Sunday, January 07, 2007

Everybody's Doing It

This morning's Times reviews a new book about plagiarism, who gets away with it, and why. I am continually amazed at how many teachers routinely accept plagiarized papers. I frequently see them hanging on bulletin boards.

I once had a very bright ESL student who happened to leave her paper in the office. She had received an A from her teacher, who happened to be the AP of social studies.

I read the paper, found out where the girl was, and called her out of her classroom. I told her I knew she didn't write the paper, and that if I knew, other teachers could figure it out too. She asked, frantically, "Are you going to tell Ms. Myopic?" I said no, but I wanted her to know that people could tell. I told her she could be expelled from college for doing that.

I was once reading English Regents exams, and noticed two clearly plagiarized papers which were identical even in spelling errors. When I brought them to my AP, she asked, "Who else but you would notice that?" Everybody, I hoped. The students' teacher defended them by saying that they'd actually copied from something she'd written on the board. I wondered whether the teacher had plagiarized it and added her poor spelling by habit.

One of the students had a language teacher who claimed that memorization was very important in her country, that students did it regularly, and that it was therefore OK. I recited a verse from Annabel Lee, and asked whether it would be OK for me to publish it.

No one responded. A group of administrators, including the principal, met and determined the best thing to do was ask the kids to come in. When they did, the kids were asked to rewrite the essay. The kid from the country where plagiarism was very important produced an entire paragraph from memory, and the administrators decided not to void his exam.

I walked down the hall, and demanded to see the principal. This was odd for me, because I'd not spoken to her in years. I went in, sat down, and she began praising me effusively. I was so smart, why wasn't I an administrator, we needed more teachers like me, blah blah blah, and I was halfway down the hall before I realized she'd handled me, snowed me, played me like a violin, and gotten me the hell out of her office before I'd even gotten a response.

I couldn't go back, as she'd more than earned the right to be rid of me. She was very, very smart and I'll always respect her for getting over on me like that (though I still don't agree with her at all).

But when kids start handling me like that, it'll be time to retire.
blog comments powered by Disqus