The Ethics of Blanking as a Strategy
The first time I heard about blanking was after my first semester’s final exams way back in 2010. According to some of my classmates, there were a handful of people who blanked all of their exams to sit the retake a few weeks later. I was shocked. I had never even heard of this, let alone contemplated this as an option. But they weren’t as shocked as I was because some of these people had been doing this throughout the semester with smaller assignments. These people also happened to be the ones who didn’t show up for classes. At first, I thought maybe they just weren’t ready for university and had freaked out a little bit, but when this became the way people treated every exam it stopped being funny.
We are in university where we are developing some skills beyond accumulating knowledge. We are learning time management, organization, and responsibility. No longer can we blame the teachers or anyone else for our misfortunes. No matter how terrible we think any class is, we are ultimately responsible for our own education, which includes studying for exams and that shouldn’t be too complicated. In the beginning of every semester, we get plans for our courses, an overview of the reading material, and objectives for the course. In the beginning of every fall semester, we get a timetable so the date of the exam should not be a surprising.
Throughout the semester we have access to the reading material, the lectures, and the teacher. If we feel we can’t understand the subject well enough, we have time to reach out to anyone outside of our class who we know can help us. No one is saying you can’t use any resources you can think of to learn the material. There are lots of blogs, videos, and material available online that is in no way restricted and no one is looking over your shoulder and calling you a cheater when you seek explanations outside of your course. The point is that by the time the exam rolls around you are to demonstrate what you have learned during the semester.
Of course there are situations where I can sympathize with blanking. For example, when people are sick or something unexpected comes up. This is what blanking is for. But blanking as a strategy, that is blanking every exam just to buy time, is a loser strategy. It is also unfair to the rest of your class who might also do better with a month more to study, but are taking responsibility for their work throughout the semester and meeting the deadline. Blanking as a strategy is also one of those things that devalues your education. You’re not learning the lessons and developing the skills as you are supposed to be doing, you are learning how to navigate the system and exploit the loopholes for your personal gain. This is the source of many problems for people in organizations and firms. This is the behaviour that sends people to jail. And besides, what employer wants employees who can’t meet deadlines and can’t work under pressure?
But this is a problem that the system has created. It enables and encourages blanking as a strategy. So, in order to stop this behaviour, we must first change the system.
First of all, the re-examinations are too conveniently placed right after the other exams. Changing it so that all of the retakes take place perhaps only once a year, maybe in the summer, could prove helpful. Charging a small fee for each retake might also have some effect and as would putting a limit on the number of blanks a student may do in a semester, a year, or even in the duration of the entire program. As it has no repercussions, some kind of punishment for going over the limit might scare people off, such as going over the limit once would result in not being able to get a grade higher than a 10, the next time no higher than a 7 and so on. So, if there was a limit of 1 per semester the second exam a student would blank that semester would not allow them a higher grade than a 10, the third a 7.
It is my personal opinion that blanking as a strategy is a loser move, a cop out, and should be restricted by the study boards. While educating the future business people, CBS also puts an emphasis on CSR and other “good behaviour”. So why does it not hold its own students to the standards we want to hold our future employers? Why don’t we hold ourselves and our fellow students to a higher standard?
This is a discussion we need to have, for as long as it is accepted or ignored, the longer our students will continue to actively refuse to learn the lessons they need to succeed.