Saturday, November 22, 2008

Was Loye Young wrong in seeking public exposure of plagiarists?

Janet D. Stemwedel at scienceblogs discussed the Loye Young/Texas A&M International University plagiarism matter.

She took an anti-plagiarism stance:

I do want to think just a little about the larger question, though: How can we better discourage plagiarism?

Clearly, warning students that plagiarism will earn them failing grades does not stop them from plagiarizing. Nor, sadly, does devoting lots of class time to explaining proper citation of sources, nor does requiring students to complete plagiarism tutorials.

If students have no shame when (privately) presenting work that is plagiarized to those teaching them as if it is their own work -- if they're just counting on us being too stupid or overworked to detect it -- what other options do we have?

To the extent that plagiarism is breaking trust not just with the professor but with the learning community, does that learning community have an interest in flagging the bad actors? If you know there are plagiarists but you don't know who they are, does this create a situation where you can't trust anyone?

The problem is that many people view plagiarism contextually. If it's long ago and the person is well-known, it does not matter, as we see with Joe Biden and Glenn Poshard and Laurence Tribe. If it's recent and involving a less known person, penalties can be extreme, as Allison Routman learned. The very mixed opinions on the Palo Alto High School graduation speech plagiarism incident illustrated the diversity of feelings. And then of course, there's Harvard Business Review inviting us to "plagiarize with pride!"

If society can't agree on whether it's bad behavior, one can't raise a deterrent argument.

Loye Young


Blogger Loye Young said...

Mr. Ebert states: "If society can't agree on whether it's bad behavior, one can't raise a deterrent argument."

To the extent society thinks plagiarism is not bad behavior, publicizing the plagiarists does no harm. All arguments against publicizing are premised on the assumption that the students would somehow be harmed by societal disapprobation. If that's not true, publicizing the fact of plagiarism is no different than stating the subject matter of the piece.

4:46 PM  

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