« Friday Frenzy: Vouchers, McCain and the Economy Oh My! | Main | Sen. McCain on Education: Hello? Is Anyone Home? »

If a Student of Yours Plagiarized, What Would Be the Punishment?


That's the question I started thinking about given the flap over Sen. Barack Obama's "plagiarism" of some lines from a speech of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a big-time Obama supporter.

I'm in grad school now, and as a student, plagiarism (or the borrowing of another's work and claiming it as one's own) is strictly prohibited. Even unintentional plagiarism is grounds for course failure or even expulsion from school. Simply put, as a student, you're supposed to cite from where you get your information—even if you get "permission" from the original source, as Obama said he did. I suspect the same is true in high school, and at any grade, for that matter.

(UPDATE: Dave, a school administrator and a great Ohio blogger, reports in the comment section of his blog item on this subject that if a student did what Obama did, he would be disciplined—as would the student who knowingly gave his work to another student.)

Clearly, politics is different. And originality is difficult to find in political rhetoric. Obama points out that his chief rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, borrows some of his signature phrases, such as "turning the page." Still, I'd say politicians are not role models for how you should—and should not—attribute information.


I have to agree. Obama would have been better off to attribute.

But, the bottom line is, politicians just don't do that. They are, as you say, horrible role models when it comes to attribution.

I've found the "plagarism" issue discussion very strange over all, since it seemed to focus so much on turns of phrase ("vote your aspirations, not your fears" etc.) than on ideas. Some of the follow-up discussions have almost gotten to the point of suggesting that cliches could somehow be trademarked (Does "Yes we can!" belong to Barack Obama, or Bob the Builder or Caesar Chavez??).

In academic work everything you write is supposed to be original, or referenced -- even when you're quoting yourself. Clearly, you can't do that in stump speeches... I think it's graceful for politicians to credit where they get new ideas, or people who've given them a new way of looking at things, or a pithy new turn of phrase. But I think after a while, if their melding it into their overall message, and its origins are traceable, I don't think you need to keep saying "as my good pal Deval Patrick put it" any more than I think one candidate has to avoid "all fired up and ready to go" because some other candidate said it already.

And I guess for me the question vis-a-vis students is not so much would this be okay in a paper they wrote, but would it be okay in a debate presentation?

Comments are now closed for this post.

Follow This Blog


Most Viewed on Education Week



Recent Comments