At some point in every quarter, I touch on the plagiarism issue. I try to make this less a warning and more a discussion. I don’t receive much plagiarized material. But I do want them to know that the plagiarism police are more active than ever. If my memory serves, faculty were ordered to report any instance of academic dishonesty. But, hey, try ordering a faculty to do anything. Still I wanted them to know more pressure was being applied from the top and that out there on the web are guys making money tracking down plagerized work. I expect most of them know this stuff but maybe a few lost souls don’t.
On one survay—intended to open the plagiarism discussion, I asked, what reasons do people give for plagiarizing. Students reported all sorts of reasons: want to get a better grade; don’t understand a damn thing so have to get something from somebody who does; procrastination; but the reason that popped up by far the most was “laziness.” I have heard this laziness explanation for diverse student behaviors increasingly over the last 15 years. In fact, there seems to be a laziness epidemic.
Honestly, I don’t understand what they are talking about. How could laziness lead to an activity that might bring down academic—not to mention parental–wrath upon their heads? Laziness does not want to be not lazy. In the long run, given all the possible troubles that might arise from cheating, I argue that it would be lazier just to toss off a piece of crap and turn that in and get a C or something.
But no matter how I dig—this way and that—I can’t put my finger on what they mean by laziness. Somebody will mention; it’s all those labor saving devices. They have made us lazy. And I will go, what the hell is wrong with a labor saving device. And beside I argue laziness is a great american virtue. Look at Rip Van Winkle; didn’t he sleep for 20 years or something. Or Huck and Jim going down the river, idling away their time. And while I may be wrong, but I believe we still have the longest summer vacations for school in the industrialized world. Or take our so-called national past time: baseball. Practically a training ground for laziness. Except for the pitcher who always seems excessively busy, the rest just stand around and spit. Mostly nothing happens in a baseball game for a long time followed by sporatic outbursts of activity. That don’t last very long.
But my students aren’t buying. They are lazy. And no doubt poor people engage in criminal activity because they are lazy. But I don’t push that point. I have pushed it before, and it so infuriates me to hear that people are poor because they are lazy that I am put off my feed for days and don’t want to talk to the students.
Instead I take another angle: you guys all must have really negative self-esteem or something if you are going around thinking you are lazy all the time. Clearly you don’t feel good about being lazy (and what’s the point of being lazy if you don’t enjoy it) and in fact you seem to think it’s a kind of moral defect. And I don’t get it partly because you students are among the apparently busiest students I have ever taaught. If you were lazy, I would think you would look rested up, but instead, hell, many of you seem stressed out.
All I want to do is get a conversation going. But they don’t want to talk.