Wednesday, April 16, 2008

If You're Going to Just Pull Your Assignments Out of the Newspaper, At Least Drive to the Next Town For Them - Or Check the Byline.

Some students are not so dumb. One of mine, for instance, redefined "stupid" all on his own. The assignment was simple: write in about 500 words how you felt following 9/11.

He turned it in, I read it, and on the spot told him he plagiarized and asked why I shouldn't drop him from the class. I think I said something to the bend of "Why is your ass still here?"

He denied it, of course. I explained that it isn't procedure to accuse anyone of stealing someone else's work unless we have proof -- so clearly I was not bluffing. He denied it again, of course.

I gave him two options: come back with the original and I'll let him redo it -- I believe the embarrassment alone is enough sometimes to loosen up those tight asses out there. Or, I come with the original and I remove him from the class (my standard policy -- do your own work or work at Hardees).

He told me I couldn't come back with the original since he wrote it. He showed up for class the next day. I taught. Everyone left but him. I asked if he brought the original and he said he had not, not making eye contact, slouching in that way only students can when they know they're about to be embarrassed.

"It's okay," I said. "I brought it."

I started to read: "There are still no words for September 11th, by...." I looked at him a long time.

"You've got to be kidding me!" he said.

It was the first paragraph of an essay I wrote for the local newspaper.

"It had to take more time to find this than to just write what you felt," I said/asked in a "no one can be that stupid" kind of way I've spent two decades perfecting.

"It wasn't such an easy assignment," he said. "I really didn't feel anything.”

Damn. That's what scares me the most.