks if the student is ok. The student says, “yes sir, I was simply praying to God to help me answer the question”. The professor takes the test and rips in half. In horror, the student exclaims, ” why did you do that?!” The professor responds that, “asking for help on tests is cheating, and cheating is an automatic zero.”
I find this scenario very interesting, and after reading the discussion in that thread, I’m not sure which side I am on.
On the one hand, it seems reasonable to punish attempts at receiving answers through prayer. On the other hand, I don’t think prayer would be effective.
The more intriguing question, to me, is whether the student would accept the punishment or try to argue that he was not cheating. He could, of course, as a True Believer, accept the punishment or cry “religious persecution!”, but the latter would be ironic as the professor would have been taking his religion quite seriously and punishing him for using a tenant of it to be a bad student.
If the student tried to argue he was not cheating, what could he say that could protect both his religion and his academic integrity?
The main thing I can think of is simply, “I was praying, ‘Please let me remember, I know I studied this!'”
There is another angle I don’t think was really covered in the conversation on reddit: if praying for answers is cheating, how could teachers enforce that rule? Any prayer I did for help on tests back in my Christian schooldays was entirely internal; no one could have known I was thinking “to god”, as it were. Certainly no student would admit to prayer were it ruled to be cheating, as this scenario has the student doing.
Further, if prayer really counts as cheating, that is a religious reason to forbid prayer in schools. Ironically, only those who deny the effectiveness of prayer are being rational by allowing such prayer in the classroom.