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Response To Hr Article About Plagiarism
Posted 03 July 2008 - 02:30 AM
Before becoming an online writer, I spent about 7 years in the academic/theatre world teaching Theatre History and Theatre Theory at the college level. I left teaching about a year ago, and during my last week of teaching ran into a huge problem - over 30% of the research papers I received for final grading were plagiarized (out of a class of 70). That is a lot of failing grades and a lot of expulsions (they all failed and had to retake the class, none of them were expelled). Most of the plagiarism was not overt. A few had cut and pasted some quotes and changed a few words - which they thought was okay (grrrr), most had sited their sources, but none of them - none of them - had any understanding that thoughts and ideas had to also be sited. (These students were artists, and they know what it means to give credit to ideas in the rehearsal room, so I was floored by their lack of respect to authors in the academic spectrum.)
When I looked at the students who had done this, it became clear that they were all freshmen. What came out of many discussions with the students and school administrators was the fact that these students had never been asked to write a research paper before. Even though they had all graduated from high school, they had never written a research paper. They had written essays, but not researched topics. The schools they had come from (all over the Western US) had tested them until their number 2 pencils broke, but had never taught them how to do research, how to footnote or site sources, and had not explained the full meaning of plagiarism. When I brought up the point that they knew enough to find material to plagiarize, the response was that finding information on the internet wasn't really considered by them to be research - because it didn't come from a book. (Ya gotta love that logic!)
The internet has made research fun and dynamic, which I love and I think it is great, but our educational system in many areas (not all) has become so entrenched in the era of testing to prove achievement that we have stopped demanding that students also understand things like research, plagiarism, civics, etc. (I have a political theory about this, but I will keep it to myself here.)
Though I don't believe ignorance is an excuse for anything, I am inclined to think that plagiarism is a sin of ignorance rather than malice in many cases. And I believe that we must, as writers, make it a holy quest to educate our children, our students, our friends, users of forums and anyone who will listen that a writer's ideas are just as sacred as the words she uses to express them - whether for commercial, artistic, political, religious, social, entertainment or any other kind of use - because we can no longer assume that this knowledge is being handed down in our educational institutions.
Posted 03 July 2008 - 07:27 AM
Many are responding here as well:
I do agree with what you're saying. I tend to think there are many who don't understand that what they're doing is wrong. Which is why I felt it important to discuss the topic in the newsletter.
If just a few people see themselves in it and attempt to learn how to research and write their own thoughts and words, then that would be great!
Posted 31 July 2008 - 03:15 PM
Posted 01 August 2008 - 04:34 AM
Take music as a prime example, every man and his dog now has pirated music in one form or another, even the law abiding, single mother of three who works on reception merrily burns copies of her daughters friends CD's without a second thought.
Yet they wouldn't walk down the high street, into HMV, Virgin, WHSmith, whoever and stick the CD up their jumper and walk out with it.
Both is theft, the results are the same , a copy of music illegialy obtained, yet the most decent and law abiding citizen, will happily copy their mates CD or DVD, while stringing up the shop lifter!
That's no ignorance, that's hipocracy, double standards and immorality.
Plus I beleive there is a smidging of just plain laziness, why sit down and write content, when you can copy/paste someone elses, remember even at school there was always someone wanting to copy your homework or your essay, because they couldn't be arsed to do it themselves!
Posted 01 August 2008 - 09:04 AM
I think that's a real large part of the problem. Kids get away with it in school and never learn how to truly do research or write, so once they are in a real job, they just do what they're used to doing.
Posted 01 August 2008 - 10:12 AM
If a whole generation see the "law" or a specific "law" as irrelevant then a seed change has occurred.
Laws only work when there is voluntary compliance - enforcement is at the fringes.
Copyright law has difficulty when copyright files are infinitely reproduceable.
Music companies have the practice of including only one hit song per CD album - the rest is bumfluff.
They then pump out the albums.
The kids feel ripped off by this legal extortion to get their hits.
We make our living in part from music copyright so we have a foot in both camps.
But sheer physical enforcement does not work.
The notion of honouring your neighbour does.
BUT a lot in society needs to change before actually respecting your neighbour's creativity is the norm.
I believe we are returning to a neighbour mentality as super high energy costs click in, mass distribution/media disappears and society recoalesces into neighbourhood units for efficiency.
By the time the 20 somethings gain political power the world of creativity, copyright and honouring your neighbour is going to be expressed in a very different way.
Posted 01 August 2008 - 10:28 AM
I hate to say this, but teachers don't want to use those tools. We are put in a terrible position when we uncover plagarism. It is an expulstion only situation. If we find out about it and don't report it, we are putting our own jobs at stake. If we report it, the student is expelled - and it goes on their permanent record. Other schools tend never to accept a student with this kind of record. So, in essence, it is an academic death penalty. One of which most teachers are not willing or eager to take part.
Of course, I do have to admit that I know a few teachers that don't read their student's papers. I think, when they were students, they probably did the cut and paste from the internet.
Posted 01 August 2008 - 11:58 AM
That's very interesting. I can certainly understand that from a teacher's point of view they don't want that responsibility as it could make them feel really bad for the kid.
That said, if the school's actually did start enforcing the no tolerance policy and a few kids got expelled in a very public way, I'll betcha the kids would learn a whole lot quicker and be a whole lot more careful.
