Thursday, September 25, 2008

Crazy Aunt Jane

"Guess what I found in the essay I just finished looking at?" I fumed to the nearest person I could find.

"Crazy Aunt Jane?" she asked.

"I f--yeah. Crazy Aunt Jane."

You see, about a year and a half ago, I received a narrative-type essay written about a student's "Crazy Aunt Jane." It didn't, strictly speaking, meet the assignment prompt, and something felt "off" about it, but I was willing to concede that maybe the student just felt he could embellish things a bit. Call it the idealism of an unexperienced teacher. After all, it certainly could have been a lack of historical awareness on his part to note that she grew up when slavery was still around. Finally, I read a portion of it to a fellow GA a couple cubicles over, as we were wont to do.

I was maybe a paragraph in before she said, "It's Fried Green Tomatoes." The names had been changed, but the story was the same, and thus was my first encounter with sheer, wholesale plagiarism.

No two forms of plagiarism have been the same since, but the sting is always there. I know it isn't a personal slight against me or my assignment, just laziness and academic dishonesty, generally fueled by a sense of desperation. It still smarts for some reason that I cannot pinpoint, something beyond "Just how stupid do they think I am?" I guess the saddest part of it is, even one pinched paragraph from another source can sink what would otherwise have been a borderline competent assignment, and most times, their own worst, most incoherent writing would generally have gotten them a better grade.

1 comment:

SmallWorld at Home said...

It is so crazy, isn't it? I had one essay turned in last year and I thought, "This just doesn't quite sound like her." I plugged in a couple of sentences into google, and up came 75% of the essay, right from a website. What was sad is that this girl was a good writer! There was no need for her to lift this info; she could have just as easily written it herself. Ergh. Anyway, I was glad to know that I could just plug in a sentence and go directly to the original source!