My name is Todd Gallagher. I’m a 33 year old man who answers questions for a living. Currently I’m in high school as a student as part of a social experiment. The following is one of the questions I’m taking on:
Does everyone plagiarize from the web?
Plagiarism didn’t come about simultaneously with Google. Martin Luther The King supposedly ripped off some of his doctoral thesis. However, it’s undeniable that the appeal of instantaneous cheating has captured the lazy hearts of students, teachers, and authors alike. The definition of plagiarism has been blurred, or at least that’s what we’d like to think because changing morals, like copying and pasting, is just plain easier.
A 2002 survey indicated that 50% of American high school students plagiarize.
Immediately following the election of Barack Obama, a drunk version of British journalist Adam Smith was filmed working on his article about the historic event, telling the cameraman, “Thank God for the BBC, because I’m cutting and pasting, baby!” It was seen all over YouTube and Smith, who described himself as a “hard news journalist” was criticized nationally.
Former chief of acquisitions for the South African National Defense Force, Shamim “Chippy” Shaik was stripped of his doctorate degree from the University of KwaZulu-Natal after two-thirds of his doctoral thesis in Mechanical Engineering was found to be plagiarized.
It seems it’s not just unmotivated teens who cheat.
So the question is this: If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too? Well if the water under that bridge brought with it an A or a promotion or a cushy political job, then sure why not? Especially if the risks were low and you thought you were clever enough to cover your tracks.
In his book The Cheating Culture: Why More Americans are Doing Wrong to Get Ahead, author David Callahan discusses his belief that people have two separate sets of morals, one that knows right and wrong and the differences between them, and another that sees success as the object, at any cost. However, he also believes that there has to be a breaking point: “Baseball reached that tipping point in the late 1990s. And I think universities are starting to swing back. There will be reform and a return to idealism. We establish a new set of rules for ethical conduct.”
Unfortunately for those in school here and now, those trying to educate themselves for the world outside of academics, 46% of teens say they must succeed no matter what the cost. And what’s worse is they are self-aware. When presented with a list of different groups of people, teens ranked themselves second to last place next to politicians.
So, until the pendulum swings back, all groups seem to have redefined what it means to cheat. Thus it’s up to each student to decide how much of that article on the Cold War should be paraphrased from Wikipedia before it counts as wrong. And no, the answer is not: all of it.