Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Only in NJ: superintendent plagiarizes grad speech

Teaneck, New Jersey interim Superintendent of Schools A. Spencer "Skip" Denham presented a graduation speech to 2010 grads plagiarized from a 2008 speech by one John Warren. Here's what Denham had to say:

"The central portion of my graduation speech was focused on encouraging our graduating students to fondly remember the special times with their peers, their positive interactions with school staff members, their accomplishments in and outside the classroom, as they start their journey beyond high school," he said in an e-mail. "At the time, I should have credited Principal John Warren of Eynesbury Senior College. Regrettably, I did not do that. (...) While the ideas I spoke about are universal and have existed for ages, I did rely on the particular words of others without giving due credit. For that, I apologize."

The article on the incident from The Record contained a quote attributed to Bob Humble, the superintendent in Fairbanks, Ohio:

"We always tell people, if there's anything that I've done that could help you, go ahead and steal it.

Sort of reminds one of the words in the Harvard Business Review: plagiarize with pride.

There was also a matter of a "welcome back" letter by Denham, also copied, apparently from multiple sources. The article noted: Internet searches of the phrases contained within the letter turn up more than a dozen other messages from superintendents and other administrators that share the same wording, an indication that others have followed the same path. Sort of reminds one of the "burned my pajamas at age 8" essay.

Yes, the concept of "unintentional plagiarism" was here. From Humble: "I can tell you that nobody intentionally plagiarized someone else's welcome back letter."

Now, all we need is for Stanley Fish to rationalize this behavior in terms of contextual plagiarism.


Post a Comment

<< Home