Teacher’s pla­gia­rism ac­cu­sa­tion irks par­ent

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - WEEKEND - Orig­i­nally pub­lished in 2013.

Dear An­nie: I was con­tacted by my son’s high school teacher, al­leg­ing he pla­gia­rized parts of his fi­nal term pa­per. An­nie, I coached him through the writ­ing process, mak­ing sure he fol­lowed through with his out­line. It took an ag­o­niz­ing 15 hours over sev­eral days. I know he didn’t pla­gia­rize, be­cause I was in the room the en­tire time and watched him come up with that sen­tence.

The teacher ran the pa­per through one of the com­mer­cially avail­able on­line pro­grams de­signed to catch pla­gia­rism, and part of one sen­tence popped up. She insists he copied the sen­tence from some book pub­lished in the 1950s and ex­pects him to cite his source. Aren’t stu­dents al­lowed to have the same thoughts some­one else has had be­fore?

My son is be­ing called a liar and told to give credit to some writer he never heard of. I asked my older child whether she runs her pa­pers through this pro­gram and changes them if any­thing gets flagged. She says she does. I don’t be­lieve stu­dents should have to change their word­ing if they wrote it them­selves.

I ex­plained this to the teacher, but she still insists he cheated. I think teach­ers should stop re­ly­ing on com­puter pro­grams. I told my son he should be proud of his hard work, but he thinks it sim­ply wasn’t worth the ef­fort. And now the teacher doubts my in­tegrity, as well.

Dis­gusted Par­ent

Dear Par­ent: We agree that this is a sorry com­men­tary on school­ing, but you need to be prac­ti­cal. If teach­ers use these on­line pro­grams to check for pla­gia­rized phrases, it makes sense for stu­dents to dou­ble-check their pa­pers the same way. Of course, two peo­ple could come up with the same sen­tence in­de­pen­dently, but the teacher has no way of know­ing this is the case. And a par­ent’s word is, sorry to say, in­suf­fi­cient. Your son can pro­tect him­self from fu­ture ac­cu­sa­tions by run­ning his pa­pers through a pro­gram sim­i­lar to what the teacher uses.

Dear An­nie: My hus­band and I are go­ing to his best friend’s wed­ding in two weeks. I’ve picked a teal dress to wear, and he’s go­ing with a black shirt and pants. We’re not sure what proper eti­quette is on cou­ples match­ing. Is it tacky or ju­ve­nile for his tie to match my dress?


Dear Cu­ri­ous: Some peo­ple think it’s cute if a tie matches the part­ner’s dress, but oth­ers would con­sider it a bit much. Since your hus­band is wear­ing a black shirt (with no jacket), we as­sume this is an in­for­mal wed­ding. If you want to match while be­ing less ob­vi­ous, a more muted com­pro­mise would be a pat­terned tie with some teal in it.

An­nie’s Mail­box is writ­ten by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, long­time ed­i­tors of the Ann Lan­ders col­umn.

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