Thursday, March 4, 2010

Why copy someone else, when you can copy yourself, risk-free?

To this conundrum, Hegemann has added a heaping dollop of generational special pleading, and the story has prompted teachers to offer multiple examples of students who don't seem to understand what plagiarism is or that it's wrong. Kids these days, this Cassandra-ish line of reasoning goes, have unfathomably different values, and their elders had better come to terms with this because children are, after all, the future. You can't tell them anything! It's as if people under 25 have become the equivalent of an isolated Amazonian tribe who can't justly be expected to grasp our first-world prohibitions against polygamy or cannibalism -- despite the fact that they've grown up in our very midst. (Laura Miller, Plagiarism: The next generation, Salon, 16 Feb. 2010)

The equally bad variant

You need all As to get a good grad school. Experimentation might at some point lead to something great AND polished, but at first it'll be but an inkling, look awkward, feel raw, and draw the occasional "10" but also more than a few "5s" from the Korean-Swiss-American-whatever judge. Who can risk Bs while you get the hang of it, when it may just be enough to count you out for good, and embarrass you while your more professional-minded friends stick with the familiar and certain and collect their ready baskets of achievement accolades? Almost no one. If you abandon the effort, and repeat the already known, even you're hippie parents will secretly be relieved to have an easier time now bragging about your brilliance.

So the cynical smart student -- the one we apparently want -- learns not to plagiarize, which is risky, but to put forth the solid but familiar-boring, over and over again -- that is, not to grow. The grad school gets the writing sample beginning with, "This essay will problematize . . . " know they've got a savy careerer, and invite her/him on in.

Plagiarism is an interesting topic. But let's not let those who get As but who aren't fundamentally interested in self-growth, know their doing anything but a (socially approved/desired) variant.

Link: Plagiarism: The next generation (Salon)

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