Muhammad Islam, the 17-year-old Stuyvesant student who concocted a hoax that he was worth $72 Million from day-trading, which made the national news, has the major networks rinsing the egg yolks off of their faces. News producers, such as Chris Licht at CBS, irresponsibly and lazily gobbled up a story first reported by the Australian parasites at the New York Post tabloid: an outlet with a horrible track record of going with “page-one” stories that have been proven to be completely untrue, and New York Magazine (a throw-away rag not to be confused with the respected New Yorker Magazine).
However, the story is much bigger than one stupid kid in need of attention. It is yet another incident at New York City’s best public school: Stuyvesant. Recall, Stanley Teitel, the former principal of Stuyvesant High School, was fired after a plague of student cheating was uncovered, and an investigation found that he covered up the problem.
What do Harvard and Stuyvesant High School have in common? Well, they both have very smart kids enrolled, and they both have rampant cheating problems. The same year that the Stuyvesant kids were busted, Harvard had its own cheating scandal in the news.
The pressures on elite students to get to the next level, to Harvard from Stuyvesant, or to Goldman Sachs from Harvard, are so overwhelming that a huge percentage of students resort to cheating. Meanwhile, the security around the most important standardized tests, such as the SAT, MCAT, etc, is easily outsmarted by the test takers.
A personal story: When I was a surgery resident, I had a colleague who was failing the in-service exams required by all training programs. He was getting 50% on the test. Then, he had his wife become employed in the administrative offices of the surgery department, and voila, he scored a 90% on the test. His wife was handling the test questions prior to the test.
With technology allowing cheaters to use small cameras and smartphones to communicate during tests, and with Google allowing one to easily plagiarize, cheating has rendered the standardized tests unreliable. It is time for the companies who administer these important tests to completely changing the testing paradigm. Even without cheating, multiple choice exams have never been a good predictor of one’s aptitude for medicine or law.