Monday, August 04, 2014

Inside Higher Ed off-base in "Not-So-Cardinal Sin?" on Walsh plagiarism

Colleen Flaherty begins a piece on the John Walsh plagiarism with the text

Among academics, plagiarism is a cardinal sin. But to the general public? Maybe not so much. At least that’s what the reaction thus far to the recent plagiarism allegations against Sen. John Walsh suggest.

The statement about "general public" is correct, with Joe Biden a more significant example than John Walsh.

But the following text misses the point that Walsh's bad behavior was committed as a student seeking a degree, not as politician:

“Integrity in authorship is a central value for academics (though violated all too often), so allegations of plagiarism can be very damning,” Martin said in an email. “However, for most politicians, authorship is not as central to their identity.”

There are at least two academic issues

1. Walsh, long before being a senator, got an academic degree by copying without attributing.

2. Those academics overseeing Walsh, supposedly knowledgeable in the field, did not recognize the copying without attribution.

Yes, the story of Joe Biden came up:

Vice President Joe Biden’s 1988 presidential bid, for example, was foiled by accusations that he plagiarized other politicians during his speeches, along with news that he had been accused of plagiarism on paper while he was a student at Syracuse Law School. Biden remained a member of the Senate, however, until assuming the vice presidency.

But Biden's bigger issue as to Kinnock was that Kinnock's life story did not apply to Biden. It wasn't so much that Biden copied Kinnock as it was that the Kinnock "shoe" did not fit Biden. Biden's story was false. As to Syracuse, Biden was not only "accused" of plagiarism; he was found guilty and failed the course. However, it is correct that the voters in Delaware did not consider this a show-stopper as to Biden. But then Harvard University retained Laurence Tribe after his copying (ghost-writing) was uncovered.

Text in the article reminds one of the defenders of politician Glenn Poshard:

In Walsh’s case, both national Democrats and Steve Bullock, Montana’s Democratic governor, have backed him.

“Senator Walsh has a long history of fighting for Montanans, both at home and in combat," Bullock said in a statement of his former lieutenant general, who retired as a colonel from the U.S. Army and served as adjutant general of the Montana National Guard. "He deserves respect for his courage on our behalf."

There is no denial of the plagiarism, but a shift in focus to political issues. Curiously, the Europeans, specifically the Germans, seem to care more about the ethics of plagiarism as to politicians than do Americans.

It's a strange, strange world. But then again, the Harvard Business Review did write "Plagiarize with pride!"



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