One of the best ways to help students understand plagiarism is to put the question to them. This week, there were two interesting plagiarism accusations. The first was made against a photo entered into the Sony World Photo Awards. The second was made against the heavy metal band Metallica for their recent song “Moth Into Flame.” Check out the cases and have your students consider whether or not the plagiarism accusation was warranted. I think you will have a really great discussion.
Plagiarism can seriously damage someone’s reputation. Just this month, an editor at the NY Daily News fired one of its editors for removing attributions in articles. The editor didn’t commit plagiarism himself, rather, through his editing he made it appear another writer did. It’s a mess, I know. Here’s the story: Editor at Daily News Fired.
So, what’s this got to do with our students? The article highlights how damaging an accusation of plagiarism is to someone’s credibility. This month, many of my students are getting into universities. However, a few, are having difficulty. One in particular received a few rejections. When asked, the student’s plagiarism case from their junior year was highlighted by an admission official as causing serious concern. Universities take plagiarism very seriously, just look at any university plagiarism policy. Our students need to understand the gravity of plagiarism and how it can affect how people (especially admissions counselors or future bosses) view them. The CNN story is only one case, there are plenty of others. Today, help your students understand the risk of committing plagiarism and how it might prevent them from their future goals.
A week ago, Saturday Night Live, a comedy sketch show that’s aired for forty years, was accused of plagiarizing one of the week’s sketches. The admittedly hilarious skit depicted a team asked to draw Muhammad during a kind of Pictionary contest. It was very popular and elicited a lot of laughs. However, within two days of the show’s airing, news outlets were crying plagiarism–in fact, that’s the second time this year SNL has seemingly committed plagiarism.
Here is the SNL skit:
Interestingly, a Canadian comedy show, 22 Minutes, aired a similar sketch this past January. The sketch has been available on Youtube since January 15, 2015. Here’s the video:
Looks pretty similar right?
This past week, I showed both videos to my students asking them why it appears SNL plagiarized. After doing so, I gave them this CNN article (http://edition.cnn.com/2015/05/14/opinions/obeidallah-snl-not-plagiarized/) which argues that SNL did not intentionally plagiarize. Instead, the writer argues, it’s just coincidental. I asked my students to argue against the article. They were easily able to destroy the writer’s arguments citing his ridiculous naivety.
I agreed. Try it out on your students.
In the end, I see the article as assuming that no one will plagiarize because no one wants to get caught, therefore, it has to be a simple error or mere coincidence. The writer fails to recognize, even though he does point out that it exists, the super-competitive environment an SNL writer inhabits. This alone creates the temptation to cheat. That temptation sometimes outweighs the fear of getting caught. It’s the same thing for students. It’s not just bad students who plagiarize, good ones do too. When the desire to succeed at all costs outweighs the fear of getting in trouble for cheating, THEY CHEAT. It’s our job to create a learning environment that does not push success at all costs and utilizes originality and creativity as requirements to complete assessments. The students picked up on this. It’s a pity that CNN is so naive to think that good, talented writers are above the temptation to cheat.
“Mrs. Simpson, don’t you worry. I watched Matlock in a bar last night. The sound wasn’t on, but I think I got the gist of it. ” –Lionel Hutz
There have been a lot of high profile plagiarism issues recently. These cases can be used as tools to highlight the consequences of plagiarism for students. For example, Senator John Walsh suffered public shame and had his master’s degree revoked when it was discovered that he had plagiarized his thesis (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/11/us/politics/plagiarism-costs-degree-for-senator-john-walsh.html?_r=0). Recently, potential presidential candidate Ben Carson came under fire for plagiarism in a recent book of his (http://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/08/politics/carson-plagiarism-charges/). Ben Carson’s scandal along with past plagiarism scandals by Joe Biden and Rand Paul promise to bring the issue of plagiarism into the spotlight during the upcoming presidential races.
Unfortunately, other cases of plagiarism are rampant. The actor Shia LaBeouf has had a long history of passing off other ideas as his own (http://time.com/6094/shia-labeouf-plagiarism-scandal/) and Vladimir Putin is apparently as good at plagiarism as he is at warmongering (http://www.rferl.org/content/article/1067113.html). Other famous people who plagiarized include activist Jane Goodall, Roots author Alex Haley, and many more (http://www.politico.com/gallery/2014/07/10-high-profile-plagiarism-cases/001951-027782.html). Sharing with your students these cases and the embarrassment committing plagiarism brought them can help students begin to realize the seriousness of plagiarism.
*Lionel Hutz picture and quote from http://consequenceofsound.net/