Musings

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Dinner With The Kellermans

Published June 28, 2014 by M E McMahon

dinner with kellerman

Bestselling Authors Jonathan and Faye Kellerman

 

I love to read. I love to eat. I love crime novels. Is it any wonder that one of the items at the top of my bucket list is to have dinner with Jonathan and Faye Kellerman? These two married authors have been entertaining me for years with Jonathan’s “Alex Delaware” novels and Faye’s “Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus” novels. Both of the authors write great plots, both base their stories in Los Angeles and both provide a vast array of dark, nasty villains in their series. But, there is a unique difference between the novels by these two authors. Their main characters are as different as night and day.

Jonathan Kellerman uses his experiences as a Ph.D. in Psychology to shape his protagonist, Alex Delaware into a sharp, savvy and highly intelligent psychologist. He adds in Milo Sturgis, an overweight gay LAPD police detective who not only battles crime but battles discrimination on a daily basis from his fellow cops and top brass. These two sleuths mix their investigative talents with rapier wit and they both share a penchant for eating out at fine restaurants. These are characters a reader would like to sit down and share new cuisine with while listening to Alex and Milo attempt to uncover the newest psycho in town.

Faye Kellerman pushed aside a career in dentistry for the life of a mother and eventually an author. Her books incorporate her Jewish heritage into her main characters, Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus. Rabbi Decker (who embraced Judaism for love of Rina) is a lovable, consummate family man who fights crime but still tries to make it home in time for Seder. Rina observes the traditional Jewish woman’s role with finesse and serves as Peter’s rock when he finds it difficult to understand his fellow humans or his children. These are characters that one would like to sit down with and sample some of Rina’s kosher dishes while listening to the story of how these two met and how they share the success for bringing criminals to justice.

Although Jonathan Kellerman’s modern day characters use a psychological approach to crime solving, Faye’s homespun characters center on common sense and family values to unveil culprits. Both authors have created protagonist’s that continue to keep readers entertained throughout their many novels. You can grab a glass of fine wine and enjoy Jonathan’s newest thriller, “Victims” or sit back with a cup of tea to enjoy Faye’s newest Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus novel “The Beast” to enjoy these different characters.

So, yes, I would love to have dinner with the Kellerman’s to take a peek at what their characters will be up to in their next adventure. Maybe Faye will even send me on my way with a container of delicious Matzo balls. Yum!

Sources:

Kellerman, F. (2013). The Beast. [Kindle DX version]. Available from Amazon.com.

Kellerman, J. (2012). Victims. [Kindle DX version]. Available from Amazon.com.

 

Why Are There Cheaters In The Classroom?

Published June 27, 2014 by M E McMahon

 

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“Everybody cheats a little.” “I don’t do well on tests.” “I didn’t have time to study.” These are three common excuses used by students when confronted with the fact that they have committed the crime of academic dishonesty. Plagiarism, copying and pasting works from the Internet or blatant offenses such as buying a term paper are all too common occurrences in the hallowed halls of academia. Educators are frustrated and cry out “Why do students cheat?”

Poor study habits, test anxiety and the temptation to simplify a lazy student’s academic life have been pointed out as the major contributors to cheating. However, educators may find that there are other reasons for those cheaters in their classrooms. Factors such as subtle behavioral and situational factors in the testing environment, weak penalties administered by universities, and educators who stress performance over mastery of a subject may all contribute to cheating in the classroom.

Modern research has produced some surprising results in studies that tested how certain behavioral and situational factors can affect a student’s willingness to risk cheating. In one study, a group of psychologists found that the lighting in a testing area can affect cheating. Participants felt protected from observation in a dimly lit room during the experiment when in reality, they were being closely monitored.  The darkened room provided an “illusory anonymity” which researchers suggest provides an environment that makes one more likely to engage in behaviors that one normally wouldn’t engage in, such as cheating.

Additional research found that people also cheat when told their behavior is a result of genes and the environment, as opposed to free will. This philosophy of high determinism provides behavioral cues that rationalize and excuse one’s decision to cheat. In other words, students feel that they are pre-destined to steal another student’s answers because they are not smart enough to learn the material on their own.

