News

Plagiarism at Paly grad events sparks discussion

Graduate Abid issues apology to community, author of speech

Two recent Palo Alto High School graduates learned a very public lesson about plagiarism, thanks to the same source that tripped them up — the Internet.

Word that Paly's two-year student body president, Mohammed Abid, and Baccalaureate speaker Malini Veerappan had taken parts of their speeches from existing, online talks spread rapidly throughout the online Paly community.

It caught the notice of the San Jose Mercury News, which broadcast the graduates' transgressions valley-wide.

Abid, who did not comment Wednesday, has apologized to the original authors of a portion of his speech given at the June 11 ceremony and to the broader community.

Veerappan could not be reached.

Fellow Paly graduate Andre Keiser said he spotted the similarities between Abid's speech and that of Mountain View's Lance Jabr when he was watching videos on http://www.CollegeHumor.com a few days after the graduation.

Most of Abid's speech is original, but he copied a joke that compares the college application process to the experience of wooing a bride.

Keiser originally thought that Jabr might have borrowed Abid's riff, but then learned Mountain View's ceremony had been held before Paly's.

"I thought it was really weird," Keiser said.

After a bit more searching, he discovered the links between Veerappan's speech and another online video.

Thinking that others would want to know, Keiser created a Facebook page that included all of the videos.

"I would say most people found it to be disappointing, but also found it kind of funny," Keiser said.

The graduates were surprised the plagiarism had occurred at their school, he said.

Keiser has since removed the page.

"My intent was just so that people would know about it," Keiser said.

He said he wasn't intending to embarrass his classmates, including the Stanford University-bound Abid or Veerappan, who had been active in debate and has said she plans to become a doctor.

"I think it was wrong, but I don't think it was horrible," Keiser said.

And he doesn't think plagiarism is as much of a problem at Paly, where many teachers require students to use http://Turnitin.com , an online service that checks for plagiarism.

School board member Dana Tom said he thinks the Internet has exacerbated the temptation to plagiarize.

"It's regrettable that any kind of plagiarism occurred," Tom said. "I think with the ubiquity of the Internet and access to information, the opportunity to either be inspired by or to plagiarize is quite great. I think it represents a big challenge for students today."

The district's curriculum does stress the proper use of source material, he said.

Although Keiser's Facebook page has been removed, Jabr's video is still available on YouTube.

Comments

Posted by No Big deal, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2008 at 4:37 pm

And how does Andre Keiser feel now that he blew a whistle on his fellow classmates? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Lana, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 25, 2008 at 4:41 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
This is blown out of proportion and is not worthy being made public.


Posted by a Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 25, 2008 at 4:49 pm

It is shameful that these two kids names have been publicized. Imagine how embarrassed their families must feel. Yes, they should NOT have plagarized, and have been thoroughly educated in how wrong it is. This should have stayed within Paly and the student's families. Shame on the Mercury News for putting this front page in section B. To Malini and Mohammed's families, I am absolutely sure that your kids have learned a big lesson and the community will soon forget this scandal.


Posted by Another Paly Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2008 at 5:01 pm

When I listened to the speeches given at a Walter Hays elementary school graduation 4 years ago, I knew instantly they were written by parents, not by 5th graders. I am glad this matter became public - since at some point 'The Cheating Culture' needs to stop. It is not OK to plagiarize, it is not OK to blame the whistleblower, it is not OK to try and justify unethical behavior. Leaders need to lead, not to copy others. The person above seems to suggest that because Abid got into Stanford, it is 'justified' for him to use other people's work and pass it off as his own. What else would be justified - is it OK for him to cheat at Stanford? Is it OK for him to cheat in graduate school?

It is certainly embarassing fo the students involved. It should be - a very good lesson for them, and for all of us.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jun 25, 2008 at 5:07 pm

Parents doing kids' work is rampant at all levels. From elementary science fairs, to college application essays. In fact, parents actually pay professionals to spoon feed these essays. With parents doing this type of thing at home, how can kids learn what is acceptable and what is not.

