The New York Times discovers a trend:
At DePaul University, the tip-off to one student’s copying was the purple shade of several paragraphs he had lifted from the Web; when confronted by a writing tutor his professor had sent him to, he was not defensive — he just wanted to know how to change purple text to black.
And at the University of Maryland, a student reprimanded for copying from Wikipedia in a paper on the Great Depression said he thought its entries — unsigned and collectively written — did not need to be credited since they counted, essentially, as common knowledge.
Last year sometime, a local college teacher offered some pieces by his class, who were preparing multimedia journalism projects. Since multi is what GrossePointeToday.com is aiming for, I said send those puppies in.
The first one to arrive had one of those jarring prose shifts midway through that always sets off the alarm. Suddenly, the writer began capitalizing Important Concepts and her sentences took on a distinctly different rhythm. As some of you know, we made a splash a while back with this very thing, and I snipped a sentence from within and asked Professor Google what he thought. Lifted, intact, from Wikipedia. Contrary to what you might think, I hated being the spoiler, but I let the teacher know, and the usual kerfuffle ensued. The details are unremarkable, except for this: The teacher said a full written apology was part of her sentence. It never arrived. I’m sure she didn’t understand the reason.
This doesn’t surprise me; the line between citation and theft has always been smudgy, and copy-and-paste didn’t start with cntrl-C/cntrl-V. It confused me as a student, and it confuses me still, sometimes. The term “common knowledge” means it belongs to everyone, after all, so I was always wrestling with some citation or another — did I have to footnote dates? Simple facts? I think the only reason it comes easier now is because I’m accustomed to reporting, with all its attribution and colons. Police gave this account of the incident: But I’m very glad I don’t have to write papers anymore, and I’m sure my payback for pointing out a certain Bush administration official’s plagiarism will come when Kate does this, unwittingly, down the road.
My friends already down that road say the next thing is high-school projects, in which teachers try to head this stuff off at the pass with some ridiculous procedures — in-class research, hand-written drafts, etc. It’s a real aggravation that makes research papers, never anyone’s favorite thing, even more painful.
Anyway, that’s a good story. I recommend it.
There were lots of good stories this weekend. The Wall Street Journal is rolling out a project on internet privacy from the business angle, i.e., what your browser is telling marketers about you. It’s no accident you keep getting served ads that eerily track with your interests. I’ll say this for that 3A Tiffany’s ad in most national publications — it doesn’t care that I’m not in the market for expensive jewelry. I get to look at the pretty rings and all they know is, I subscribe to a national newspaper. Which says a lot right there.
Related: Watch how you tweet, Facebook and YouTube. But you knew that.
Tomorrow is Election Day in Michigan — the primaries for governor, etc. I notice the tea-party candidates hereabouts are full of contempt for the bank bailouts, but are oddly silent about the other big one, which involved a pretty important industry around here. I noticed tea-party types in Fort Wayne praising GM for keeping the plant there open, not mentioning what the alternative pushed by their confederates would have been. Paul Ingrassia at the WSJ takes a look a year later:
…the bailout was about as popular as a flat tire. Many Americans nursed longstanding grudges for cars like the 1978 Dodge Omni, in which a wiring defect caused the horn to blow whenever the steering wheel was turned. (No kidding; check Consumer Reports.) Others understandably feared that General Motors would become Government Motors.
But what alternative, really, did Mr. Obama have? Had GM and Chrysler collapsed and been liquidated, investors would have picked up some of the pieces. That would have taken years. Meanwhile, the parts makers that supply GM and Chrysler would have collapsed too. Those same parts makers also supply Ford, Honda, Toyota and others, whose U.S. factories would have faced havoc.
The impact on the broad U.S. economy—including the car dealers in all 50 states, advertising agencies, accounting firms, etc.—would have been somewhere between difficult and disastrous. Nobody really knows. The Detroit bailout was like changing a diaper: a dirty job that had to be done because the consequences were worse.
Finally, speaking of plagiarism, a recipe, at Deborah’s request, copied (by hand) from Alice Waters’ “Chez Panisse Vegetables.” I have my problems with Waters as a food-policy expert but certainly not as a chef, and this bean gratin might have been my favorite thing from Saturday’s dinner. Healthy, light, delicious, made with fresh beans, available in markets year-round but especially now:
Fresh shell bean gratin
2 to 3 pounds fresh shell beans (cannellini, cranberry, pinto, flageolet, etc.)
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 or 2 sage leaves
optional: 1 small bunch greens (broccoli raab, chard, mustard, turnip, etc.)
2 medium tomatoes
1/2 cup toasted bread crumbs
Shell the beans. Yield will vary according to variety, but you want to end up with about 3 cups shelled beans. Cook them with just enough water to cover by an inch. (Fresh shell beans absorb very little water.) When they have come to a boil, add salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil, and lower the heat to simmer. Cook until the beans are tender, about 30 minutes. Drain the beans and save their liquid.
While the beans are cooking, dice the onion and cook it in 2 tablespoons olive oil with the garlic cloves, peeled and cut into slivers; the sage leaves, chopped; and some salt. Cook over low heat until soft and translucent. If you wish, cook a small bunch of greens with the onion; add a little of the bean water along with them, if you do. When the onion is cooked, add the tomatoes, roughly chopped, raise the heat, and cook for a minute or two more.
Combine the beans in a gratin dish with the onions, tomatoes and greens. Add enough bean water to almost cover. Taste, correct seasoning, and pour the rest of the olive oil over the gratin. (You can prepare the gratin in advance to this point, even the day before, and refrigerate it.) Finish by topping with the toasted bread crumbs, and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Check occasionally and moisten with more bean water if it seems to be drying out.
Alice says you can use a variety of beans, which sounds really good, but you have to cook each separately, as the cooking times will vary.
And now Manic Monday commences. Must have food for sustenance! I’m thinking eggs scrambled with spinach, shallots and goat cheese and a big-ass fruit salad on the side. I love summer, I do I do I do I do…