Teaching

Rand Paul’s alleged plagiarism?

As a high school English and creative writing teacher and adjunct college composition instructor who is constantly telling students that plagiarism is a serious offense on all levels of professional life, I have to share this New York Times article: “Senator Rand Paul Faces New Charges of Plagiarism.”

According to the article, Kentucky’s leading libertarian has had passages in his speeches that are identical to passages that appear in Wikipedia entries for popular movies, and now it appears that portions of a recent op-ed that he wrote have identical phrasing to parts of an article on the same subject that appeared in The Week.

In high school, when passages are verbatim identical, we call it “being caught red-handed”— though I doubt anyone will write Rand Paul an office referral. If a student in one of my classes did this, if the comparisons were that glaringly similar, he or she would receive a zero, which could contribute to possibly failing the course. But what offends me, frankly, is the idea of a US senator or his staff copying from Wikipedia! Seriously, the first entry that comes up in a Google search! 

I also appreciate, having dealt with many instances of plagiarism, how the New York Times writer ended this above-linked article:

In an interview on the ABC News program “This Week” on Sunday, Mr. Paul acknowledged he had been “sloppy” but also lashed out.

“I think I’m being unfairly targeted by a bunch of hacks and haters,” he said.

The NYT article had plenty of links for folks who want to explore the larger story.  As for me, I am half-laughing, half-weeping that a prominent US political leader (or his staff writers) might be making the same errors in judgment as a lazy teenager who doesn’t want to write his term paper.

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