Skip to comments.Ryan Spiegal: Blair incident sign of the times
Posted on 05/14/2003 11:25:42 AM PDT by randog
Ryan Spiegal: Blair incident sign of the times
We have an epidemic on our hands, and I'm not talking about severe acute respiratory syndrome. The scourge of plagiarism seems to be everywhere these days.
For me, the scandal exposed at The New York Times involving former university journalism student Jayson Blair, whom I knew from my days in College Park, is the straw that broke the camel's back. If the Times' allegations are true, and they appear to be, then Blair - former editor in chief of The Diamondback and darling of the journalism college - managed to con even the most scrupulous newspaper professionals in the nation for about four years. Though Blair never graduated from the journalism college, I did, and I am appalled by the mark of humiliation that such a revelation casts upon an otherwise excellent and prestigious journalism program.
But he is just one particularly egregious example among many who seem to feel it is perfectly acceptable to cheat and lie one's way through their academic and professional careers. Witness discoveries as local as the recent cheating by 12 students in the Robert H. Smith School of Business and as vast as the improprieties on Wall Street. Plagiarism is only one subcategory of this sad phenomenon.
I'm no saint, but it always seemed perfectly clear to me that plagiarism in academics and in professional settings should never be tolerated. Plagiarism is an act of cowards, loafers and thieves who prefer a quick fix over hard work, honesty and original thought. The problem is made that much worse when such frauds are perpetrated by people who are specifically entrusted by the public to purvey the truth - people like news reporters.
As a journalism student and as a law student, I have been trained to have a meticulous preoccupation with integrity in my written work, and rightly so. But how is it that so many others - in college, in law school, in their jobs - do not feel a similar conviction? Are we failing to adequately provide courses on ethics? Are we failing to sufficiently define what plagiarism is?
Lately it seems students are just okay with rampant plagiarism, and it only becomes an issue when someone is caught in the act every so often.
I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that our generation has come to accept as common practice the recycling of someone else's old essay with a new name on it. I have seen it firsthand among college and law school peers.
Indeed, the Blair incident has caused so little outrage among students that not a single student editorial or letter castigating him has appeared in The Diamondback (at least not to my knowledge). This man was editor in chief of The Diamondback, a position conferring great power and responsibility within the university community. From there, he meteorically rose to an influential spot in one of the most prestigious newspapers in the world.
What does it say about our values that, first, it took four years to expose his deceptions (and who knows how many times he might have lied in The Diamondback) and, second, such behavior is not more harshly condemned? Are educators or parents to blame?
It's easier to pass the buck, but students themselves should be refusing to turn a blind eye to the fundamental immorality of plagiarism. If we don't start taking responsibility to purge this epidemic from our midst, our venerated honor codes will become meaningless. I fear they already have.
Ryan Spiegal is a university graduate. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think we do.
Our public schools are promoting the "ideal" of kids working in groups--on almost everything.
Students work on dozens of projects together (during and after school hours). A good grade gets shared by the whole group, even if one child does most of the work.
This blurring of personal responsibility for personal outcomes can easily lead to the student's thinking "Why should I work hard? What's yours is mine."
It appears that Mr. Spiegal is attempting to become the most loathed man on the planet.
It's time to get this country back on the right path. Those who excel are looked up to, those who cheat are looked down on. Plagerism is stealing. It's taking that which is not yours and claiming it for yourself.
Consider how Joe Biden got a pass on it...
I have no kids, but I've heard of this. Reminds me of my senior project in college (grrrr!).
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