On plagiarism

UPDATED 2015-10-30

Or, It’s That Time Of Year Again (2, or whatever number we’re up to).

imageMy FREN 101 students have their first Big Scary Written Composition assignment coming up. These are for the most part absolute beginners, with some false beginners, and they have now had six and a half weeks of French. So they’re ready for the Big Scary stuff: being beaten with a big stick and having the Fear of God put into them about The Perils Of Plagiarism.

Plagiarism sucks.

We all know it sucks because it’s theft, lazy, mean, horrible, despicable, immoral or amoral, insulting, reprehensible, and generally makes anyone who is themselves a maker of things prone to fits of pique, unhealthy stress, and the physical agony of resisting the atavistic urge to punch perpetrators.

It sucks less obviously because The Fear discourages students from any form of reference, and encourages their Academic Spirit Guides and other Learnership Leaders to give students assignments that suck because they’re either all about citation (with extreme examples in courses on “academic writing,” whatever that is) or they try to avoid it altogether.

All three Styles of Suck force an ugly unnatural divide between student writing and reference to others in a way that is bad for writing, reading, thinking, and intelligent being.  (more…)