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Harvard cheating scandal? It could be bad teaching.

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That seems to be what was happening in professor Matthew Platt’s “Introduction to Congress” course at Harvard last spring. An anonymous student in the class told Salon.com that Dr. Platt began the course by announcing that he didn’t care if they attended his lectures or the discussion sections with his teaching assistants. So students frequently skipped class, sending friends to pick up copies of Platt’s slides.

Platt, who brought the suspected cheating to the attention of Harvard authorities, has also acknowledged that the course was “one of the easiest classes at Harvard,” one student told the Boston Globe. That’s why it was popular with student-athletes like Kyle Casey, the top scorer on last year’s Ivy League champion basketball team, who is reportedly sitting out next season rather than risk losing a year of eligibility if he suits up and is later suspended. “I gave out 120 A’s last year,” Platt told the students on the first day, according to one student, “and I’ll give out 120 more.”

So students were surprised when their exams included terms and concepts that had not been covered in the class or course readings. “I felt that many of the exam questions were designed to trick you rather than test your understanding of the material,” one student wrote in Harvard’s “Q Guide,” a student course-evaluation site. “The exams are absolutely absurd and don’t match the material covered in the lecture at all.”

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