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A Moral Dilemma During an AP Literature Quiz

By Benji Elkins:

Hannah Simone had known for about two weeks now that her AP Literature Quiz was today. The advanced knowledge bothered her greatly. She figured knowledge of a test two weeks in advance was no better than if she found out she was going to die in a couple hours.

Of course, she didn’t want to die and greatly respected life and its meaning, death, and the afterlife.. But she also didn’t want to take her English test. In fact, she probably respected her desire not to take her English test more than her desire not to die. If she died at least there would be no English test to take.

When she sat down at her desk and stared at the multiple-choice bubble sheet before her, her anxiety briefly subsided. If she took the English test, she figured after some sharp concentration, she would live. Living is obviously preferable to death. But then she thought back to her thoughts from only a few days before. Dying is obviously preferable to taking an English test. Her anxiety shot up like a rocket and her heartbeat crashed through the ceiling.

“Okay class,” her teacher, Mrs. Flin began, “You’re going to begin your test now. In the meantime, I will be sitting just over here at my desk with this blue notepad.” Mrs. Flin walked over and sat down at her desk, tossing the notepad onto the middle. “Good luck,” she smirked.

Hannah stared at the blue notepad. She knew immediately it contained the test’s answers. A notepad of that size (large), color (blue), and material (durable plastic cover with yellow-paged paper behind) could only be used as the key for a quiz on the graphic innuendos of Shakespeare’s King Lear. She was so mystified by the concept of the notepad that she did not hear Mrs. Flin continue, “Oh, and this blue notepad contains the answer key.” Had Hannah heard that though, it only would have confirmed her suspicions.

Ten questions into the test, Hannah was struggling. The blue notepad took up more and more of her brainspace. If only her mind could instead be gratifyingly filled up with the graphic and warming familial innuendos of Shakespeare’s King Lear. But instead, the school fire alarm went off.

The students, many of whom seemed to have finished their tests already, quickly got up and shuffled out of the classroom one by one. Soon,. Both Mrs. Flin (who had excused herself to the bathroom minutes before) and the students (who had excused themselves to escape the potential threat of fire) were gone. It was only Hannah and the blue notepad that remained. As she walked towards the notepad, she felt as though she should deliberate on what to do next. As she flipped through the answer key and took photos on her phone, she mentally debated the ethics of cheating on a test. As she walked over to her answer sheet and corrected what she had gotten wrong. She weighed the pros of getting a good grade versus the cons of possibly being consumed by fire. As she corrected her final answer from a B to a C, she decided cheating with the blue notepad ultimately was not worth it. With a sigh, she walked back to the desk to return the notepad knowing that ultimately she was doing the right thing. And now she had the right answers too. She went to place the notepad back on the desk when she was stopped by the voice of Mrs. Flin.

“Ahah! I knew it!” exclaimed Mrs. Flin.

“Mrs. Flin!” Hannah responded, startled.

“I knew you would cheat, Hannah. Your test is canceled! Expunged! Disqualified!”

Hannah was distraught. She cursed herself and the world. This is what she gets for trying to do the right thing.

“Sit down, Hannah, we’re gonna have a chat,” Flin continued.

“What about the fire?” Hannah questioned, more willing to be concerned for her safety now that her English test had been completed.

“There is no fire. I pulled the fire alarm because I knew you would use it as an opportunity to cheat. What do you think about that, Ms. Simone?”

Hannah was confused. This seemed like a gross overstep on Mrs. Flin’s part.

“You purposely pulled the fire alarm and got the whole school to evacuate just to catch me?” Hannah inquired. Mrs. Flin nodded her head slowly.


Hannah figured that it wasn’t worth it to keep pressing the topic. She did not want a repeat of the lengthy legal battles that ensued last year when her 63-year-old math teacher secretly followed her home from school and into her bedroom to verify his suspicion that she was not completing her homework.


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