October 2, 2012

Plagiarism and A Strange Comment

Posted by Evelyn Mervine

Earlier today I noticed an unusual comment on my blog post Blast from the Past: Carbon Cycle Story. In the blog post I share a story that I wrote about the carbon cycle when I was 10 years old as part of a school unit on atoms at my Montessori school.

Here is the unusual comment, which is from a “Mrs. Kim”:

Please delete this post. I am a biology teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Two students were caught plagiarizing this article for a carbon cycle assignment. The issue has been resolved, but we need to guarantee this does not occur in the future. Thank you.

I replied to “Mrs. Kim”:

Hi Mrs. Kim, Thanks for your concern– I’m sorry to hear that students were plagiarizing this assignment, but I’m not going to delete it. There will always be things out on the internet to plagiarize, and schools need to learn how to resolve these issues. I find it sad that students felt the need to plagiarize this assignment, which was one of my favorite school assignments ever :-).

I then asked my twitter followers, many of whom are geoscientists and/or teachers, what they thought about the comment and my response. Here’s the tweet:

Please excuse the typo. "aksed" should be "asked."

Overwhelmingly, my twitter followers agreed that I should not take down the blog post and that requesting that primary sources be taken down from the internet is an inappropriate way to handle plagiarism. Here is a sample of the many, many replies I received on twitter:

A sample of the replies to my twitter inquiry.

Wanting to make sure that the teacher saw my response to her request, I tried sending a message to the email which “Mrs. Kim” provided. The email was returned because the address didn’t exist. I thought that possibly “Mrs. Kim” had entered her email address incorrectly, so I did some sleuthing and looked up the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Guess what? From 2007 to 2011 this high school was ranked as the best public high school in the United States.

Now, I found it somewhat strange that a teacher at one of the best high schools in the United States would be so naive about how to handle plagiarism. I also found it strange that high school students would be plagiarizing a story I wrote when I was 10. So, I decided to write to Dr. Evan Glazer, who is the principal of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Boy, that school name is sure a mouthful! From now on, I’ll refer to the school as TJHSST. Dr. Glazer kindly wrote back to me and informed me that there is no biology teacher named Mrs. Kim at TJHSST. Furthermore, the TJHSST email provided by “Mrs. Kim” is fake.

Quite honestly, I now find myself puzzled and somewhat discombobulated  by the “Mrs. Kim” comment. I find myself worried over who “Mrs. Kim” could possibly be. Is “she” a teacher at another school? Could “she” be a student trying to convince me to remove my post so that “she” can plagiarize my content for a school assignment? I have no idea. However, I do feel relieved that the comment does not come from a biology teacher at TJHSST.

However, I’m happy to see that my twitter followers and blog readers are so passionate about issues regarding the internet and plagiarism. Please feel free to comment (productively and politely– I reserve the right to remove comments) about plagiarism and the internet below.

“Mrs. Kim”: please don’t post here again under a false name! And “Mrs. Kim”: if you are a student with a carbon cycle assignment, I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have about the carbon cycle… though you’ll have to write the assignment yourself!