What the Syllabi Are Saying

It’s back to school time and that means a lot of students are receiving syllabi for their various courses. What makes this year somewhat different is that many teachers and professors are now posting their syllabi online, often times in blog form.

Thus, when I’ve been doing searches for plagiarism information, I’ve often times run across a syllabus for a college or high school course. With baited breath, I’d always skip down to the plagiarism guidelines and read what they had to say on the subject. After all, educators are on the front lines of the plagiarism war and what they say matters incredibly to content creators everywhere.

On that note, most syllabi have taken a very strong stand against plagiarism. Like this one, they explain, very factually, what it is and spell out the punishments and often refer to a overall university policy. They make it clear that plagiarism is not tolerated, that it can easily be discovered and that punishments for engaging in it are severe.

But while I applaud what they do say, it’s what they don’t say that bothers me the most.

Previously, I criticized schools for not providing overall education on copyright law and not expanding the notion of plagiarism outside of the classroom.

That criticism still stands.

None of the syllabi I read took the notion of plagiarism and applied it to anything other than the classroom. Though the definition of plagiarism is broad and can be applied to other elements, there’s no broader context and little explanation as to what exactly constitutes copyright infringement and plagiarism.

Students, like others in society, often hold very strange misconceptions about copyright law and need to understand that plagiarism isn’t just an academic offense, but a legal one as well. It not only helps those of us who want their copyrights respected, but teachers as well.

After all, students are less likely to heed a warning against an academic offense than a legal one as well. Many of those who will brave losing a grade or even being suspended will avoid the potential for lawsuits and other legal issues.

It’s time that content creators and teachers teamed up, not just to make sure that schools have adequate access to the works that are out there, but also to tackle the issue of plagiarism. That’s one of the goals of this site and should be one of the goals of the education system.

Simply put, both sides have too much at stake not to work together and the fact that there has been little to no cooperation up to this point is, quite frankly, mind-boggling.

[tags]Plagiarism, Syllabus, College, High School[/tags]

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