November 2005 Index
Home Page

Cheating and Stuff!

Donald G. Perrin

Recently, I read Levitt and Dubner’s book, Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. In keeping with its outrageous title, it discovers statistical evidence to determine causal mechanisms very different to the common wisdom used to explain events. The authors used statistical evidence to debunk popular theories about abortion, crime and punishment, drug dealing, tests, and other social issues. They show how to detect cheating through statistics. Cheating is more common than most people realize, even among school teachers. They also showed how professions like insurance and real estate are impacted when their privileged information becomes freely available on the Internet.

“It is common for one party in a transaction to have better information than another party. In the parlance of economics, such a case is known as information asymmetry. … But information asymmetries everywhere have in fact been mortally wounded by the Internet.”(2005, Leavitt and Dubner, p 68.

Easy access through the Internet reduces the value of expert advice and results in significant savings for intelligent users. I recently paid thousands of dollars for expert advice only to find better advice on the internet with one keyword and two clicks. “Experts depend on the fact that you don’t have the information they do.”(p 70)  My mind wandered to privatization of knowledge and damage to teaching and learning as a result of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. . . .

The authors had me on a roll until they stated there was no improvement in student learning as a result of computers. When I calmed down, I realized that it was true. What they really said was, based on the standardized tests used by school systems for many years, there is no measurable improvement in learning. Statistics will not point to the correct answers if they are based on old information or irrelevant research questions. That is why this Journal exists  - to stimulate research, peer reviews and open publication of current knowledge that is accessible online. 25,000 readers visit this website each month.

“Information is the currency of the Internet.” (p 68.) Sources of informed and current information are like a honey-pot to the curious who thirst for knowledge. For education, technology, and learning, Stephen Downes’ OLDaily is a leader in reporting, commentary, and propagation of new ideas. knows when it receives mention in OLDaily by a surge in readership statistics. Blog sites in several countries have a similar though lesser effect. The informed community shares links and professors assign articles for reading, critique and classroom discussion. is an open site and the Universal Resource Locator address is displayed for each article. As a result, 80% of our readers bypass index pages and go directly to their article of choice. We monitor monthly activity by page views, visitors, and downloads of Acrobat files.

In 2005 there was no promotion for articles other than Call for Papers on the home page. They just come. The Journal is upgrading the peer review process to ensure acceptance by the most rigorous Retention, Promotion and Tenure committees. Review procedures are more efficient so that accepted articles are published in the next issue or within five weeks of receipt. The Journal is about to add index and search capabilities so you can find authors, articles and keywords easily on this website.

The editors are especially pleased by the range of countries represented among our authors. In this issue we have Finland, Malaysia, Nigeria, Spain, and the United States.


Levitt, Steven D. and Dubner, Stephen J. (2005) Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything. William Morrow.

Downes, Stephen. OLDaily.

go top
November 2005 Index
Home Page