If the parents of these kids are embarrassed at what their kids have done, I ask them where they learned to hand in their own work. If these parents are truly innocent of never having done their kids work and passing it off as theirs from k - 12, then I do have some sympathy. Otherwise, they are only reaping what they sow.


Posted by It IS A Big Deal, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 25, 2008 at 5:22 pm

Oh please, I totally disagree with the previous comments. Quit blaming Andre Keiser for simply pointing out the facts. I certainly hope these two graduates are embarrassed and ashamed - they should be, and so should their parents. Keeping things like this quiet simply downplays the fact that plagiarism is wrong, and furthermore, this simply enables people to rationalize their actions as "no big deal." Well, it is a big deal. Perhaps these two needed to learn the hard way. As for those of you who believe that "it's no big deal" then you probably also think that taking a little money when no one is looking is no big deal either. Oh, and sneaking into the neighbor's pool when they aren't home is probably okay also. Hey, who cares if I stand on the coral reef, put the plastic bottle in the trash, cut these flowers for my own enjoyment regardless of the fact that the rose bush isn't mine. Also of these little things are a big deal too. People who rationalize this type of behavior as "no big deal" are the one's causing the gradual decline of civilization. I am so sick of that "chill out" attitude! What ever happened to personal integrity?


Posted by Take Responsiblity, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 25, 2008 at 5:43 pm

So far these comments reflect a desire to blame the whistleblower, the newspaper, and the parents of the plagiarisers. No wonder we have an "it's not my fault" generation. These two 18 year old college bound students lifted all or a portion of their speeches from the internet. Having attended both speeches and heard both the originals on the internet, I am appalled. They plagiarized word for word. And all they had to do was attribute their words to the original writer. Is that so hard?

Malani had to compete against others for the right to give a speech at baccalaurete -- imagine how the students who weren't given an opportunity to speak feel. And Mohammed was awarded the The "Viking" Award at graduation, which is only given to a student who has made a significant contribution to the school. Maybe he has met that criteria, but I think the award should be rescinded for his dishonesty.

If you want to blame someone other than the students themselves, blame the school for not enforcing its Honesty Policy. Right now it's a joke. Every year each student should be required to sign the Honesty Policy, pledging that they will not cheat and acknowledging that it is their DUTY to report any cheating that they know of (and if they fail to do so, then there will be consequences against them).

Where are the consequences? Our students need to learn to take responsiblity for their actions. Blaming others won't do that.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 25, 2008 at 5:51 pm

Great literature is often a result of previous works with the same plot and theme. The challenge for the writer, such as W. Shakespeare, is to take the ideas and embellish them with enough original content to add to the collective body of knowledge and culture.

Shamelessly stealing is the stuff of Hollywood and tabloids.

These are both fine students, who likely will experience in their professional lives that what is done gets repeated, and is justified because it has been done, even when it is a creative product. They can be faulted, as entry level marketing assistants are, for example, for not providing a clear trail of where their work came from. This is a training issue, and the people in question, albeit highly sophisticated PALY grads, are still works in progress.

That said, since my daughter Adrienne is one of their classmates, I found both speeches to be highly entertaining and adding to the enjoyment of the events.

"They can't take that away from me..."


Posted by Resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 25, 2008 at 6:13 pm

I don't understand those that so easily overlook this kind of behavior. Plagiarism is a common reason for college offers of admission being withdrawn. I wouldn't be surprised if Stanford decides to do so because Stanford, unlike Paly, is serious about cheating, i.e., plagiarism.


Posted by Another Parent, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2008 at 6:17 pm

So, Paul, if I hear you, you are saying:

1) It is all relative, everything is relative, what's wrong with a little cheating?
2) Because they went to Paly, they must be bright, and are entitled to break the rules beause they don't really apply to them, so long as they aren't too egregious
3) The sin to you is not the cheating, but that they 'mistakenly' forgot the footnotes.

