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Ironic Plagiarisms

This one takes the cake. On a recent exam, three students plagiarized wikipedia. This was an in-class exam. Instead of just learning the material, the students memorized vast hunks of text from Wikipedia by rote and then wrote them on their test papers. No citation, nothing. (And, as usual, the rote memorization made it harder for them to formulate and express an opinion. Just as I’ve always warned people it will do.)

Why is it ironic? The topic of the question was copyright. Two of the three students plagiarized a public domain text discussing copyright. It just doesn’t get any more full-circle than that.

I’m planning to assign them, for their, “Thanks for not booting me from class, teacher,” make-up assignments, a certain number of hours fighting plagiarism on campus. Posters, handbills, drafting a bilingual primer on the subject for distribution at the beginning of semester, having them collect signatures by coercing students to pledge not to cheat in school… I’m not sure exactly what, but they’re going to have to be part-time academic-standards activists. I’m not letting them off easy this time, boyo.

UPDATE (1 May 2007): Another professor I work with was googling for plagiarism when I dropped into his office this morning. He’s found some copied passed from a site titled something like, and his comment on the paper was, “This certainly didn’t help your grade, did it?” The ensuing discussion reassured me that, while it’s important to note plagiarism happens everywhere, this is one country where, it’s not unfair to say, plagiarism happens so often as to be bewildering.

I sure hope the engineers who designed the train bridge I rely on when I go to Seoul didn’t cheat on their exam. I sure hope the guys who designed the buses I ride on didn’t cheat on that test about designing safe, stable, non-exploding buses.

Wait, what am I talking about. The designs for the buses were copied too, right? Oh man…

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