Plagiarism Part 1

I’ve labeled this “Plagiarism Part 1” not because it will be part of some short series of blogs placed closely together but because the topic is important and I know I’ll write on it again sometime in the future. My position as an educator puts me into contact with a large number of students each semester and I can confidently say that many of them did not learn what they should have in high school. I don’t blame them because many of them have never heard of plagiarism before. Rather, I blame their teachers. Even beyond understanding the definition of plagiarism these students fail to value their own abilities and opinions.

One of the things I have trouble understanding is the fact that students tend to devalue their own opinions and thoughts. Most of the students start out thinking that what will win them the grade of an “A” is to regurgitate the book, or my lecture, or someone else who is considered “smart” or “an expert.” What I constantly tell them is that their opinion is valuable and that I’m interested in hearing it. I don’t want to hear what other people have said because I’ve probably read what other people have said. I want to know what they think about something.

What shocks me is that they don’t listen to this message. What shocks me even more is that maybe they don’t think anything at all. Their opinion of their own thoughts is so low that they go out of their way to copy someone else’s thoughts. If you apply for a job, or graduate school, or nearly anything you may be asked to compose a cover letter. You might even be asked to write about yourself. Students: What are you going to do if you don’t have an opinion? If you don’t know who you are? If you don’t trust your own ideas? The primary person you cheat with plagiarism is yourself.