If I follow your trail, this would apply to coursework as well - good work gets repeated, and if it is entertaining, all the better.
Suppose we passed off a Shakespearean play as an original work by a Paly student?

Should I encourage my son, were he so fortunate to be given the honor to speak before his Paly class, to repeat word for word any of the great commencement speeches given by George Plimpton or Oprah Winfrey or [insert your favorite commencement speaker here]?

The reason students are chosen for this honor is it is felt they can summarize uniquely the experiences of the class. Otherwise, hell, why not just play back a tape of Time/Life's '100 Greatest Commencement Talks', and be done with it?

I would hope this community expects more than a carbon copy of some other students work.


Posted by Susan, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2008 at 6:18 pm

Paul Losch,

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Why should cheaters be excused? What do you have to say to those students, who did not cheat, but were denied their place in the sun, because the cheaters won the award?

Is there some deeper issue here, Paul?


Posted by no excuses, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2008 at 6:31 pm

All "creative" work is derivative, mere rehashing of the same old themes. Since so many people do it, especially those who are affluent and educated, it must be okay. And if members of the audience enjoy the results, then don't bother pointing out the ethical issues unless you too want to be slammed as a whistleblower.


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 25, 2008 at 6:38 pm

Must we get so indignant?

These are fine people, who did not appropriately attribute some of their thinking from their talks. They need to learn that it is important to do that. They have not fully learned that lesson. I am confident that they will, with proper guidance from the mentors they will have in college and beyond.

My experience with my two PALY grads is that had something of this sort been done as part of a class the students were taking, they would have been flamed by the teacher. Values are taught at PALY, and at some of the homes from which the students come, and I do include mine in that category.

One thing I find interesting about posting on this venue is that it is oftentimes difficult to put things into perspective. To suggest, based on my comments and observations, that I countenance cheating or dishonesty of any sort is a great example. To ignore my comments that people who are still learning how to act like adults and cut them some slack is another.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 25, 2008 at 6:50 pm

Two things--when in doubt, attribute.

Also, what does it say when you can't write your own speech?

No, it really wasn't okay and, sorry, I don't have a problem with names being used here. If those kids were bright enough to get the honor of speaking, they're bright enough to understand plagiarism.


Posted by wow, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 25, 2008 at 7:10 pm

Paul Losch
I usually respect your point of view in your postings. Not this time -you basically are rationalizing a serious error of omission on the basis of a "work in progress". We all fit that category until the day we did, so I don't buy any of your rhetoric.

These two blew it and deserve the "indignant" posts and public airing of their misdeeds. To potentially jeopardize their prestigious college admission offers as well as STEAL the right to deliver speeches of honor do NOT warrant our cutting "them some slack".

And what relevance is there to the fact that they are classmates of your daughter -- unless you are using that as a basis to rationalize and downplay the seriousness of these acts?


Posted by Reasonable, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 25, 2008 at 7:59 pm

Let's be reasonable and not dramatize and exaggerate the situation. The article states :"Most of Abid's speech is original, but he copied a joke that compares the college application process to the experience of wooing a bride". So borrowing a joke and incorporating it into the speech to make it entertaining is not plagiarism. People, chill out! I feel sorry for the two students and I agree with the first two posts about Andre Keiser.


Posted by hold on..., a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 25, 2008 at 8:00 pm

Paul -

Hold on. You are saying academic award winners at a high school haven't been taught to attribute sources? And not knowing that, would naturally assume it's ok to use parts of others' speeches as their own?

The problem here is more serious than you seem to think. The next time you take diabetes or heart medicine based on statistical analysis of research, think about how easy it is to choose to call a data point an outlier in order to present a more "successful" study. Oh, you don't have to footnote that? Need more training? Didn't know that you must note unexpected findings in seemingly unrelated health issues?

