9.574 plagarism

Humanist (mccarty@phoenix.Princeton.EDU)
Sun, 25 Feb 1996 22:48:16 -0500 (EST)

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 9, No. 574.
Center for Electronic Texts in the Humanities (Princeton/Rutgers)
Information at http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/

[1] From: David Hoover <hoover@is.NYU.EDU> (56)
Subject: Re: 9.570 plagarism? in the post-modern world

On Thu, 22 Feb 1996, Humanist wrote:

> Professor Hoover's remarks here (as well as the ones I've cut, about
> plagiarism in his daughter's school and the priority given to dealing with
> racial epithets) suggest that we may mean somewhat different things by
> "desperation" in this context. Perhaps I should have said "despair." I was


> do, and we speak an alien language. They are desperate because we ask them
> to do things they find incomprehensible, and then we find it
> incomprehensible that they find us incomprehensible.

> newer French movies. Think about the common practice, on the Web, whereby
> people spend hours and hours and hours of their time creating beautiful
> little buttons, icons, background graphics-- and then post them to the
> public domain so that everyone can use them; think about the concept of
> shareware and freeware; and now ask yourself whether what we understand so
> clearly as "plagiarism" is likely to be so clearcut to students who haven't
> grown up, as we did, in a world completely dominated by print and the norms
> of print culture.

This is a good point. It may well be that students do not understand the
boundaries, and that the boundaries are shifting. If so, all the more
reason to re-emphasize and clarify the differences between "covering" a
song (and paying royalties to the original artist, presumably), and
cutting and pasting a paper together out of _Encarta_ or from a Web site,
or buying a paper. Surely the unacceptability of these activities is not
purely bound to print culture.

> And these are students for whom school is actually attractive, something
> they like to do. Are you really prepared to say that "plagiarism" matters
> more than racial epithets in environments where students-- teenagers-- carry
> weapons and may use them to avenge a slur (or to avoid being beaten by
> members of another gang)?

This is not the context in which I wondered about the priorities of the
schools, but I think I would say that it ought to be at least as serious
an offense to cheat on a New York Regents exam, say, as to call someone
an unpleasant name. The latter shows the student to be insensitive, rude,
and lacking in manners, while the former strikes at the heart of the
educational process.

My son goes to a "magnet school" for the
> sciences, housed as a school-within-a-school, the latter being almost 100
> per cent African American. The school administration has now closed off the
> second-floor during lunch hour (which is where the science academy
> facilities are), closed the campus to prevent students leaving for lunch and
> not returning, and shortened the lunch period. The science academy kids are
> transferring out in droves (my son isn't bothering, because he's graduating
> in May), and the others are behaving increasingly like the prison inmates
> the administration evidently assumes them to be. Plagiarism wouldn't be
> very high on my list of things to worry about if I had to try to manage that
> school, or indeed any other high school.

I hope and believe that there are still thousands of high schools in
which plagiarism and other forms of intellectual dishonesty are high on
the priority list, though in schools with significant levels of violence,
drugs, and weapons, no one would fault the school for dealing first with
issues of personal safety.

David L. Hoover, Assoc. Prof. of Engl. hoover@is.nyu.edu /212-998-8832
NYU English Department, 19 Univ. Pl., NY, NY 10003
Webmaster, English Department http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/english