A recent article by Gerald Nelms, “Why Plagiarism Doesn’t Bother Me At All,” has been circulating on the WPA-L listserv and getting deserved attention for its response to the oftentimes alarmist reactions to referential and source-based academic writing.
Now, plagiarism doesn’t irritate me at all. Student plagiarism doesn’t surprise or shock me. It doesn’t raise my heart rate. And perhaps most surprisingly, it doesn’t make me think any less of the student who has plagiarized. In fact, I now expect plagiarism, I anticipate it, I even provoke it. I want it to happen. And it always does, because I create assignments that virtually require it. Now, you may be reacting to my saying this in the same way that others have in the plagiarism workshops I have facilitated for 15 plus years: with shock.
From Sara Ahmed’s “Against Students” (The New Inquiry, June 29, 2015):
The “problem student” is a constellation of related figures: the consuming student, the censoring student, the over-sensitive student, and the complaining student. By considering how these figures are related we can explore connections that are being made through them, connections between, for example, neoliberalism in higher education, a concern with safe spaces, and the struggle against sexual harassment. These connections are being made without being explicitly articulated. We need to make these connections explicit in order to challenge them. This is what “against students” is really about.
How we think about students and how we talk about students reflect attitudes toward teaching. Teaching is only possible within the bounds of these attitudes. How, then, do we think about and talk about students?