Plagiarism: An international education bubble

Prof. John Stackhouse writes about plagiarism on his blog.  He writes:

Plagiarism is a vital problem in academic work, since the academy is a culture of both honour and honesty. (Don’t get me started on how dishonorable or dishonest the academy can be—I’m talking about ideals here.) Without honour and honesty, we can’t do our work since so much of it depends on trusting each other to tell the truth, including truth about our sources.

In my time as prof (both in Africa and Canada), I have given what I think is a disproportionate number of “F’s” for plagiarism, not because I was too hard but because too many of my students were ill-prepared for their studies at the undergraduate or master’s level.  Generally I found that my academic deans were halfheartedly supportive, for it was disruptive of the process of higher education for one of the professors to mark students so hard.  I am of the opinion that some cases of plagiarism merit immediate dismissal; other students should be sternly warned and should fail the paper or class without remediation.  But in every case, I was advised to wield a lighter hand and to allow the students second and even third chances.

In my opinion, there is an international education bubble.  We have too many schools and too many people who graduate from the schools whose diplomas don’t indicate any real competence.  I know that I’ve passed a few students who had no business being in school.  I even had one case where a student repeatedly failed remediation in a course with me, a course which was necessary for his undergraduate degree; and yet the dean still allowed him to enter into a Master’s program and to defend his thesis while never having passed my course!  He is in Congo-Brazzaville now– I heard he became a professor in a faculty of theology there.

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