The P-word

After reading 23 rough drafts from my second year students and finding just one that is [apparently] completely plagiarism-free, I decided to make the last half of today’s American Studies class about what I euphemistically called “academic culture” in the U.S. I’ve been struggling to get my head around the culture of casual plagiarism here, to see it from a less biased point of view, and understand the factors that go into making an academic environment in which the professors and administrators condemn this kind of blatant plagiarism, but in which literally 95% of students still feel comfortable simply copy/pasting their essay from Wikipedia. I framed my lecture this way:

There are two reasons you should write your paper yourself and not simply copy it:

1. The assignment was to write a paper. You have shown me that you are very good at reading, at comprehending what you read, and at choosing relevant information from what you read and putting it together. But this assignment is meant to test your writing skills, your ability to produce your own sentences and language.

2. If you go to study abroad in the United States or in Norway or Germany, you have to understand that this is taken much more seriously there. If you do this in the U.S., you get expelled. Maybe not the first time, but if you do it three or four times, you’re a goner.

That second one blew their minds. They seemed to take my talk seriously, and I tried not to make it too preachy. As I told them, I was trained from fifth grade in how to cite sources and use parenthetical documentation, and it’s not fair of me to expect them to figure it out in two weeks. But, I do expect them to produce their own sentences. So, we’ll see what I get when they turn in their final papers.

I really like being alone

I’ve just been doing it wrong! This afternoon, after taking all my multiply-photocopied documents to the International Office, I went to a cafe downtown and sat for over an hour, spending some quality time with my journal. I really am my own best friend, and it was great to get back in touch. We reflected on things like how, in class today (which was awesome and dynamic and abstract, by the way) the girls told me that giant SUVs actually mean the same thing here that they do in America — “The bigger the car, the cooler the guy who is inside it.” Maybe Russia’s not so big and scary and different after all. If I can understand SUVs, I can understand anything! But then an eighteen-wheeler drove by as I was waiting to cross the street on my way home, and I got all confused again. Oh well.