[OT] Supporting "homework" (was: Re: Checking a Number for Palindromic Behavior)

Stephen Hansen apt.shansen at gmail.com
Thu Oct 22 10:10:41 CEST 2009

On Wed, Oct 21, 2009 at 10:04 PM, Dieter Maurer <dieter at handshake.de> wrote:

> Steven D'Aprano <steven at REMOVE.THIS.cybersource.com.au> writes on 20 Oct
> 2009 05:35:18 GMT:
> > As far as I'm concerned, asking for help on homework without being honest
> > up-front about it and making an effort first, is cheating by breaking the
> > social contract. Anyone who rewards cheaters by giving them the answer
> > they want is part of the problem. Whether cheaters prosper in the long
> > run or not, they make life more difficult for the rest of us, and should
> > be discouraged.
> A few days ago, I have read an impressive book: "Albert Jacquard: Mon
> utopie".
> The author has been a university professor (among others for
> population genectics, a discipline between mathematics and biologie).
> One of the corner therories in his book: mankind has reached the current
> level of development not mainly due to exceptional work by individuals
> but by the high level of cooperation between individuals.
> In this view, asking for help (i.e. seeking communication/cooperation)
> with individual tasks should probably be highly encouraged not discouraged.
> At least, it is highly doubtful that the paradigm "each for himself,
> the most ruthless wins" will be adequate for the huge problems mankind
> will face in the near future (defeating hunger, preventing drastic
> climate changes, natural resources exhaustion, ....); intensive
> cooperation seems to be necessary.

It's not that people aren't willing to assist others in questions that are
"homework", but when those with homework come to the community to seek the
answers without showing that they are trying to achieve that answer on their

The student must learn to think through a problem and find a solution.
There's a distinct difference between one student coming to the community
and saying, "How do I do X?", and another coming and saying, "I am trying to
do X, and I have attempted Y and Z. This is not working, can you explain

In the former, the student is simply asking for an answer to the question
they have been tasked with answering. This is unethical. The student is not
seeking help to find a solution to a problem, but seeking the solution
itself. In the latter, the student clearly articulates they have a problem
and shows their attempt at discovering a solution-- and they are asking
questions which are not simply 'Tell me the answer' but 'Tell me what I do
not understand'.

The former is an example of a lazy mind seeking solution; the latter is an
example of a curious mind seeking understanding. IMHO and in my experience,
the community is more then willing to support the curious-- be they student,
hobbyist, or professional. But the lazy student who tries to use the
community to get an answer without ever really understanding the problem...
that's something else entirely.

In my experience, the Python community is very willing to support and
encourage those questioning and seeking the advice of others to find good
and workable solutions. Every once in awhile, someone comes to the community
with a question which doesn't really seek to expand their understanding but
instead seeks to bypass the need to understand-- they seek simple answers to
questions posed to them without any need of them learning the necessary
lessons. That's cheating.

The community isn't here to do the work for anyone. Its here to share its
collective expertise, wisdom and knowledge in order to enrich  everyone's

We aren't here to do anyone elses work for them. We're here to share and
grow together. Anyone who shows an interest in putting effort into a task
tends to get helped-- but if someone wants to just sit around and be handed
the solution, why should we bother? IMHO, the community doesn't object to
those asking for help. It objects to those asking for others to do their
work for them.


Did I mention IMHO? :)

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