Creative Plagiarism

Is imitation a form of flattery – or stealing?

By Paula Marantz Cohen (Drexel)

In recent years, I have come across something that I call creative plagiarism. Almost every time I teach fiction-writing, one or two students seem compelled to write a story that closely resembles a published work we’ve read. These students are not trying to perpetrate a deception, since the material they incorporate has been previously discussed by the class, usually only a week or two earlier.

I was able to shed light on what might be going on through an exercise I did with my creative-writing class. I asked them to read two short stories for discussion at our next meeting. I provided the stories in photocopy, with the authors and the dates removed.

The stories were “Mrs. Adis,” by the British writer Sheila Kaye-Smith, published inThe Century Magazine in 1922, and “Sanctuary,” by the African-American writer Nella Larsen, published in the magazine Forum in 1930. Larsen’s story, as those familiar with her biography will know, was quickly viewed as a Continue reading “Creative Plagiarism”

Why It’s OK to Rat On Other Students

How do you teach people to do the right thing?

by Warren Goldstein

Like many people in the academy, I have found myself uneasily stewing over the murders at Virginia Tech. My students and I have spent far too much time glancing over at our classroom door, wondering whether we would have been able to hold it shut if a gunman had wanted in; would I have had the courage of Liviu Librescu, who students said died protecting them?

I was lucky; I didn’t have to deal with Seung-Hui Cho, unlike my poor colleagues in the Virginia Tech English department, who had formed a departmental task force to discuss him. At least they tried. They resisted the Continue reading “Why It’s OK to Rat On Other Students”

Teaching to the World From Central New Jersey

What have you learned about teaching?

by Mitchell Duneier

A few months ago, just as the campus of Princeton University had grown nearly silent after commencement, 40,000 students from 113 countries arrived here via the Internet to take a free course in introductory sociology. The noncredit Princeton offering came about through a collaboration between Coursera, a new venture in online learning, and 16 universities, including my own.

When my class was announced last spring, I was both excited and nervous. Unlike computer science and other subjects in which the answers are pretty much the same around the globe, sociology can be very Continue reading “Teaching to the World From Central New Jersey”

Keyword: Placement

Do we have a moral obligation to care about our students’ futures?

By Leonard Cassuto (Fordham)

We can all agree, I expect, that the practical goal of graduate education is placement of graduates. But what does “placement” mean? Academics use the word without thinking much about it.

We can learn a lot about a practice by looking closely at how we describe it. Bruce Burgett and Glenn Hendler, editors of the 2007 book Keywords for American Cultural Studies, say the study of such words shows “the way we think about the work we do.” Looking at the “genealogies” of keywords then, we can see not only where those words come from but also how they structure fields of inquiry, and where future thinking may go in those fields.

“Placement” is a great keyword for Continue reading “Keyword: Placement”

A Technological Cloud Hangs Over Higher Education

Where is higher education headed?

by Keith Williams (U Virginia)

I was there when it happened. And for the record: I did object. I was but a teaching assistant; the decision was not mine. The decision was to replace the pendulums and other demonstration gizmos in the undergraduate physics teaching laboratory with computers and software.

To be sure, the change would be convenient: no more time-consuming preparation of experiments, no more lectures on how to make demonstrations work, no more disinclined planes or springs sprung too far. This was cutting-edge. The students would love it. Students like computers. And aren’t computers the future? Don’t we need to get with the times and prepare students for the information age?

With great reluctance, I packed up the Continue reading “A Technological Cloud Hangs Over Higher Education”

Not Quite Bulletproof

What have you learned about life?

By Jon T. Coleman (Notre Dame)

To rise in academe and reach the high ground where review committees stop questioning your record and deans quit pondering your trajectory, where students applaud when you close out the semester with your lecture on the War of 1812 and Stephen Colbert invites you on his Report to plug your book, one must cultivate an entry-level superpower.

Save your supersonic speed, your laser-beam eyeballs, and your ability to communicate with sea life for emergencies and holiday parties. Instead concentrate on blocking projectiles. To get a job, to surmount third-year review, to receive tenure, to advance to full professorship, to merit a Wikipedia page that you didn’t write yourself, all you need to be is bulletproof. And if you want a Kevlar career, do as I say, not as I did. For while I excelled at thwarting some bullets, I had zero talent for dodging the countless shots I administered to myself.

As with most things scholastic, bulletproofing starts Continue reading “Not Quite Bulletproof”

Grim Job Talks Are a Buzz Kill

Are we preparing students for the professional world?

by Dan Shapiro (Penn State)

You were one of only a handful of candidates we invited to campus. We wanted to like you.

Hell, I wanted to love you. I am your potential future chair. When I became chair, I knew that bringing in strong faculty members was my best chance to leave a mark on the department and the college. I also knew that job searches were a drag on the little boat I would be trying to navigate through waters strewn with budget cuts, increased teaching loads, and fussy-somewhat-overworked faculty members. So I wanted the search to be over and for you to be here already.

But then your job talk started and my throat went dry and I felt that thumping in my temples.

Grim job talks are a buzz kill. And let’s be clear, your problem was not Continue reading “Grim Job Talks Are a Buzz Kill”