What we should teach our children about contract cheating

Have you ever heard of contract cheating? It is a new term that has surfaced in the last decade, in a content-driven society. It is a term used to describe how an individual pays someone else to perform a task for them – in many cases, a written one – and passes off the latter work as their own. This form of cheating has surfaced particularly around universities, where undergraduates have to produce essays frequently as well as dissertations, and indeed, essay mills – as the companies that sell these services – frequently do their advertising around campuses. You can reportedly get an essay that guarantees a particular grade and is not detected by algorithms to have been copied.

Why do people buy such services? You may of course suspect that undergraduates pay fifty or more pounds to get out of the tedium of writing an essay. Now you may think it crazy to spend that amount of money for the time it takes to write an essay but that amount of money goes more into the necessary research that comes before the writing of an essay. How much research is necessary depends on the actual complexity of the essay of course. But essay mills promise that you will get a particular grade with an essay, so some may use it as a guide to the research involved.

But not all services are paid for by undergraduates who want to “par-tay” their University life away while aiming to get a degree for as little work as possible. Some might have actually do long hours of work alongside their studies and cannot spend their time reading books and looking up research for their essays and working at the same time. You can’t for example, do childminding in a nursery with book in hand and mind off the job.

Should we be concerned about essay mills? Well, yes. It requires employers to be more stringent about qualifications. But one cannot examine whether a potential employee has done the work on his or her own, so this is where a careful interview process to ascertain the potential employee’s skills are important.

The other lesson is for our children. They may fall prey to the essay mills, thinking it is an easy way out, but we have to impress on them the value of acquiring skills rather than just merely attaining the qualifications. It comes back to the old circle of process over product. Because when they sit in front of an interview panel and the panel realise that the candidate’s product is flawed (and hence the process to obtain it), they may find the short cut was not worth it at all. We have to steer them away from it.

Imagine if the great writers and music composers of the past indulged in essay mills or music mills! Someone like the classical music great Joseph Hadyn would not have come up with the diversity of works had he subcontracted out his writing – and we would be so much poorer for it. And doing your own work means you are constantly refining your craft, and getting better at it. You can find out more trivia about Haydn from the Piano Teacher Muswell Hill website, including why his tomb contains two skulls. Maybe he needed all that brainpower with an extra head?

Your passion and what it can do for you

Teenagers are a very strange lot. Do you have a teenager about in the house? Or maybe you have two or more? Either way, you can observe a very strange set of behaviour manifesting itself at various points in the year. Ask a teenager to get up of their free will, and frequently you will find that many of them have a struggle. They get to school late and can’t get up on time. They complain about how little sleep they have had. They are late to school. Yet in the school holidays, you will find that they get up earlier in the mornings than they would have if they had school, possibly because they are keen to use their free time to go out with friends. Or maybe they may have gotten up early despite going to bed in the wee hours of the morning because they want to resume what it is that they were doing before they went to bed. It may be an Instagram chat. It may be a computer game. But what this all points to is that when there is something worth waking up for, we will all do our damnednest to get up for it.

What can adults take from this? Some suggest that one lesson we can all learn is that we should all have meaningful jobs, ones that we can get excited about. Perhaps it is making a change in someone’s life, as a teacher or a counsellor. Maybe it is one that gives us a sense of purpose, like a research scientist working on stopping cancer. Or maybe it is one what allows us to have most impact, and control, such as in influencing the world around us and giving us a sense of being in touch with the real world.

So work on finding that dream job, one that gives you purpose in life. When you have that purpose, it will sustain you and give you meaning and will to get up in the morning!

The composer Ralph Vaughan Williams was passionate about reviving English music in the 20th century and it gave him meaning and sustained his creative drive in his work. You can read more about him from the Piano Teacher Hornsey N8 blog. Vaughan Williams had a career that lasted many decades – truly if you find something you believe in, it will keep you going and you will see yourself as not having enough time to finish all the things you want to do. A better alternative than counting down the hours at work!

A little diversion with the World Cup

It is hard not to get unaffected by the World Cup football around. Even if you have little interest, you get influenced by the bug by the people around!

