Monday, March 31, 2008

That's DOCTOR Chump to you, buddy.

Yes, there's the honesty issue, the bald fact of intellectual theft. And yes, there's the display of contempt for the principles of learning, the point of humanistic study. But the thing I hate most about plagiarism is the insult of it: The student apparently thinks I'm an idiot, who either knows very little about the published scholarship in my field of specialization, or is unable to recognize the difference between material in SEL (or Sparknotes, for that matter) and student-level work.

6 comments:

Dr. Write said...

Ooh! Me too! I usually can make them cry by comparing their theft to stealing some material thing (like a wallet or a TV). I say, "You wouldn't steal a wallet off someone's desk would you?" I also like to say, at the beginning of class, "If you can find a paper on the internet, I can find a paper on the internet." Also, "I'm pretty sure you can write a C paper, rather than buy or steal one."
It's always a bummer.

Flavia said...

Oh! I just found one of these, too, despite having policies all over my assignment sheets and syllabus stating in big bold letters that plagiarism will result in failure, etc., and despite my having said as much in class--including explaining that everyone's writing has a texture, and when it changes, it's obvious, and I read more papers in a year than they'll write in their academic career, etc.

But not only that! The student responded with a letter (we have to handle all charges of academic dishonesty and responses to such charges in writing) in which she basically said, "how dare you! you have no proof! and I DEMAND AN APOLOGY!"

To which I said (under my breath, alone in my office), "Fuck you. You're really going to make me take another 30 minutes to highlight and number passages from SparkNotes and from your essay and *map out* the correspondences? Fuck you. I will!"

I know it's a character flaw that I take this so personally and get so angry, but there you go.

Lisa B. said...

I'm pretty sure the student doesn't think you're stupid--I think the student thinks/hopes you don't read his/her paper very carefully. I think the student thinks/hopes you are tired enough of reading papers like his/hers that you might miss stuff. I think the student hopes that you will miss it in the big rush of grading. Sometimes the student is a complete ass, like the "how dare you!" student, but mostly, I think the student is crushed, often by his/her own bad planning, and thinks magically, "I will never do this again, but I have to do it this time." But not matter what the student's motivations--it's awful.

Renaissance Girl said...

LisaB, I have a lot of sympathy for the student whose life has come crashing down, and who has made a bad call out of a kind of desperation. But I'd say that about half the time I confront the offender, I get the indignant student, the one like Flavia has to deal with, the one who says, "You accuse me falsely!" or "What a coincidence! I can't believe that critic/ online source/ essay on the essay-purveying website covered the exact same material that I did, and in the same language too!" Or, more sickeningly, "Someone must have stolen my paper and put it online!" (Yes, that Stanley Fish can be shady that way...)

Jeff said...

I think it (perhaps) (note the double-hedge; I'm really just wondering with pixels here) has less to do with a student thinking you are stupid and a student really unable to recognize that her writing is different from Fish's (or SparkNotes, which isn't all that much of a stretch, actually). To be able to see real stylistic differences, or to be able to judge the quality of *the writing* is a mysterious voodoo for many students. The absurdity of their excuses, either the "how dare you" or the "they stole from me" might indicate that they really have been taken off-guard.

For all the blather about adolescents being so connected, I wonder how they imagine they'd get away with Google-able plagiarism in the first place.

Fretful Porpentine said...

I'm with Jeff; I think many of the students who plagiarize are not sensitive enough to written language to grasp that style exists. This, I suspect, is why I occasionally receive a paper cobbled together from four or five different online sources of wildly varying quality, or one with a single lucid paragraph (stolen from the introduction to one of the course texts!) amid a mass of barely intelligible English.

(Also, "That Stanley Fish can be shady that way" made me laugh out loud.)