Friday, August 06, 2010

One post on plagiarism and then I'm done

The issue of student plagiarism has been a hot topic recently, and in particular a story in the New York Times made email rounds.  The basic argument is that the young generation of today is so immersed in technology that its members happily plagiarize more than past generations, sometimes without even knowing it.

I don't buy it, so I wish we could stop the hand-wringing.

I have a pet peeve about arguments criticizing the current generation versus the past.  Growing up, I read plenty about Gen X, the ridiculous moniker for my own generation, that made no sense to me at all.  Now we hear all about "Millenials" and all their problems.  Well, I want data, and it is in short supply.  The NYT article, for example, was based primarily on talking to some people at three different universities.

I recommend Miguel Centellas' blog post on the topic.  I agree that plagiarism is a constant, and technology actually makes plagiarism easier to spot than in the past.  I have yet to see data showing that students understand plagiarism less than past generations, or that they have a different view of ownership.

However, as I creak toward middle age (or am I already there?) I do understand how easy it is to romanticize the past.  When I was in college, for example, I stopped studying only to help the old and infirm cross the street.  I refused to play video games because they were un-intellectual and I read novels only if they were over 400 pages because my attention span was so long.

But kids these days...


Rosemary Joyce,  8:49 AM  

Bravo. Sociologists of education have demonstrated that current college students are at the extreme top end of the distribution on grades (something every high school senior working him- or her-self to death and not getting into the college of choice knows) and yet, to hear some faculty tell it, they haven't noticed it. These students work hard (if given the right environment).

Much of the plagiarism hysteria comes linked with a Luddite fear of "the internet". The main danger I find there is that students fresh from high school don't always know how to assess the reliability of information.

I've been teaching since the 1980s. Every year I see the same, small, percentage of (mostly inadvertent) plagiarism. And most of that is simple failure to cite a source presented in the course.

Steven Taylor 9:40 PM  

When I was in college, for example, I stopped studying only to help the old and infirm cross the street.

Slacker! I had the book open with one hand and used one eye to study whilst the other eye and hand helped the elderly!!

But then again, I think you are two years my junior, thus proving the hypothesis about the younger generation!

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