March 20, 2009

Free Stuff

I know now why I've put off grading these English 101 essays. I'm more than half-way through and I have to spend an inordinate amount of time going over their sources to ensure proper attribution. Do Grade 3 teachers worry about plagiarism like we do up here in Grade 13 (a standard joke at our community college)?

When a generation thinks it's all okay to download music, books, software all for free I can tell they haven't internalized that old saying of my friend's: You don't know whose it is, but you know it isn't yours. In other words, if you don't own it, you can't have it. If it doesn't have your name on it, you can't take it home with you unless you pay for it. If you find it, you don't say Finders-Keepers-Losers-Weepers--you try and find the owner unless doing so is completely out of line with the value of the item or where you found it--say a penny on the side of the road.

Perhaps the sloppy scholarship I'm seeing comes from being seduced by the strength of the author's words, which make writing look so easy, so smooth. Maybe the plagiarism is accidental, due to ignorance. Hard to believe that a student can come to my classroom never having heard about plagiarism. Or perhaps it's laziness.

I like a freebie as well as the next person, always lining up at the Clinique counter for my Beauty Bonus. And when my husband goes to a convention I tell him to pick up whatever they're giving away--free stuff is always a good time.

Just not in my English papers.


  1. Hey Elizabeth, I think the plagiarism battle is my least favorite. Last year, I had an 11th grade student cut and paste Wikipedia into an AP analytical paper! He denied it, insisted I had changed Wikipedia to match his paper, and his mom threatened to sue me!
    Thanks for your response to my spring piece. I appreciate New England more now! Cheers!

  2. No, down here at fourth grade I don't think my students are sophisticated (lazy) enough to use others words or know how to insert them into their pieces.
    I do teach that plagiarism is wrong and at their age they tend to over react to the rule. Meaning, when I bring it up they have looks of horror at stealing from another. Wish it would continue throughout their academic careers.

  3. I'm teaching citations in fourth grade. Hopefully, if enough other teachers do this when kids are young (and I know they're doing it), there'll be a trickle-up effect. We can ONLY hope!

  4. We definitely don't worry as much about it grade 3! I tell them that copying is lying, but it is much more obvious when they have copied so I don't worry about checking sources. I think that when I was in University I had a hard time b/c I was sure I couldn't say it any better! I was grateful to a professor who spent a lot of time showing us how to quote things properly.

  5. I teach it in 5th, but I think you may have nailed the reason. Sometimes I struggle with the words I have read when researching and trying to organize it and make it mine...don't know if that makes sense.