Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Always Quote Sunscreen

In Florida, Springstead High School principal Susan Duval is the latest person to use Mary Schmich's famous "...Wasted on the Young" column (you know, the "Wear Sunscreen" one) without attribution. I suspect this will happen every couple of years. In 2002 the same "speech" was attributed to Kurt Vonnegut's 1997 commencement address at MIT . But of course he wasn't there and the words weren't his. They belong to Ms. Schmich.

Most notable about this year's incident is Ms. Duval's excuse: She didn't mean to plagiarize. Excuse me? Here's an English lesson she apparently missed: When you block and copy paragraphs worth of text off the Internet and then use them in a public speech, without mentioning the source, your in trouble. When asked if a similar action by a student would be acceptable, her reply was reportedly "Was I turning this in for a grade? No". Well, there you go. It's not about right and wrong, it's about the grade.

Lastly, how is it that while preparing for a commencement address Ms. Duval just happens to come across one of the Internet's most infamous examples? Could it be she was actually searching for other commencement addresses from which she could harvest text and ideas? It seems Ms. Duval actually believes she wasn't plagiarizing since she didn't know who's words she was using. Hmmm, what an interesting notion. Perhaps it's technically correct. She is currently being investigated by the school district.


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