The Other 99.9%

Few things are as disheartening as confronting unrepentant plagiarism. There are the ignorant who, inexplicably failed by the secondary education system, unwittingly commit higher education’s unforgivable sin unwittingly, because they do not know how to correctly cite anything. I do not speak here of these innocent hearts, but rather of those who know the right thing to do and choose the wrong anyway.

I received a paper last week. The first paragraph sounded too good to be true; and it was. It copied verbatim, with some minor punctuation and syntax changes, the Wikipedia page on the same topic. When confronted with their baffling similarities, the student replied that she must have studied the Wikipedia page so much that she copied it by accident.

Moral bankruptcy and a potential lifetime devoid of integrity can begin with the omission of a single citation or pair of quotation marks; but I do not know how to make the case to those who have already crossed the line that they are selling their souls for the sake of an easy paragraph or two. I barely know how to keep myself from lapsing into despair after one such incident. I only know that if I am able to do so and face this waste of human potential again and again, it is because of the other 99.9% of my students. The future belongs to them.

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