I thought to myself at 6 am when I read the first student blog entry in an online class, please, dear god, don’t let this post be plagiarized–it’s so good. So TurnItIn (a site that detects plagiarism), and plagiarized it is; not all of it but unique phrases and specific words from the same site. Now comes the immense increase in workload: the checking of all previous posts to determine if the student plagiarized more than once, which she did according to an email that I had sent earlier, the emailing back and forth to the student, the chair of the department, if pervasive and egregious, which I determined it wasn’t, the possibility of official reporting the student if plagiarism continues, etc. One extremely difficult task is phrasing a response in such a way that she learns ethically why plagiarism must be avoided, avoids plagiarizing in the future, and stays in the class.
Resorting to the thinking of others and often using their words when unsure of ourselves, I argue are common methods even among adults. Observing, reading, listening, and analyzing data are arduous tasks, ones that I often put aside because I’m pressed for time, too busy working and doing “stuff,” really don’t care about the outcome because of my personal position, am reluctant to learn and thus become ignorant of all the facts. But most importantly I hate being marginalized, manipulated.
Once in a while I’m caught in a power struggle between two or more points of view regarding one significant or insignificant action. Either I decline to offer a comment out of fear of repercussions or I offer a comment in the manner of Polonius’ speech to Laertes, a comment that later I determine is not one that reflects my thinking. Thus forcing me to give a shit. Sometimes my “to be or not to be” results solely from intuition, which we all know depends upon our brain’s ability to make connections based on the information we have and our gut. Or I change my mind, after rest and reflection.
It’s like combining those child games of pass the message and musical chairs–my statements become misinterpreted when one just happens to mention what I said to a friend or a colleague or an enemy and then that person to another and to another, to what seems like ad infinitum, but which eventually becomes wisps of remembered conversation. Or, heaven forbid, he or she purposefully mis-states what I said to advance her or his own agenda. The result is either I fall on my ass because the chair was ripped out from under me by someone who moved faster or I hang there on the edge of this giant precipice clutching scrub brush for dear life. But no matter whether I comment or not, act or not, my social position is altered, a fearful situation when moving alone through this world.