Copycats-A A +A
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
OUR English instructors for English I-II and Pilipino I-II dinned on us as incoming UP Diliman freshmen to avoid plagiarism for our term papers.
In English I-II, we were taught to write précis or summarization, paraphrasing quotes, and attribution. We were taught to use the UP system’s card catalog to follow the information and to jot down information on index cards the title of the book or magazine, the author, year of publication and the publishers, page of the quotation, and of course the quotation itself.
During the write-up of term papers, the instructors checked our footnotes. Sophomores warned us of eagle-eyed professors who can spot plagiarized or recycled research papers a mile away. The greater part of valor is to follow the straight and narrow path. Obey the rules!
The lessons served me well even outside the august halls of the country’s premier state university. In my adult life, I put those lessons of earlier years to good use in Columbia University and in writing contributed peer-reviewed articles for international publications.
It used to be that plagiarism could just as well be plaguearism. You plagiarize at your own risk—from getting a failing grade for the subject to expulsion.
Harsh? Here is what New York’s Columbia University, a school close to my heart, said: “Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of the work of others. It comes from the Latin word plagiaries, meaning ‘kidnapper.’ ”
Why am I digging it up, this that probably should interest only those studying in college? Unfortunately, the lessons learned in school are not what we see in our leaders, either in the legislature or judiciary.
Two years ago, the University Council of UP Diliman, denounced plagiarism and demanded that our Supreme Court uphold academic integrity.
The Council insisted that as educators, scholars and researchers, “our worth is measured by the integrity, excellence and discipline we bring to our work. Plagiarism undermines that integrity and destroys the value of scholarship.
“We strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to exonerate Justice Mariano del Castillo from charges of plagiarism based on the lack of malice or negligence on his part (in In Re: Del Castillo, A.M. No. 10-7-17-SC, 15 October 2010).”
Lately, the issue on the debates on the reproductive bill got sidetracked with another case of plagiarism. Apart from Justice Mariano del Castillo, even Mikey Arroyo’s Ang Galing Pinoy party-list copied the Left’s Bayan Muna’s organizational documents. Then there’s Sen. Tito Sotto who made a pitch against the reproductive bill, using various arguments. His problem is not what he said, but where he got his arguments.
Even the New York Times noted that Mr. Sotto had plagiarized his speech. Careful readers proved that he’d copied and pasted, without citation, large portions from as many as at least five online sources. Among them were the writings of Sarah Pope, who blogs as “the Healthy Home Economist”; a New York University Web site on the notable birth-control advocate Margaret Sanger; and American activist Janice Formichella, who ironically promotes reproductive rights.
Nowadays, we don’t need eagle-eyed professors to detect plagiarism. People seek the counsel of Prof. Google, and the copy-paste feature of computers to do fact-checks.
In Castillo and Sotto’s cases, they lifted arguments almost wholesale, avoided attribution, and worse, argued against the ideas of their sources. The reproductive rights issue and the comfort women debates were sidetracked because of plagiarism. The problem, though, is that no one can expel these plagiarists.
That’s the tragedy. What we have is a double standard that can expel young plagiarists from school, but not their elders, supposedly the youth’s role models, from government. That’s the worst lesson of all.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 12, 2012.