It happened again! On the final assignment of the semester! Though I’ve been contentedly teaching writing courses for fifty years, I was as I am whenever it happens, astonished and hurt.
I had a thief in my class. A plagiarist!
Plagiarism – as defined briefly by Wikipedia – is the “wrongful appropriation” and “purloining and publication” of someone else’s ideas, or expressions.” Plagiarism – putting it bluntly – is stealing someone else’s words and thoughts and passing them off as your own. Students who would never dream of touching anyone’s wallet or other private possessions – who are generally honest and upright – sometimes see no reason to hesitate when it comes to stealing someone else’s ideas and language. Often, the grander the idea the more tempting!
Each time this happens in my writing class, I am troubled. After all, it is an Advanced class, an Elective! The student was NOT required to take it. He chose it. And then he cheated!
How did I know this time? Well, his grammar and spelling were usually faulty and he wasn’t a very perceptive writer. He was absent too often and was running a low “C-” for the course. Then, in comes this last assignment, the one-act play. Letter-perfect. Twice as long as I had required! (During Finals Week when time is so precious.) Dramatic. About the destruction of civilization. Characters: A decent thoughtful middle-aged couple. Eager to sacrifice for each other!
An impeccable, thoughtful script!
Sadly, I head for my computer, knowing the results before I check. I type in the title and first few lines of dialogue – and THERE is his play- only it is not his. It is stolen property. Indeed, it is playgiarized!
Teachers remember their successes and their failures, so I shall think of you as my failure too. You can do better than this. Do it!
I remember the first time I caught a student plagiarizing in a business course I was teaching – he had retyped the entire case as if it was the answer! And then he defended his actions with some lame argument about “restating the problem” – except that was all he stated! It’s a shame, because those are the students who never feel the glow of expressing their own ideas and opinions. No grade is worth that much.