My Word is Not Your Word, Without My Permission!

Or is it? That may depend on who you are at USI: student or faculty? In My Word! Plagiarism and College Culture [Cornell, 2009], Notre Dame Professor of Anthropology Susan D. Blum explores the differences in knowledge and attitudes about plagiarism among faculty and students. Classroom instructors are reminded almost daily that many students operate under an entirely new set of assumptions about originality and ethics. Practices which ten years ago would have been regarded as academically dishonest are now commonplace.

Using extensive interviews conducted with students, My Word! presents the voices of today’s young adults speaking about their daily activities, challenges, and the meanings of their college lives. Outcomes-based secondary education, rising tuition costs, and an economic and social climate in which higher education is valued for its effect on future earnings- these factors each help explain why students might pursue good grades by any means necessary. And accustomed to referencing popular culture in peer conversation (or on Facebook) without credit because it is assumed to be understood, they may struggle with why this practice is unacceptable for academic work.

Blum suggests the real problem of academic dishonesty arises primarily from a lack of communication between two distinct university cultures. Professors and administrators regard plagiarism as a serious academic and ethical transgression, even a sin against an ethos of individualism and originality. On the other hand, students revel in sharing, in multiplicity, in accomplishment at any cost. This book is less likely to reassure readers who hope all they need to do is give strongly worded warnings against plagiarism on the first day of class. But it could open dialogue among faculty, and between teachers and their students, that may lead to mutual comprehension and alignment between student practices and professorial expectations.

Find My Word! Plagiarism and College Culture shelved at PN176.B48 2009 (4th floor.)


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