So, I got to thinking about this today. It just hit me after I got to see some friends of mine having an argument about a paper that each of them wrote. It was about, go figure, the legalization of marijuana. I actually read both of their papers, and both of them were surprisingly similar, but I got to thinking – how can there be no similar things anymore? Really, when you take a long look at how much has been published, the sheer amount of things that have been published, how it is theoretically possible for what you have written to not be eeriely similar to what somebody else has done?
Now, back to the friends’ essays, I say that they were similar, not in direct wording, but in subject matter. There was an episode of House md that did a great bit about this. Foreman does a paper that was about the same case the Cameron did hers. When she confronts him, he claims that it was perfectly alright. I agree with that statement, actually. And this ties into my friends debate because really, when you think about it, with the legalization of pot debate, there aren’t too many ways that one can look at it. There is the fact that money would be made. There is the fact that multiple industries would grow around the business of selling pot. There is the fact that Prohibition never works. There is the fact that we could let our cops be doing things that matter, like catching rapists, theives, and murderers. There is the fact that you can’t OD on THC. But really, aside from that there aren’t a lot of arguments that one can make.
There is something that all great writers who have ever studied literature over the years have learned – that there is no such thing as an original story. Really, there is no concept that you could come up with that hasn’t been done a hundred times in the past. The only thing that you can do is take the concept, spin it around, and shine it up like new. That is all that you can do. But when you are writing, there is an almost definite chance that what you will write is word-for-word what somebody else at some point has written.
With the advent of the internet, it is literally impossible to be original anymore. If one were to examine each and every single thing that has ever been published at any time, what do you think the chances are that the same words, maybe even word for word, don’t appear somewhere else? I am going to put some some thoughts, and you do a Google search and see if they haven’t been posted other places before -
Dolphins are idiots
Dolphins are evil
The mongoose is nature’s douchebag
There are no solutions to life’s problems
If there were a cogent argument to be made to keep marijuana illegal, I would support it. Really, there is no reason to continue this pointless war on something that makes people sleepy, happy, and hungry.
I swear that I didn’t look up any of what I just wrote anywhere. I just pulled that out of the air and put it in this blog. And I am confident that if you go onto Google, you can find those very same words somewhere. Or if not Google, somewhere in the vast labyrinth that is human publications throughout history.
And this brings me to the educational standards of plagiarism. I have known a lot of times when a student did the work, got their data, and came to their own conclusiosn, and then was accused of plagiarism simply because their work sounded a lot like somewhere else. A friend of mine who isn’t all that good at writing was given some help from me on his essay. I didn’t write it myself. I helped him edit. It was a long and arduous process that left both of us very tired by the time his ten page paper was completed. He is a good kid, and he worked his ass off on that paper. I actually went with him when he had to defend that paper with some of the people here at the college. He was pardoned, but it was still humiliating and rude.
Here’s the problem with the modern attitude that if you find something on Google, and the wording is the same, it was just copied and pasted onto somebody’s work. That is not true. Now, there are a lot of students who do this. I know that to be true. But really, the educators have to be smarter than to just plug something into Google and see if it turns up some matches. Really, the chances that a person will create a work that is 100% original and unlike anything else is absurd! There is no chance of that. And I bet there are a lot of students who have been condemned simply because their educators were too lazy to give their students the benefit of the doubt and believe that sometimes, while there are those who choose the easy way out, sometimes there are people who come to similar or even the same conclusions as others.
So, the question is – is the modern concept of plagiarism outdated? Well, no, it isn’t. Not completely, anyway. The chances that you will create a work that is 100% original is non-existent. No matter what you say, no matter how you say it, somebody can google a sentence and find it somewhere else in some other work. People need to realize that there are those who do the work, and who will defend what they write, but laziness of the academics is making it so that Google is the one-stop reference to get the answers. Teachers, you have to be wiser than that. If something is similar, talk to your student. Be able to read if they did put the effort in, and it is just a coincidence that was unintentional, or if they are the lazy academic pukes that you make them out to be.
And if the random person believes, as Cameron did, that somebody has stolen what they said, think long and hard about if you didn’t take your idea, or get inspired to say or write what you did, by somebody else.
Food for thought.
Until next time, a quote,
“…Or get Matt Drudge to steal somebody else’s column, in which somebody else will insist that conservatives have no voice in the media…” -Keith Olbermann, Countdown with Keith Olbermann