Friday, May 05, 2006

I Didn't Say That

Okay, I'm chiming in on this plagiarism question.

Y'all recall when Little Ben got fired from the Washington Post for plagiarism -- he had turned in reviews of movies he had not written, among other things. One of the defenses posted of him, over on that Red State blog, was (I'm paraphrasing, because I am not wading through that sewage again) "You try saying anything original: check the internet! Everything's already been said!"

Same sort of comment got made over at Bitch Ph. D's site, on one of Dean Dad's posts:

Curiosity question for humanities profs:Do you feel it's harder NOT to plagiarize now?When you are teaching one of the "standards" of your discipline, about which people have been opining and writing for ages, do you ask students to write analysis papers on it? Do you expect their thoughts to be original? Do you think this is harder to do now than it was when you were a prof?Sailorman Homepage 05.04.06 - 2:59 pm #

(Here's the post, if you're curious

So here's my point:

What is up with this?

What is it about folks outside the academy, who apparently think that's what plagiarism is -- just, you know, not being particularly "original" with your ideas?

You have to have a brilliant, bold, original idea or you get slammed by the evil professor? That's what we're kicking up all this fuss about? That's what they think?

No, son. These are students who are copying their papers, word for word for word, off of Wikipedia, and then turning that paper into me.

Because I'm too stupid to find Wikipedia on my favorites menu, I guess.

These are students who copy, word for word, a paper from another student who submitted the same paper to me two semesters ago. And then claim that student must have copied the paper from them. Via a wormhole time-traveling space wizard, I'm guessing.

These are students who tell me, confronted with the evidence that their paper is copied, directly, cut and paste, from an article in Encarta, that it doesn't count, because their girlfriend wrote it for them, so she's the plagiarist.

These are students who, when I show them how their papers are cobbled together out of six different online sources, not a word changed, not a source cited, and explain to them that this is plagiarism, and so they fail, tell me they have turned in the wrong paper, and they would like to give me the right paper now.

Harder not to plagiarize now?

This would be an amusing question, if I were not in the middle of the war zone at the moment.

I'll tell you what's up right now. It's got nothing to do with "how hard it is not to plagiarize." No one has any trouble telling what's plagiarism and what isn't -- no one who makes it their business to find out what plagiarism is, which is anyone who is paying attention.

The fact is, students are gaming the system. Not all of them -- I have excellent students: a few. Students with intellectual pride, intellectual zeal.

I also have a huge body of students that are here because they have been told that a university degree is a path to a larger paycheck and that larger paycheck is all they want.

These students could not care less about intellectual pride. They see no sin in cheating. They read Sparks notes in front of me in class. They quote Sparks notes on their exams. Cheating, plagiarism, sneaking notes into exams, peeking at someone else's paper on a quiz, it's all just fine -- a way to get to that paycheck. If they have to fake a paper to get the paycheck, well, they will. It's not like learning to write is actually important. The paycheck is what's important. Getting the degree is what's important. Everyone says so. Right?

"I'll lose my scholarship," they say when I tell they I'm failing them for cheating. "I'll lose my financial aid."

Not: I'm sorry, I shouldn't have cheated, how could I have done this, crap, I'm so ashamed. No. They're never ashamed.

No. It's -- I'll be penalized if you do this, so -- don't you see? You can't do it!


Mouse said...

As a student with "intellectual pride," these are the kids (and I call them kids because such an attitude is childish) that drive me effin nuts. Why not go to votech or job corps (whatever it's called, it's not for me, so I don't relly pay attention) and stay the hell out of my classes? Cause really, my papers, my products of thought and careful citing precision, save an incorrect space or so, could use the attention you have to give to finding the plagarized source and scolding the plagarizer. Yeah, that and they make the rest of us look bad.

Diane said...

As you know, I have written about this subject several times, and I think it pretty much says all there is to say about America (which is not to say that students in other countries don't cheat--I just happen to keep up with what's going on in my own country). These students, with a few exceptions, would not be remoreseless cheating if they did not have examples set before them by their parents.

zelda1 said...

I work so hard to make my papers mine, site my sources, and try and come up with my own spin and still not forget to contribute the thought to the one who first said it, even if it goes back to Plato or Catullus or Moses. Anyway, cheaters make it hard on the rest of us. The university from where they come gets a bad rap, and their class mates who are unfortunate enough to sit by them get a bad rep by association and while I work hard, they get out easy, especially if they get by with it. Sometimes I want to yell, there she goes, the cheater, don't you see her, she has this idea that she is the exception to the rule. But, I don't, and I love it when professors like you, go the extra mile and kick their butts out of class. You go girl.