Another reason students might turn their backs on the old adage “to thine own self be true” is the academia’s reluctance to expel students who are caught cheating. One example is the 2012 plagiarism scandal at the prestigious Harvard University. Over 125 students were probed as suspected members of the largest cheating ring in recent history. Out of 125 students, one-half were forced to withdraw from the college for two to four terms, twenty-five percent were put on disciplinary probation and the remaining students suffered no consequences. Harvard stopped short of expelling the fifty percent who were found guilty of plagiarism. Those students can reapply for admission in the near future and go on to become leading politicians, lawyers or doctors.

Weak penalties are also handed out by universities in the UK. Sean Conklin, a BBC education news reporter, states that a 2008 report from the Higher Education Academy and Joint Information Systems Committee found that only 143 United Kingdom university students were expelled out of approximately 9,200 cases of cheating. More than 98% of students caught cheating were allowed to stay at the university, even though they had been caught before. The message to college students seems to be “Don’t get caught, but if you do, don’t worry. You won’t get thrown out of school.” Consequently, these weak penalties give students very little reason not to cheat.

However, some believe that students should not carry all the blame when it comes to cheating in the classroom. When educators stress the importance of high test scores and develop their courses around standardized tests, they must also take into account their role in placing temptation in the paths of their students. In her article, “A Classroom Where No One Cheats” Jessica Lahey, a correspondent for “The Atlantic”, reveals possible solutions educators can use to combat classroom cheating.

She reports that based on studies performed by James M. Lang, author of the book “Cheating Lessons: Learning from Academic Dishonesty,” there are two different types of learners: mastery-oriented and performance-oriented.  According to Lang, mastery-oriented students “pursue understanding” while performance-oriented students strive to “demonstrate their capabilities.” This research found that when students are more focused on their grade point average than the material they are supposed to be learning, they are more likely to cheat.

Lahey states, “The American educational system should focus on the handing down of knowledge and skills rather than test preparation and administration. The same conditions that encourage cheating discourage our students’ mastery of content and skills.” In short, students who feel the pressure to get top marks are more likely to cheat.

Factors such as environmental and behavioral cues, mild repercussions for students who cheat and perception-oriented course curriculums presented by educators might very well sway a student’s decision to cheat. However, ultimately, it comes down to the student’s perception of what cheating might cost them both academically and morally. Cheating, whatever the reason given, is wrong. Students who cheat may find that they not only diminish themselves in the eyes of their university, their peers and their families, they also will have to carry the guilt of not having earned their degree honestly.

“All good is hard. All evil is easy. Dying, losing, cheating, and mediocrity is easy. Stay away from easy.” ~Scott Alexander

Sources:

Coughlin, S. (2008, June 4). University cheats not expelled. Retrieved from BBC: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/education/7434277.stm

Harris, P. (2012, August 30). Harvard University probes plagiarism outbreak involving 125 students. Retrieved from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/aug/31/harvard-university-cheating-scandal

Konnikova, M. (2013, October 31). Inside the cheater’s mind. Retrieved from The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/elements/2013/10/what-makes-people-cheat.html

Lahey, J. (2013, December 12). A classroom where no one cheats. Retrieved from The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/12/a-classroom-where-no-one-cheats/282254/

Lang, J. M. (2013). Cheating Lessons: Learning from academic dishonesty. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Murphy, B. (2013, February 1). Harvard cheating scandal ends in dozens of forced withdrawals. Retrieved from Huff Post College: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/01/harvard-cheating-scandal-_n_2600366.html

 

It’s National Reading Day!

Published January 23, 2014 by M E McMahon

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Pick up a book and read! Better yet, pick up a book and read it to someone else! Share the love and share the words!

Love,

Cranky

Cha Ching!

Published January 3, 2014 by M E McMahon

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My New Year has certainly started with a bang!  I just received an e-mail from Page and Spine Magazine today accepting my short story “Snapshots” for publication.  In addition to the thrill of having another one of my stories published, I am actually getting paid for this piece! Cha Ching!

Page and Spine Magazine is a weekly online literary magazine dedicated to publishing new and emerging writers and they do offer a token payment.  Since one of my milestones has been to be a Paid Published Author, I can now add that check mark to my “Milestones” page. I am also proud to be a new member of the Page and Spine community!

Now, the payment is small but the satisfaction of being paid for something I love to do is PRICELESS!

The publication date for “Snapshots” has not been determined yet but I’ll keep you updated.  In the meantime, if you’re a writer…check out this excellent site and perhaps you too will soon be hearing the sound “Cha Ching!”

Yours in Writing,

M E McMahon

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