But this post isn't about the book. I haven't even read page one of that sucker yet. It's still sitting in the bag in the living room nestled among Omnivore's Dilemma and a couple of David Sedaris books. This post is about the idiocy of real people.
Well. Not really people. More like students.
I'm grading research papers right now. I did the same yesterday. Usually when working with "tech" classes (the lower level classes), I don't get a lot of research papers turned in. This is all well and good for me. I hate grading the writing of the barely literate. Actually, I hate grading the writing of the fully literate. It just takes too damn long and I'm lazy, so I'm perfectly happy to take home a stack of five papers from a class of twenty. It hurts the kids (they aren't allowed to pass the class without at least turning a paper in), which is why I nag them every day until the due date to get to work and turn the things in, but I'm not exactly crying on the inside when I end class with a very anorexic stack of drivel.
So imagine my shock and horror when the due date for this semester's papers comes and I end up with over 22 papers from about 32 students. That's a lot of crappy writing to go through and read. I'd planned on doing some grading during a recent break, but as always, I didn't even think about work until about 8 p.m. on the Sunday night before the first day back at school. Instead of leisurely grading a few papers a day, I instead had to spend my entire planning period slashing furiously away at research papers for the past two days. I did manage to finish before lunch today, but it was not looking good for a while there.
The one good thing I've got going for me is that some of these kids are exceptionally dense. One paper was turned in copied from the website, the photos deleted, but the large rectangular gaps where images had once displaced the text remained. That one went in the trash after letting the kid know he was busted and he needed to get a real paper turned in the next day if he wanted a grade. Since I've started grading this week, I've caught about five other plagiarizers, several of these in a stretch of stolen words that seemed endless. These papers are easy. I read one paragraph, plug a few "exact phrase" searches into Google, make a note on the paper, slap a zero on it and move on to the next paper. The sad thing is that I warned these kids that I'm exceptionally gifted at catching plagiarism. I even told them (in more polite, more politically correct terms, of course) that part of my ability comes from the fact that they suck as writers and anything with few errors or with good flow or organization is going to get checked. Anything that sounds like a typical teenage writer might slide under the bar, but you're likely to get busted for bad facts and grammar deductions if you're copying a source like that, so I'm not too worried. I even gave them a little help with the cheating by telling them that it's REALLY easy to catch plagiarism from an Internet source. Still, the only suspicious papers were verified as fakes with a couple of taps on the Google search button.
It's a little depressing that so many of these kids still copied and pasted into their papers. Some had the decency to at least jumble the sentences into a new, more random order, or add or change a word or two per sentence to make it harder to bust them, and most at least reformatted the text to something appriximating what the paper was supposed to look like, but in all cases, the plagiarism was obvious. It wasn't like I had just sprung the seriousness of the crime on them as they were turning in the paper. I warned them several times that even a whiff of plagiarism would earn them a zero. I guess that the reward of a good grade outweighed the risk of not turning in anything, but even a little bit of work could have disguised the plagiarism enough to make it too difficult for me to catch in the time I was willing to spend on it.
Oh well. They at least cut my workload by at least a third for me. I'm tempted to give them free points just for that. But I won't.