Thoughts On Spain’s Artistic Law School Cheat

Yolanda de Lucchi, a law professor at Spain’s University of Malaga, recently shared photos on her Twitter account showing the most impressive exam cheating attempt she had ever encountered. One of her students tried to cheat on a law final by etching the criminal procedure law on eleven BIC pens. You can see what the pens looked like up close above. Here they all are:

If the student had put half the time into studying the material that he devoted to his baroque cheating technique, he wouldn’t have needed to cheat anyway. I was immediately put in mind of several Ripley’s “Believe it or Not!” oddities involving meticulous engravings of text on grains of rice, like this one, featuring the Lord’s Prayer:

It strikes me that cheaters who put such effort and creativity into cheating are prey to a peculiar unethical mindset: they view cheating as a challenge rather than a necessity, and see it as art or competition rather than unethical conduct. In this weird category I’d place the MIT students who tried to pull off an elaborate card-counting scheme at Vegas casinos, some of the more gifted art forgers, incorrigible swindlers (some of whom we may never have discovered), hackers, and maybe even Barry Bonds, an already great baseball player bound for the Hall of Fame—a man who cheated because he could, and because it would make him even greater than he already was.

The most sinister example of this phenomenon probably was the murder team of Nathan Leopold and Dickie Loeb, two brilliant young men who decided to commit a random murder to prove that they were smarter than the police. Ironically—if there can be anything funny about the horrible story, this is it—one of them dropped his expensive, custom-made eyeglasses at the scene of the crime, police quickly traced them to their owner, and the young men were caught almost immediately.

As with Leopold and Loeb, the brilliant BIC-engraver’s scheme failed too. He was caught, and flunked. But he can take solace in the words of Salvador Dali, who said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.”


Pointer: Oddity Central

10 thoughts on “Thoughts On Spain’s Artistic Law School Cheat

  1. There is the myth of the “Criminal Mastermind.” The fact of the matter is that most criminals are stupid. Of course, a la Dunning Krueger, they do not know how dumb they are. That is why they commit crimes.

    I feel fortunate in knowing that I am smart enough to know that I am not smart enough to pull off most criminal endeavors.


  2. That picture brings back memories!

    Last century when I was in middle school we had a literature teacher who was famous for her “cheating challenge” midterm. For one of the tests we were allowed to cheat with the only consequence of being caught resulting in the method of cheating being removed. And an extra 10% on the test score if you were not caught. I think she did that just to stay on top of the creative ways students would come up with. And in the end that test was about 12% of the final grade, so not a bad trade off.

    I mention this because my chosen method of cheating at the time was exactly that. Engraving all the details on a couple of pens. I was not caught, but I did not get the bonus either because the teacher said it was pretty much impossible to read what I had engraved (and I would not blame her, it was hard to read so I did not actually cheat during the test; if I had tried my efforts to focus would have been obvious). I cannot believe someone tried it for real.

  3. I wonder if taking the time to etch the law into the pens might not have actually helped the cheater to learn the text. When I was in school, I found that retyping my class notes helped to fix that content in my mind more than just rereading the text or my notes.

    Using the pens would still be cheating, though.

  4. I am not a gambler and would rather stick my head in a running lawn mower than spend any time in any casino, but I can’t understand why card counting is considered cheating. If I have figured out a way to beat the odds, why can’t I used it?


  5. One college professor I had told us that he would allow crib sheets on a forthcoming exam. All the students studiously prepared their crib notes. On the day of the exam, the professor asked that we all put our crib notes on the desk. He then went through the room collecting the notes then administered the exam. The result was that this particular exam had the highest average grade of any previous exam. The point was that all the work we did on the crib notes prepared us well for the exam. Professor Scala was a brilliant teacher!

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