How One English Professor Plans to Turn Melania Trump Into a Teachable Moment
almost 2 years ago
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"Q. How do you deal with plagiarism in your classroom? A. I give a lot of grace for plagiarism, especially with my freshman students, and my, um, well, my university still calls it remedial English — they really shouldn’t. You know, the ones that aren’t ready for English 101 so they’re in 100. If I’d have seen the transcript for the [Melania Trump] speech for one of my students, that would have been a red flag for me to give grace, but also for me to have a conversation about the ethics of it and come to my office and be like, "Here’s what you did. Here’s the things that look exactly like what you have on paper. I can see how you used that as a model, and it bled into your work, but you need to revise to either say, ‘Just like Michelle Obama said, my story is similar to Michelle Obama’s,’ or to write anew without anything in front of you so you only have your own ideas." But I wouldn’t give a grade for that. You would get a zero until you revised that."
"Q. Many academics have said it’s difficult to get students, especially undergraduates, to grasp the concept of plagiarism. Why do you think it’s so tough for academics to nail down a formula to explain it to students? A. I think it’s really hard because starting in K-12 we talk about plagiarism in the formula: You did something, you got caught, you got punished. But in actuality what we’re doing when we’re doing academic work is we’re having a conversation. We’re talking to the field, we’re talking to the past, other current scholars and people are talking about the same thing and engaging with the same ideas: Of course we are stealing from each other. Of course we are building on each other. That’s the whole point of the field. Scholars and academics, we have a much more nuanced understanding of that, and we’re empowered by those conversations. I want to do literary criticism. I want to have those conversations."
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