Plagiarism: Students Are Not To Blame

997 words - 4 pages

Is plagiarism really occurring on college campuses? Should it be considered a serious offense? Do the students who plagiarize know that what they are doing is wrong? These are some of the questions that Edward M. White discusses in his essay “Student Plagiarism as an Institutional and Social Issue.” Being a professor himself, White sees firsthand the occurrence of cheating on college campuses. He claims that blatant plagiarism “subverts the very nature of education and reflects some aspects of what is worst in American society” because it is morally wrong (202). The backing for his claim is the fact that plagiarizing is stealing someone else’s words. Thus he warrants that anything morally wrong undermines education and shows the worst side of our society. There are many instances in which it is completely clear that the student is knowingly plagiarizing. There are also instances in which the student may be confused about plagiarism. This essay discusses the fact that student plagiarism is rampant on college campuses, but the blame may not lie entirely with the students.

In his essay, White claims that the amount of student plagiarism is shocking, but the teachers need to make sure that students have been taught about citing sources. Many professors automatically assume that students have been taught everything they need to know for the class beforehand. If the students were supposed to learn something in a previous class they may have a good reason not to know it. The teacher may not have gotten through all the material or may have missed something. The student may have been sick and missed a day. Another reason teachers need to be held accountable for a small part in student plagiarism is because many teachers have students turn in or pick up papers by leaving them in a folder outside the teachers’ doors where anyone can get to them.

Should all students who plagiarize be punished? How do we decide who gets punished? White states that “even though we must defend ourselves against burglars and muggers, however much we may sympathize with whatever caused their behavior, we are not really called on to excuse away their depredations” (202). Likewise, he believes that we should not allow people to steal others’ words without some kind of punishment. I believe that there should be some kind of punishment, but a teacher should not be able to punish a student for plagiarizing, unless the teacher has made sure the child knows how and when to cite things. Every teacher should go over the policy on plagiarism at the beginning of the course instead of expecting the students to have learned the rules. As White states, “we should all expect that much plagiarism will...

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