Limp Bizkit wannabes triumph
February 8, 2002 5:38 AM   Subscribe

Limp Bizkit wannabes triumph over teachers integrity. Has the Internet become a recycling whirlpool of ideas? Are there any original thinkers in this next generation?
posted by Stretch (13 comments total)
Bravo for her to take a strong stand and resign over this.
posted by holycola at 6:38 AM on February 8, 2002

Ugly. We've had some discussions here about academic plagiarism, but this is a particularly shocking case. I'm impressed by her commitment, and disturbed at the stand that school board chose.

But then, I'm disturbed by a lot of things school boards do.
posted by BT at 6:39 AM on February 8, 2002

"One of the complaining parents was Theresa Woolley, who told The Kansas City Star that her daughter did not plagiarize. Rather, her daughter was not sure how much she needed to rewrite research material, she said."

What a lame excuse, she couldn't just ask the teacher how much rewriting was appropriate?

I'm of two minds about this. Plagiarism is wrong, and students should be appropriately punished for doing it (and this teacher was right, and the school board was wrong). However, the world WRT information is a different place today than it was even ten years ago and I think schools need to do some thinking about how to better integrate schoolwork with the freely-available information on the 'Net. I've harboured a thought for some time now that the way we define "education" just might change over the next few years, in that on some level it will shift from "learning a bunch of information you carry around in your head" to "having enough in your head to know what other information you need (and how to make sense of it), but more importantly: how to find that information".
posted by biscotti at 7:39 AM on February 8, 2002

Yes biscotti, but there's a difference between research and plagiarism. The reality is that the Internet makes both easier, in a way that wasn't available to me as a student. I still find it mindblowing that if I was given an essay subject, I could do a substantial proportion of the research necessary without leaving my desk.

Nobody can be totally objective when they write about an event. People have their own prejudices and opinions which colour their writing, no matter how hard they may try to hide it. The point of research is to get many different accounts, so that the researcher can get an idea of the truth of the matter from the researcher's perspective) and write an account that reflects this.

The actions of the school board are outrageous. The most telling part is about how honest kids feel they need to cheat as well to compete. If the teachers and the school boards are not looking after the interests of the honest kids then who is?
posted by salmacis at 8:05 AM on February 8, 2002

Has the Internet become a recycling whirlpool of ideas?

Isn't that almost Plastic's tagline? If the students did their research there, no wonder they failed....*rim shot*

But seriously, this is pretty straightforward for me. The teacher is right, the schoolboard, the parents and the students are wrong. The kids were too lazy to think and write for themselves. They don't even have to try that hard to get the basic research material on the internet. With search engines, the information comes right to you. Imagine if they could have only used library books. I bet the teacher would have gotten a copy of some passage from the first book the kid picked up.

I hope that this incident still goes into their permanent records somehow, because the CNN article raises a good point. Honest kids have to compete with these slackers for college slots, and its not fair for either the colleges or the honest kids if the cheaters aren't clearly labeled.
posted by thewittyname at 8:51 AM on February 8, 2002

But seriously, this is pretty straightforward for me. The teacher is right, the schoolboard, the parents and the students are wrong. The kids were too lazy to think and write for themselves.

Absolutely, though if we stop at the laziness of the kids, we're probably missing the point. One of the things we are doing, as we flail about in the torrent of information and new technology, is refusing to value the things we (supposedly) send people to school for to learn in the first place. If the parents or the board really understood that the purpose of school was to learn reasoning, composition, analysis, argument and some degree of intellectual ethics (I mean this narrowly, in the sense that school is a place you learn that it isn't right to pass off someone else's ideas or calculations as your own), this wouldn't be an issue, would it?

I think that we're currently seeing school as a machine to pass people through on their way to adulthood; the idea that learning might present challenges to students -- and that indeed some students may not meet challenges equally -- is no longer current among most Americans. That's what this case is evidence of, and I am very pessimistic, at this point, about things getting better before they get worse.
posted by BT at 9:34 AM on February 8, 2002

I'm torn a bit over this issue. A 20% cheating rate tells me that the teacher or that school may not have effectively explained plagiarism to the students. Twenty percent is way high. As a former English prof, I know that teaching students appropriate usage and attribution is not easy. Having students turn in drafts for teacher review is useful in helping the teacher discover these problems early in the writing process and work with the students to accurately use and attribute research material.

