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By Amy Phillips Penn

I am a consummate New Yorker, but when in California, I go a little “lala.” So when a question of equestrian sanctity rears or bucks, I do the California thang.

I call my horse psychic.

“What’s the scoop on Katherine, the new woman we’re boarding with?”

Silence. Cards are shuffled. A concerned breath.

“Diosa says she cheats.”

Diosa is my mare’s name. “She cheats?” I reply, slipping further and further into the Lala Land vortex.

“That’s what Diosa tells me. She cheats.”

In what capacity could Katherine possibly cheat? On how much alfalfa she gives Diosa? How often she’s exercised? What I’m paying the farrier? It could be anything. Think equine, I tell myself.

But the more time I spend with Katherine, the more I’m impressed by her.

The animal psychic’s cheating accusation faded from my lala-laden mind, until one night at a barbecue.

“I cheated in high school,” Katherine confessed, a victorious, self-satisfied look in her eyes.

Thank goodness, I thought, reassured that my mare wasn’t the victim of swindling.

Cheating in school: Only the brave admit to it.

Teddy Kennedy was expelled for cheating at Harvard. Then he was reinstated, graduated, and, in time, honored by the Ivy League institution.

Cheating today is an art form unto itself, all prettied up in one little smart phone. Text your answers, questions, exam essays, hit “delete,” and be prepared to say “who me?” without a hint of sweat on the brow.

Cheating before technological break-throughs was limited—at least I think it was. The chances of getting caught certainly seemed higher without a gadget in hand to help execute the crime.

How did we cheat? We copied homework, passed notes, held our papers up a little higher or closer, checked out the teachers’ unguarded stacks of papers, or made friends with a proctor. But I don’t recommend any of the above.

When I enrolled in the eighth grade at a private all girl’s New York City school, two “cool girls” wanted to copy my Latin homework. How could I say no? I wanted to be popular as much as the next gal. If all it took was some classroom generosity, I could handle that. Latin was an ancient dialect anyway.

Twenty four hours later, the cool girls and I were summoned to the Vice Principal’s Office. Miss B. snorted like a hung-over bulldog, clearly displeased.

Mrs. Olsen, the Latin teacher, had reported us.

A few strenuous croaks later, the bulldog decreed that I was the worst offender among the group since I had lent my homework out.

I never shared my homework again. The world of cool would have to wait.

Id imperfectum manet dum confectum erit (Translation: It ain’t over until it’s over).

Rome wasn’t built in a day.

As it happens, my father was teaching at one of New York’s best boy’s schools around the time dear Mrs. Olsen was panicking about getting her young son into a good private school.

My parents invited her to a cocktail party so she could meet the headmaster. I stayed in my room, sick with the flu.

A few hours later, my father handed me an envelope. It was from Mrs. Olson, who taught math in addition to Latin. I opened it hurriedly, concerned because I’d missed a math test earlier that day. Surely, I was about to uncover a reproachful note from Mrs. Olson about her detest for scheduling and administering make-up exams.

It took me a solid 30 seconds to come to terms with what was actually before me. In my hand, I held a copy of the math test I had sicked-out from, complete with all questions and answers.

Who among us is immune to cheating once in a while?

During senior year I was elected editor of the school yearbook under the tutelage of Mrs. D., for whom all things yearbook were paramount. Anything else in academia was deemed frivolous.

“I want you to flunk Physics,” she announced in her best Shakespearean tone.

“You want me to do what?”

“Physics shouldn’t interrupt your editorship. Many past editors have struggled with Physics when they should have been creating a consummate literary work. I’ll call your parents,” said the alpha-mare with a silver bun and bifocals.

The next week we were all in Mrs. C’s office along with “the bulldog,” and my parents.

“Don’t open a Physics text book. Don’t even attempt to learn how to spell the word physics,” Mrs. D commanded.

Guided by Mrs. D., we all agreed it would be a disaster if I had a big red “D” or an “F” on my record. And so I was granted the rare privilege of escaping Physics.

It gets better. I didn’t have to replace Physics with another equally frightening subject. Instead, I was awarded a free study hall, in which I got to laze about in the hot pink study lounge all by my lonesome.

That year, our school magazine won a medal in a prestigious interscholastic competition.

The award was announced at assembly, while Mrs. D beamed from well polished pearl earring to earring.

Cheating. Shortcuts. Secret Bribery. They’re not for everyone…or are they?

Featured Image Courtesy of Facebook


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