Is this cheating? (school, not relationship)

As some of you may have picked up, I’m a college student. I happen to be very interested in ethics, and am taking a course titled “Public Law and Moral Reasoning” So far, its shaping up to be a great course.

It discusses the moral and legal aspects of many important current issues. Homosexual marriage and adoption, abortion, pronography and freedom of speech, the death penalty and termination of care are all listed on the syllabus. The class format focuses on in class discussion and debate.

With that in mind, am I cheating by reading the SDMB? Some of my own ignorance has been fought here and I’m fairly sure many of my comments in class will be based on what I have read here. How blatantly is that cheating? I will, of course, try to cite the overflowing fount of sources found here, but I will fail at least once.

If my SDMB reading is immoral with respect to my wonderful class, should I take a four month hiatus from the boards, or just GD? Or should I just make up cards that say “For my opinion, and many other valuble ones, on this topic, please see” and hand them out at the beginning of every class?

And now, faced with this ethical issue, I of course turn to my favorite source and place this question at the ever discrete feet of the Teeming Millions.

I don’t see how it’s cheating at all.

If you have an opinion that’s been formed by something you read, that’s just learning. Whether it’s a book or the internet or whatever, who cares? Are you going to stop taking in any media?

Since you’re not (I guess) being directly graded on whether the ideas you present are “correct” or not, it’s not like the SDMB has given you homework answers or test answers.

If you write a paper and use an idea that you think is original to a poster at the SDMB, you should cite it.

*The class format focuses on in class discussion and debate.

With that in mind, am I cheating by reading the SDMB?*

Cheating? Heck no, you’re studying.

None of us were born with knowledge and opinions. We acquire them throughout life by various means. SDMB is one of those means.

In the situation you describe, there are many topics that tend to inspire intense emotional reaction. As a result, people often latch onto one perspective and stay there, making discussion and debate a shouting match rather than an exercise in increasing understanding. The more information, and the more diverse opinions, one can bring to such discussions, the more productive those discussions can be. There are no pat answers–you’re not stealing a magic solution that you should have invented yourself. What you’re doing is helping to augment the value of the course.

It’s no more cheating than reading a book on the subject would be, IMO. In other words, it’s not.

Do you talk to your friends, acquantences, classmates, etc., about the issues you are going over in class? Is that cheating?

Because, if you think about it, that’s very similar to the case here. It’s less like reading a book, and more like having a conversation with a large group of people. I don’t see a problem with reading here.

It also matters how you go about using the knowledge you gain here. If your favorite SDMB poster writes 2 screens worth of text that you think is spot-on for your issue, and you then cut and paste that into a paper, that’s plagiarism - even if you make some edits. Of course, it didn’t seem to me that you were even suggesting that. On the other hand, if those 2 screens worth of text, along with all the other ones from the other posters (to a greater or lesser extent) inform you on an issue, and help you think through your position, and as a result you can write a better paper - that’s definitely not cheating; that’s putting thought into your school work.

<Bart Simpson>
“So when I took the test, the answers were stuck in my brain. It was like a whole different kind of cheating!”
</Bart Simpson>
Learning outside of class can’t possibly be cheating, unless you’re taking a class titled “The Outside World: A Exercise in Non-Interactive Deduction”. Yes, thinking and discussing social issues outside of class will give you an advantage in classroom debates, but it is a fair advantage. Every other student almost certainly has access to the Internet. If they choose not to put in the extra work, you deserve a better grade than them, assuming you in fact end up getting a better grade than them.