The Rise in Apathy, Cheating and Plagiarism – Understanding the Problem
Over the past ten years teachers have witnessed a drop in student preparation and a rise in apathy and cheating. Students who cheat do so from a variety of motives. Making this situation even more difficult is that faculty members do not even define plagiarism the same or punish it consistently (Howard, “Sexuality” 473). Some surveys even show that teachers simply ignore the problem or do not report plagiarism because: “they do not want to be bothered, because they think only the student who cheated is actually harmed, or because of the unpleasant bureaucracy and documentation ramifications” (Moeck 484). Alschuler and Blimling add to this list the fear of litigation, student reprisals, administrative reprimands and lack of support (124). With such diversity and outright dissention among teachers, finding solutions to these problems will require not only a common purpose but also an understanding of what may be at the heart of these issues. One potential answer lies in educating ourselves about the history and nature of plagiarism. Another potential answer lies in analyzing how so many students arrive at college ill-prepared and apathetic. Freire’s theories on banking education may explain some of these problems concerning student preparation and academic integrity.
First, we must understand the history of plagiarism and the problem many instructors have in separating original thinking from collaborative thinking (that which is influenced by those who have come before). Western thought traces its roots to the great civilizations of Classical Greece and Rome. The nature of much writing from this period up into the 19th Century was mimetic. Thomas Jeffers points to both Aristotle’s and Horace’s dictates to imitate the masters (55). Conventional wisdom of the time believed that students learned to write well and think better by becoming acquainted with the works of great writers and thinkers. Only by showing a mastery of the masters could one establish authorial authority, and because the author’s audience knew the masters too, the student had no need to cite sources (Howard, “Plagiarisms” 788).
It isn’t until the late 17th Century that British authors begin hurling the accusation of plagiarist at each other. Ideologically this makes sense because after the fall of Rome, Western Europe fell into a dark age. Not until the Renaissance do we see another spurt of humanism that marked the great classic periods of Greece and Rome. Before the invention of the printing press, the rise in literacy, and the focus on humans as perfectible creations who can create important works by themselves, there was very little need for authorial ownership. In the Renaissance, associating an author’s name with a work was generally tied to prosecution for blasphemy and libel (Hammond 23). “Authorship could only develop as a profession when it became...