First let me get the basics out of the way – my opinions are my own and are in NO way the responsibility of this site. I suspect the majority of the authors disagree with me at least on this, so don’t blame them.
Second, I did make an error and was unclear about one thing. Turnitin does not necessarily operate solely within the public school arena, so not every cent they make comes from taxes. However, every cent they get from public schools IS coerced from citizens. In this and future articles about plagiarism in general and Turnitin specifically, I will direct my comments to the public school arena.
Now to answer a few comments made on my previous article. Many people seemed to feel that students in public schools who were given writing assignments and then turned in plagiarism were commiting fraud, were not developing their ability to write creatively, are in breach of contract with the school’s honor policy, are stealing from the original author, are doing something “wrong” and in general are getting what they deserve. I will start with a few of the main issues and then address the libertarianism of plagiarism in general in a second article.
Libertarians have good reason to oppose fraud. Fraud is an assault on basic property rights – I take your money for a good or service and then don’t give it to you or give you something else that I hope will pass for that good or service until I can get away. Plagiarism within a public school context is, however NOT fraud. In this context, students turn in work because they HAVE to. The schools don’t give them money in repayment for it and grades are not payment – they are threats (Grades are the school’s way of warning students that if they don’t perform their tasks adequately, they will face a repeat of the subject, loss of the ability to go to college, a life of poverty, misery and failure and angry parents). Failure to give a coerced commodity is not fraud, it is an attempt to subvert a coercive authority.
Related to the above issue is the “theft from the author” argument. Here the reasoning is that the author “owns” his intellectual property and using it somehow deprives him either of it or of some profit he should have gained from it. Of course, the problem with this is that the author STILL has his words even after the student used them and the act of plagiarism costs him nothing – certainly he gains no more from having his name on a paper turned in to a school than he would for not having it on a paper. I will address the general issues of intellectual property and plagiarism later.
No Breach of Contract
The comment was made that Plagiarism was a breach of the contract with respect to the school’s honor policy. This, of course presumes that the school’s honor policy is a valid contract. Since in public schools, students have NO CHOICE but to say they accept the policy, it is made under duress and has no more value than any other promise made under duress.The breach of contract issues also fails since, as was stated before, in return for not cheating etc… the school promises to give the student nothing. contracts imply quid pro quo – value exchanged for value – and the school doesn’t even attempt to offer that.
Creativity is Not the Issue
one of the final arguments made against plagiarism is that the students don’t develop their creativity by plagiarism. I have two arguments for that one. The first one is that they are most likely not developing their creativity anyways because students seldom learn when they are not already interested in the subject and the students most likely to plagiarize are also the ones LEAST likely to be interested in writing. The thing about this argument is that it turns the whole way of learning on its head. Trying to Coerce creativity is one of the main problems with the school system in general. Schools are inherently destructive of creativity. It takes creative impulses and, through the demand for conformity, the regimentation and punishing of any truly creative behavior from coloring outside the lines to writing what YOU want to instead of what is required by the assignment, systematically kills the creativity of our children.
The second argument is, in my opinion the more fundamental one. It comes down this: Individuals should have the right to NOT have to do what some governmental authority determines is “best” for them. The “creativity” argument is another case of arguing “Do as I say because it’s good for you.” This is the essence of socialistic arguments and should be recognized as such. Presuming that doing your own work even if you don’t want to do the assignment in the first place makes you more creative (which, as I have stated, I dispute), that’s STILL not enough reason to make a student do it any more than it would be to make him become a vegetarian or to forbid him from playing dodgeball (the latter is actually happening in some schools – dodgeball is too harmful to children’s self worth, apparently). Also, as with so many other socialist “solutions,” the problem is caused by socialist actions in the first place. If the assignments were optional, there would be no compulsion to plagiarize. If you don’t want to write it, then don’t! do something else for your grade – something you actually want to do!
This is part one of two. In my second article, I’m going to take a closer look at plagiarism in terms of Intellectual property rights and also in terms of positive vs. negative rights in general.