Phi Beta Cons

New Book on College Plagiarism

Today’s Wall Street Journal has a review of a new book on college plagiarism — Susan Blum’s My Word!

The reviewer, Christine Rosen of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, mostly praises the book, but thinks that Blum cuts the plagiarizers a bit too much slack: “But she often recasts a student’s choice to pass off someone else’s work as his own as a failure of culture rather than a failure of character.” Blum writes that we have to understand that students “have absorbed the cultural messages about competition, success, multitasking, and the bottom line,” to which Rosen replies, “This is an artful dodge: It is possible to compete and succeed, even to ‘multitask,’ without bending the rules.”

Well said. One of the techniques for, as Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it, “defining deviancy down,” is to offer excuses for all kinds of bad behavior, including those supposedly irresistible “cultural messages.” Serious academics should resist the assault on rules and hold students accountable when they violate them.

George Leef — George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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