Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What's the problem with plagiarism?

Not much, according to the Journal Sentinel editorial board. It won't defend Mary Burke -  lifting, without attribution - from the work of others, but it finds the controversy to be a side show. The real question is whether the ideas expressed by the language that Burke stole and passed of as her own are "good ones?'

My guess is that if I lifted one of their editorials and passed it off as my own, the Journal Sentinel's concern would be a tad more urgent. They wouldn't absolve me because the column was "good," they'd go after me because it was "theirs" and would consider me less than honest for taking it.

And rightly so.

The problem is not that Burke borrowed ideas from others. There are few original ideas in politics and the fact that she would recycle policies from other Democrats is not surprising. The problem here is not the quality of her jobs plan - the ideas she passed off as her own were equally bad when proposed by the people who actually wrote them - but one of general competence and integrity.

Professionals - heck, high school students - know that you do not present others' work as your own. If you want to quote the work of others, you attribute it to them. To fail to do so is fundamentally dishonest.

The editorial board excuses Burke by dismissing the plagiarism as a failure to be "careful." Two things.

First, if this is the fault of a staffer or an oversight by Burke herself, it shows that she spent no time, as she claims, "studying " the plans of others. If she had, she'd have known that her plan was merely a cut and paste job. This suggests that she is either 1) lying about her involvement or 2) doesn't know what every fourteen year old knows - you don't crib from the kid in front of you.

Second, her ad "responding" to the charges makes it worse. In it, she characterizes the criticism of her plan as being that it borrowed ideas from others. That's not it at all and she knows it. It's that she copied them and lacked the intellectual honesty - or professionalism -  to say so.

The ad demonstrates that she still doesn't get it.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin.

1 comment:

JM said...

Professor, you are absolutely correct--passing something as your own is fundamentally dishonest. Burke ought to be held accountable since she failed to properly vet her campaign materials.

That is why undoubtedly you would agree this egregious behavior ought to called out, regardless of the time and place.

Burke’s plagiarism is eerily similar to Governor Walker, who in 2011 had issued a press release, without DIRECTLY attributing credit to the administration actually responsible for a “...project directly creates 125 new jobs and indirectly creates 129 jobs, resulting in $12.6 million in annual wages right here in Wisconsin” for Curt Manufacturing.

As you stated, professor, borrowing an idea from others and passing it your own lacks integrity, considering this development had been already announced in 2010 by the previous administration.

The kicker? The funds for the project came directly from federal stimulus money.