Revolution Lullabye

May 12, 2009

Howard, Standing in the Shadow of Giants

Howard, Rebecca Moore. Standing in the Shadow of Giants: Plagiarists, Authors, Collaborators. Stamford, CT: Ablex Publishing Corporation, 1999.

Howard advances a new theory of authorship that contests current understandings of plagiarism and the construction of the student-plagiarist-criminal. Patchwriting, a term she coins for writer-text collaboration (likened to imitation, mimesis, re(formation)), is not a cheating behavior that should be punished and labeled as plagiarism. Rather, it is a necessary and acceptable way of learning, a method used and endorsed throughout history as a way for novices to learn the langauge needed to enter a discourse community. Students who patchwrite in their essays and papers with the intent of understanding difficult texts, of learning, not deceit, and are doing something all writers do – collaborate with texts – except that these novice students aren’t as adept at covering their traces as professional authors are. Her theory of authorship stands in opposition to the notion of the autonomous, original author and seeks to disrupt the liberal cultural hierarchy that maintains the current power structure that has an interest in keeping students, the masses, from finding a voice. Howard argues for a pedagogy based in summary-writing as a way to teach students what patchwriting is (and to use it towards pedagogical good) and ends the book by calling for a revision of current college plagiarism policies.

Quotable Quotes

definition of patchwriting = “copying from a source text and then deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one synonym for another” (xvii)

“The inclusion of patchwriting in the category of plagiarism denies students opportunities to become scholars” (xx)

“The prospect of decriminalizing patchwriting causes seismic disturbances in composition studies” (xx).

“We do not write alone, and often it is texts, not people, with whom we collaborate” (8).

Patchwriting is “a discursive operation not against the source author but toward the content in which the operation occurs” (19).

Need to teach students “how to manage their patchwriting in ways that are stylistically sophisticated and academically acceptable and that contribute to the writer’s understanding of the source text” (140)

“Let ‘patchwriting’ describe the act of enthusiasm in which students collaborate with their source texts for the purposes of understanding them and entering their discourse. Let us respond pedagogically to that phenomenon” (166).

Notable Notes

four properties of authorship: autonomy, proprietorship, originality, morality (77)

move from neutral mimesis/originality binary to a hierarchal plagiarist/author binary

do not conflate plagiarism and copyright. Copyright is state regulated, legal norms to protect the individual author. Plagiarism rules are locally regulated, societal norms to protect a community….you can change plagiarism rules without changing copyright law

there is allowable plagiarism – ghost-writing, Teflon, great-wit, postmodern (104) also traditions of African American folk preaching, non-Western education and rhetoric, digital hypertext

long list of theorists, philosophies: Locke, Descartes, Hobbes, Foucault, Addison, Emerson, Wordsworth, Edward Young, Bahktin, Quintilian, Plato, Homer

plagiarism dectection software: “This technology would freeze and reassert the notion of authorship in which writing is unitary, originary, proprietary, and linear, and in which the text is the locus and sole arbiter of meaning” – not allow for meaning in context, in the reader, in the author’s intent (131)

patchwriting has a ton to do with reading comprehension (cognitivist) and entering an intellectual community (social constructivist) (145)

Her breakdown: plagiarism – act of intention for deceit (buying a paper, on-purpose-cheating); failure to cite – failing to cite out of ignorance of academic citation conventions; patchwriting – a transitional stage

both failure to cite and patchwriting are pedagogical opportunities, not occassions to terrorize and punish students.

trying to rid patchwriting from students is asking them to be less complex, polyphonus, and honest & true

Whiteman and Gordon, The Price of an ‘A’

Whiteman, Sherri A. and Jay L. Gordon. “The Price of an ‘A’: An Educator’s Responsibility to Academic Honesty.” The English Journal. 91.2 (November 2001), 25-30.

This article begins with a short piece by Whiteman, a high school English teacher, where she laments students as unethical, plagiarizing cheaters and calls on teachers to rally against them and those who allow rampant Internet cheating to happenĀ and profit. She is countered by Gordon, a college professor who argues that if students were given more specific assignments that were difficult to plagiarize, a lot of the cheating would, by necessity, disappear. Whiteman answers Gordon by saying the kinds of assignments teachers give are to prepare them for future work in the academy and, good assignment or not, students should behave ethically and not plagiarize.

Quotable Quotes

“The invaluable benefits of abundant access to the information superhighway have been outweighed by its ability to create non-thinking, non-reading patrons of plagiarism” (26).

“How do we as educators reconcile our ability to teach effectively with our students’ ability to cheat and steal without our knowledge?” (26)

“Students do not plagiarize in a vacuum” (27)

Notable Notes

Whiteman gives up, says she should only focus on the “potential of my more ambitious and honest students” (26)

high school v. college perceptions on the issue

still demonizing, infantilizing students

investigate the problem – what can teachers do to prevent plagiarism? Is changing the assignment enough? What about schools’ overreliance on papers, essays, to evaluate students? Are their too many grades? (mine) connection to what plagiarism is – is it all about students being unethical?

it’s not about baffling, bewildering, upsetting, disheartening teachers. it’s bigger than that (me)

Atkins and Nelson, Plagiarism and the Internet

Atkins, Thomas and Gene Nelson. “Plagiarism and the Internet: Turning the Tables.” The English Journal. 90.4 (March 2001), 101-104.

Atkins and Nelson, two high school teachers, teach at the high school that test piloted (the creator of the program was an alma mater.) They claim that the software has cut student plagiarism to nearly zero and advocate its use to both prevent plagiarism and to make sure students are getting as good as an education as they could possibly get, one that is in jeopardy if Internet plagiarism goes uncontrolled. They argue that teachers and schools, by using a program like Turnitin, insist on high academic integrity, an expectation that is beneficial to students. Their article gives a sample paper that shows how Turnitin is able to identify passages that were lifted from internet sites and other papers.

Quotable Quotes

“The teacher is the final determiner of whether or not the paper was plagiarized. The program is a tool, albiet a powerful tool, but it is not the final determiner. The teacher, with his or her knowledge, skill, and experience, will make the final decision” (104).

“If students are allowed to use others’ words and ideas as their own, they deny themselves the opportunity to develop writing fluency and critical thinking skills” (104).

The goal of education = “The development of comprehesive skills, powerful understanding, and excellent ethics” (104).

Notable Notes

Turnitin is supposed to be preventative, not punitive

students are in awe of the power of the program, witness its capabilities and then, I suppose, cut out the plagiarism

all of plagiarism – stealing and buying papers, patchwritten text, is treated the same

Bowden, Coming to Terms

Bowden, Darsie. “Coming to Terms: Plagiarism.” The English Journal 85:4 (April 1996), 82-84.

In order to understand plagiarism, you must address and study the value systems that define it. This overview of current conversations about plagiarism explains the Latin origin of plagiarism (a person who owns slaves, a master) and shows how plagiarism is a decidedly Western phenomenon, drawing on the the three major problems with plagiarism, all grounded in Western thought and ideology: it disrespects a teacher and an institution, it breaches an ethical academic integrity code, and breaches culture’s adherence to the concept of original thinking. Different cultures have different beliefs about who can own language, thus allowing for the kinds of collaboration that are taboo in Western institutions.

Notable Notes

no real argument, just a kind of “here we are” account of plagiarism in education

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