It's a tricky situation. I had to deal with it recently myself and it ended up effecting someone profoundly in a negative way. But I do believe a no tolerance policy on this issue is imperative for so many reasons and I don't think that the teachers or anyone else who reports or doesn't tolerate plagiarism should feel guilty about it.
Posted 01 August 2008 - 12:44 PM
Ending someone's academic life doesn't necessarily stop them from plagiarizing on the job, after all. So, it would seem, the only absolutely no tolerance policy would be execution. Put a bullet in the kid's head and his stealing would definitely stop.
I'm not trying to be facetious. I'm just trying to demonstrate that "no tolerance" doesn't necessarily have to equate to excessive measures. On the contrary, I think a no tolerance policy is always going to be untenable so long as the punishment fails to fit the crime. Plagiarism is a very serious offense. It is not so serious, however, as to warrant a bullet in the head, nor in my opinion should it ever prevent someone from getting an education. Flunk them, sure. Make them do the whole year over. But, please, give them the chance to do the whole year over.
Posted 01 August 2008 - 12:51 PM
You're probably right; Jill, and most of me agrees with everything you're saying, but god who makes the decision which ones get to be the examples? I guess I'm a softy about this because it ruins a kidís life. I mean convicted drunk drivers would have an easier time getting into another school than these kids would. And they are kids. Every stupid, lame ass thing I ever did before the age of 25 had some way for me to make it right in the end.
I've always thought that education should edify, and being overly punitive ruins any potential to learn a lesson. Why not negate all the school work done up to the term of the plagiarism, put the issue on the student's record until such time as the student has completed all their course work (including retaking all those classes) and make sure nothing from that point on is plagiarised? Means the student has to work twice as hard to get to where they were. Those students, who really want it, will do the work, those that don't - well they make their own decision to drop out and they take the responsibility for their own demise. If a student commits a second offense - they're expelled. (I suppose I should be writing this to the Board of Education and not on this forum...)
And if I had this option as a teacher, I would be so much more willing to use it than the alternative.
The other side of this is that 1dmf has a point in that there is no punishment in the real world for these kinds of things. The only punishment that I know of is in the education system - where the punishment causes irreversible damage, yet in the real world there is no punishment at all. Doesn't that mean a student bares more responsibility than a professional?
I guess what I'm getting at is that the system is more broken than the people who are operating within it Do you have any real recourse over the plagiarism you found?
Posted 01 August 2008 - 01:26 PM
On the larger spector you raise, I'm not much of a fan of a One Strike And You're Out policy for such infractions where school work is concerned. It would have to be a pretty darned serious offense as far as I'm concerned to ruin a school career at any school, let alone all of them. But this kind of ruination for something that's not a life and death infraction comes down to the School Administrators and Board who set the policies, not the teachers. The board and administration are putting teachers in a no-win situation if their plagerism policy is One Strike And You're Out.
To me it would make a lot more sense to simply fail the student for that assignment and make sure the parents get fully notified. There's so much discussion these days about parents not getting involved, but frankly in my experience it's more a case where the school doesn't want the 'rents involved. Or at least not early enough in the process to be able to have a positive effect. Our local school here is really bad about this type of notification process, I assume because they know they can run roughshod over children and don't want parents raising a stink about shoddy policies or implementation of those policies.
I feel for the teachers. I really do. They're put in an untenable situation most of the time.
But schools and administrators are another story. Put simply, too many of them feel like they're running their own little fiefdom and don't have to answer to anybody. I can't wait until my baby is out of high school so that I can start putting it on my calendar to make all of the monthly school board meetings to bring to public light the stuff I've seen happen in the last few years, without having to worry about my very valid complaints ending causing retribution against a child who has no dog in the fight. Who knows, I might even run for a board seat once she's not there anymore.
Posted 01 August 2008 - 04:53 PM
O.D. I think your suggestions are perfect. I imagine some other schools do similar things.
Posted 01 August 2008 - 08:00 PM
"One Strike and You'll Learn a Painful Lesson" is much more appropriate, I think. It's still zero tolerance. With the exception of extremely serious issues (like murder, rape, etc), school should be about making mistakes and learning from them, as well as a whole bunch of learning from other people's mistakes, as well (you'll never live long enough to make them all yourself).
What bothers me here is that by making the punishment so severe, people of good conscience are not enforcing it. This (to me) clearly indicates that it's a bad (and lazy) rule that needs to be fixed, not bad and lazy teachers and students. Responsible people of good conscience will enforce good rules, and students will learn if given the opportunity and motivation.
Added: Looks like I took too long to write this (again) - I agree with many of the other suggestions posted after I started mine.
Posted 01 August 2008 - 11:18 PM
The Internet as seen by the casual surfer has none of this academic rigour as it has no effective basis to establish this rigour on any scale.
It could be fair to say that a significant portion of the Internet is actually plagiarised or scraped content.
Another significant portion is strictly, opinion, hearsay or myth.
Establishing veracity is a mute point.
Grade school and high school education is severely underfunded.
A significant portion of my children's school assignments used the Internet as a resource - often the only resource as the schools had no alternatives.
Is it fair to say that freshman are confused?
The very basis of their education up to this point was using plagiarised content on the Internet as a significant part of their instruction.
Now it is bad all of a sudden to be associated with plagiarised content?
A Freshman's confusion is a direct result of school underfunding.
If plagiarism is so bad why does plagiarised material form such a great part of their prior education?
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