Plagiarism in Fool’s Garden

I caught one of my student’s cheating today.

It wasn’t the first time cheating has been a problem. However it was the first time I’ve been asked to explain why quoting the lyrics to Fool’s Garden “Lemon Tree” as an essay interpreting a photo is wrong. (Seriously? Like that wasn’t an easy enough assignment to bullshit through already.)

We slowly worked through how copying work is like cheating. Except that cheating seems to be a loose concept to most Koreans. In a society where the welfare of the group takes priority over the individual, why does it matter to help someone by letting them copy?

Besides I’m teaching English, it’s hard to foresee situations outside of a university where students will not be able to ask friendly people for help. This usually prevents me from coming down to hard on my students for shouting out answers, talking through translations or spelling words out loud.

I figure if they are teaching each other they are learning better than from me lecturing. Nonetheless I was shocked to find the song quoted verbatim by a student who struggles to write complete sentences when left on her own.

I’m still not sure we left very clear on the “plagiarism” issue. Even my oldest and most advanced students struggle to not copy everything word for word since that is what the education is designed to teach them to do.

I suppose it just seems cruel to punish someone for doing exactly what they’ve been taught to do. Copy everything you learn, regurgitate perfectly, BUT when you are speaking, reading and writing English you must give credit to your sources.

This is what I get to tell children who’s public school tests usually involve quoting texts verbatim to guarantee good grades. Clearly time with me is not confusing the children at all.

Now I’m just looking forward to an essay about “Good night, baby, I just don’t want to say good-bye,” with a dash of terribly mangled French.


About kristamaesmith

I'm a writer living with my boyfriend in Salt Lake City, Utah where I cheer for the Jazz, walk my dog, and spend too much money in local restaurants. I work in marketing for higher education and blog about food, travel, television, and whatever shiny moment catches my fancy.
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2 Responses to Plagiarism in Fool’s Garden

  1. Rikki says:

    My favorite is that every class in college started with a lecture on plagiarism … but lots of media folks do it blatantly … sad day.

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