Of course, when the students know that the teacher can't effectively enforce the penalties for plagiarism, what incentive do they have to not do it?
posted by monkey-mind at 10:15 AM on February 8, 2002

I'm always amazed that there are any teachers at all.
No money, no respect and unrealistic expectations that go outside of your job description with no sort of backing from the institution that hired you.

That's a stunning lifestyle choice they've made. Are the brothels so full?
posted by dong_resin at 10:22 AM on February 8, 2002

I'm not surprised at this, as I know a lot of teachers, and they tell me such things as they're not allowed to flunk students that deserve it, etc.
posted by EatenByAGrue at 4:22 PM on February 8, 2002

biscotti is correct; the advent of the web, and especially broadband, enables students to access virtually any level of any subject that they need/want to for an assignment. The way the game is played has changed dramatically -- but the rules have not yet caught up with the game. Some really smart people, who will be reviled and scorned at first by many, will eventually come up with a "better way" for students at all levels to incorporate information technology into the learning process. In the meantime, stories like this poor teach will likely multiply, and students will continue to do homework the "easy" way by utilizing their own brains and methods for harnessing the power of the web.
posted by davidmsc at 9:05 PM on February 8, 2002

Biscotti and davidmsc are both utterly wrong. Biscott quotes the article ("One of the complaining parents was Theresa Woolley, who told The Kansas City Star that her daughter did not plagiarize. Rather, her daughter was not sure how much she needed to rewrite research material, she said.") and misses the point entirely when he replies "What a lame excuse, she couldn't just ask the teacher how much rewriting was appropriate?" The answer is no re-writing is acceptable without attribution. Re-writing a source is still plagiarism.

Biscotti and davidmsc go on to imply that academic standards need to catch up with the easy access of information. What they don't understand is that plagiarism has absolutely nothing to do with where the information comes from, but with how the student or research uses and attributes it. Academia has always encouraged use of other sources.

Contrary to what davidmsc claims, the rules caught up to the game long ago. The two main style guides that are used in the academic world are the Modern Language Association (used primarily in the humanities) and the American Psychological Association (used by sciences and social sciences). Both the MLA and the APA established standards in the mid-90s for citation of electronic sources. There are also more extensive standards sponsored by the ACW (Alliance for Computers and Writing) and published in the Columbia Guide to Online Style from Columbia University. Of the commonly used academic citation standards, only the Chicago Manual of Style has remained less than totally clear.

Biscotti and davidmsc are suffering from the same misinformation and disillusions that the Kansas students and Kansas school board are. Suggesting that the students are absolved from attributing the information or not representing someone else's work as their own just because the information comes from the Web is ludicrous and shows just how deeply the misunderstanding of plagiarism persists. Whether the student finds the information in a book, gets it from interviewing a person, or finds it by looking it up on Google, the student (or any researcher) is still responsible for attributing any ideas that are not their own original thought.
posted by monkey-mind at 4:57 AM on February 9, 2002

OK, monkey-mind, I understand your point -- and I'm not claiming that attribution or proper research are not necessary. I know all about the MLA and APA guidelines (having just purchased the spanking-new 5th edition APA manual). My point is much broader than that: the ease of access and sheer volume of information that is instantly available to everyone, including students, represents something truly historical. In the "old days," students would spend weeks in the library with their little index cards and binders, and that was research. Now, with literally only several clicks of a mouse, a student can access governments documents, think-tank reports, consumer studies, pictures and videos of far-flung animals and societies. Don't you think that teachers (and others) should re-evaluate how and why they are asking students to utilize this incredible tool? I know that it's being discussed in many schools & communities, but I really think that a revolution of some sort in education is either overdue or soon coming. Education truly is facing a "brave new world" and it won't wait forever.
posted by davidmsc at 8:35 AM on February 9, 2002

I've worked in the field of instructional technology field for the last seven years, so yes. More than you can imagine. And while the integration of technology into education is a worthy topic of discussion in and of itself, your point is so broad as to not be relevant to this particular situation in Kansas.

Teaching proper citation and attributions, the reason and importance of it, and the penalties, avoids these kinds of situations, whether the it's 1970 and the student is slogging down to the library or 2002 and they're surfing from home. Only the methods have changed; the principles haven't.
posted by monkey-mind at 10:24 AM on February 9, 2002

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