England are unfortunately out of the World Cup finals. After a stellar run, going all the way to the semi-finals and avenging that last-16 defeat by Iceland in the previous competition, leaving the Lions with their tails between their legs, the team managed to hold Croatia to injury time before a late goal saw them lose out.

There is a general belief that the England team have done enough to restore their reputations, and there is hope amid the pain of defeat. England boss was quoted as saying that the team has raised expectation and belief. There is still something to fight for, as England head into the third place play off with Belgium. You might argue that this might have instead been the final game had been expecting, instead of France and Croatia, but this is still a good chance for England to prove they have the mettle to beat one of the top teams in the world.

In Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, you may have argued that the Belgium team had a good spine from defence to attack. Unfortunately they were snuffed out by a French team and lost to a set piece winner by Samuel Umtiti of Barcelona.

It is a good test for England to see how they will hold up against their Premier League buddies. Most of the third and fourth place players ply their trade in the Premier League, and so it may feel like a charity match of sorts. But make no mistake, there is not going to be any charity in this one!

The big question now is, will Gareth Southgate let the fringe players of the team get a chance to play? Some of the players did get some game time in the third match of the group stage, when England’s place had already been confirmed. In that third match, it was England against – you’ve guessed it – Belgium. Or more accurately, England B vs Belgium B, with both sides resting many of their key players. It is unlikely that either team will now give their B teams a roll out, because the third place finish is important. To both teams, it highlights the pinnacle of both managerial careers. Southgate is on his first as England manager, while Roberto di Martinez is doing the same since being out of the Premier League.

England vs Belgium is an important game. It is the last game for the next two years before the Euros, so get your flags out and get cheering! You have to live with the result for the next two years!

Hopefully England’s march to success will continue!

Google or Counselling?

Seth Stephenson-Davidowitz is a data scientist, which – apart from the fact that it is viewed as a modern, tech-y, somewhat sexy job – means he uses data to draw insights. A major part of his work uses Google searches as a data set, because he believes that people are less inclined to tell the truth when presented with a face to face interviewer or a survey, simply because of how it reflects on them. In other words, traditional methods of information gathering are not necessarily trustworthy, from a deeper truth point of view. However, he believes that because there is a higher perception of anonymity afforded a computer user who goes on Google to search for answers to thoughts, the data trends are more accurate.

There is some truth in that belief, but in counselling once you have established that relationship of trust with a counsellor, it is easier to unravel the tangle of thoughts in your head, to work through the things that trouble you, instead of looking to Google for answers – the latter would be akin to reading an online self-help book!

One of Stephenson-Davidowitz’s research on data trends has focused on depression. According to data searches, August 11 and Christmas Day are the happiest days of the year – there are less searches for the word depression, while depression is highest in April, the month called the “cruelest month” by poet T S Eliot. Google data also suggests that climate matters a great deal. But also highlights that money is the perhaps a strong underlying cause – searches for depression are less in areas which a large percentage of people are college-educated, which – for those of us in the UK – means they have degrees, and are not to be confused with sixth-form college.

Using such data to gather insights is useful, but we should be careful about being too reliant. The data used in this research also suggested that areas with higher Hispanic-Americans were less depressed, but that could have been because Hispanic-Americans might not have typed “depression” into Google, but used other phrases as well, some of which may have been in other languages. And while depression is an anchoring word, people might look up “suicide”, “how to kill myself”, or “end my life” as other indicators of depression.

When you are depressed, it is a good idea to speak with someone else, because not only would that help unravel the thoughts in your mind, the speaking is effortful, and helps you burn off unwanted stressful energy within you and dissipate it. Of course, the listener – the person you are speaking to – should listen, and be trained to withhold comment, otherwise helpful “suggestions” only increase the pressures on you and the things you have to do and cause more mental triggers!

If you are not yet comfortable speaking with someone, try taking up a skill to take you out of the spiral of negative thoughts. Try a candle-making course, something arty, that takes you out to meet people. But if that still is too far of a social stretch at the moment, then something like learning the piano might be a useful skill. Learning the piano activates different parts of the brain which relieves the pressure on the cortex and the word-processing part of the brain, and as you get lost in the music and melodies, it will momentarily take you out of your stressful world and you give you some form of mental escape – instead of being lost in the maze of Google searches without a way out!