Saturday, December 12, 2009

Oh... the Last Tag of Christmas...

First of all..  NEWS FLASH!!!

I won a prize from Tim Holtz (my tag and craft guru)!  Every day Tim picks several "winners" from the many, many commenters on his blog.  I've been commenting and reading his entire blog, not just the Christmas Tag posts, for 'lo these many years.  BUT... (you knew a "but" was coming)  I never win anything, ever.  I don't whine about that.  I don't scrawl the famous  "I never win anything" post.  But let's face it... I could count on less than five fingers any drawing or lottery I've ever entered and won even a lowly consolation prize.  Oh, boo f-ing hoo, huh?

Sooooo... it was with Great Surprise that I groggily opened Tim's blog to sneak a peek at the latest tag, scrolled down a bit cynically, and FOUND MY NAME on the Winner's List. Wow!  Just between you and me... and the wreath on the door... I don't even need a prize -- I'm just so excited to "win" something.   I guess I'll be getting craft goodies from Tim Holtz.  Wow!  Can't wait.  I wonder what I will get?  Doesn't matter.  If free goodies don't lure me to the studio... I don't know what would.  But, I know in my heart that I will soon (SOON!) be happily crafting away, carols on the iPod, and glue gun aglow with the warmth of imagination and creativity.  Because....

School ended yesterday.  And not on a totally lovely note either.  I was in my office, reading through a stack of what should have been very easy papers -- the answers to basic questions about Pride and Prejudice.  Yes, I'm one of those readers who often list P&P on my top 10 books ever read -- for many reasons.  This is the last novel students read in my Touchstones of Western Literature course.  I have used it because I think it IS a widely-read novel.  It's accessible, fun, and a perhaps even window on modern romance and human nature.  After slogging through the Old Testament, Greek mythology, Greek Tragedy, Knights of the Round Table, and Shakespearean tragedy, I certainly wanted to lighten up and always hope the students will gladly follow.  After a semester of "men, men, and more men," it's time for a story about women!!

All that aside, I was seriously saddened by more than a few of my students' work.  PLAGIARISM!  In today's world, plagiarism is rampant.  And oh so easy to accomplish: Go to any "cliff notes" site.  Copy. Paste into your paper.  Et vi-ola.... you're done with the assignment, without having to read friggin' Jane Austen, thank-you-very-much. 

Well, plagiarism is also easy to catch:  find a sentence that is not remotely one the student could have written; type it into Google; hit "send"; wait for all the lovely exact words to show up on the Google list. Yes, I can find most situations of direct cut/past plagiarism, and many cases of "just changed a few words" plagiarism.  

The dilemma is always what to do.  Overlook? Overangst? Overdo?  Somewhere in the middle might be the compromise.  The college says I have control here.  I can fail the paper, fail the student in the class.... depends on me.  I can even turn a blind eye and act like it never happened.  I'll tell you, this has been a rather bitter moment for me in every instance where I had to confront the student.  Since it has happened before, I always start the semester with a lecture/plea:  do not plagiarize.  I don't ask a lot, but I do ask them not to plagiarize.  And that makes this incident so disturbing.  Many students did this -- not just one or two.

What did I do yesterday?   I wrote a note to my class.   I asked those who plagiarized to step forward and withdraw their work from my consideration -- in essence, to voluntarily take a zero on the assignment.  I told them I had stopped reading after six papers and was prepared to start again in 24 hours and would like those who plagiarized to fess up before the deadline.  

The replies were fascinating, but most of all revealed the extent to which (a) nobody understands the definition of plagiarism, and (2) nobody wants to take responsibility for his or her work ethic.   Many very good students wrote that they were unsure.  "Did I do it?"  My answer mostly was, "Did you?"  Remember, I had not read all the papers yet.  The motive behind my offer was to rid myself of having to angst over every suspected case.  I figured the ones who blatantly cut and pasted would step forward, heads bowed, and say "yes, I did it."  Au contraire.  Even the two very obvious cases that I caught before I wrote my letter -- even those two! -- said "it was an honest mistake."  Honest? Mistake?  When a person goes to a website, highlights the words, copies these words, clicks over to his or her paper-in-progress, points the cursor, and pastes in the words just copied from that website into that paper --- I kinda BELIEVE that was a deliberate act.  A mistake is when you don't carry the one and your checkbook is off by ninety dollars (usually "off" in the wrong direction).  A mistake is using the wrong fork at a formal dinner.  A mistake is marrying a man because he's... well, you get the idea.

The 24 hours is "up" at noon.  I have plenty of other work to do in the meantime.  I just hope the freshmen didn't go into that plagiarism chasm on their research papers.  I kept telling them to quote and cite the source and that was the way to be sure... but I'm so skeptical now that nobody's listening and everybody, or maybe just "many," are taking shortcuts and to hell with honesty.  Hope not. Hope not. Hope not.  But I've never been accused of not being an optimist -- always with the silver lining, always.

Meanwhile, back at the tag-fest... The last tag?!!!  Darn!!  But look at it!  I've been dying to know how Tim Holtz makes those roses.  He kept saying he was going to post a tutorial.  I guess he was saving that for his Best. Christmas. Present. Ever.  I gotta say -- I can make those roses for any occasion, now that I know how to do 'em!!!  Very very cool!!!

Again, if you want to see All 12 Tags of Christmas, go to Tim Holtz's blog and check the archives.  Since each tag demo file is long -- all the steps are shown for every tag -- he's separated them into easily-loaded sections for those with slow connections.  

When I get done with all the papers -- plagiarized and not (cross your fingers for "and not!") -- I'm taking my laptop to the studio and I'm making several of the tags.   I might not put them on presents 'cuz I hate to think somebody would just throw away all that work.  BUT... I'm thinking I will use them as ornaments.   I have mine from last year. They are so beautiful. And I'll  have some from this year -- equally as beautiful, I'm sure.  Should be fun to see them on the tree.

Off to the races.  Me?  Maybe a winner yet!

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