Cheating among academics truly hurts. To claim that a high school student is unaware that plagiarism is wrong is just nuts. Plagiarism cuts at the heart of education - why bother to learn or think if you can copy someone else's work? It shows that he student not only has bad ethics, but doesn't understand what education is about. And by demonstrating this "lapse" in such an important and public venue, these students are suggesting that they've done this before.

Did you really defend these guys?


Posted by Lillian, a resident of Professorville
on Jun 25, 2008 at 8:09 pm

Almost every student at our high schools knows who sells drugs and booze at school and yet noone reports those. I guess reporting on a fellow classmate borrowing a joke from the web is safer and more honorable


Posted by High tech professional, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2008 at 8:26 pm

One of definitions of plagiarism is reuse of significant, identical, or nearly identical portions of someone's work. Reusing someone's joke for a-non-graded-outside-of-classroom speech is insignificant from my perspective.


Posted by Alex, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 25, 2008 at 8:56 pm

Couple points which I think need to brought to light.

First of all, this article makes it sound as though these were minor incidents of plagiarism. For those of you that were at the graduation, you may recall that the marriage joke was not "part" of the speech -- it basically WAS the speech. To refresh your memories, here is the link to the Mountain View speech:

Web Link

Fast forward about 2 minutes in and you'll see what I mean.

Second, and perhaps more distrubingly -- I was blown away by the nonchalant attitude towards cheating in general which appeared in these speeches. This is a point not mentioned in the article, but both speeches included jokes about cheating. When Veerappan quipped about copying answers from students I was sort of dumbfounded -- apparently this is the quality of education one can expect from schools which are barred from teaching anything related to personal conduct or ethics. Yet, judging from the posts on the facebook group, many studuents (though certainly a minority) DO think that intellectual dishonesty is a joke.

Perhaps this ought to be taken as a lesson that "life isn't fair" for those who were denied in favor of Abid and Veerappan's cribbing abilities. Sill, I have no problem throwing the book at people who get what they deserve.


Posted by Alex, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 25, 2008 at 9:08 pm

Apparently the 2nd cheating quip I remembered was not Abid.

Cheating quip #2:

Web Link

"Once you've faked your last annotations" ... yes, hillarious.

Still, this makes me wonder how widespread this belief is. Just what in the hell kind of message is Paly sending when it approves not one, but several (i.e. not an oversight) of these jokes in graduation speeches?


Posted by lame, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 25, 2008 at 9:19 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Ike the Vike, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2008 at 9:38 pm

Mo won the coveted and prestigous Viking Award. Is one of the criteria, creativity and original thought??

Malini bragged in her baccal. speech about copying homework. Maybe copying is just part of her DNA!


Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2008 at 9:44 pm

When we live amongst many cheaters-
we should not be suprised by those who
want to shoot the messenger- in this case
the whistleblower- who simply put the information
out for others to see and judge-
he is a threat of a good example to all those hard
working cheaters out there- making them look bad-
exposing the truth can get you in trouble-
even more than cheating- when your surrounded by
cheaters- as our school board rep. apologizes for the
students lack of judgement- [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 25, 2008 at 10:27 pm

This was and is a teachable moment.

These kids committed an error of judgment, and they need to learn from their error. They have been good leaders and set many good examples for their peers during their time at PALY.

Here's what I would have said to my kid had he or she been the one to give the talk

Before: that's a good line, how did you come up with that?

After: that was a good line, you should have acknowledged the source or attributed it in some way--imitation can be the greatest form of flattery, but when you draw on material from someone else, you need to let it be known that is what you did

What do you think you could have done differently, and how will this experience affect what you do going forward?

Let's learn from this, and let's move on.


Posted by Question, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 25, 2008 at 10:46 pm

Paul, since you were there, can you shed light on the point above - was the proposal comparison just a "good line" (as in your example) or was it a major element of the speech? In the web link from You Tube, it is two and a half minutes of a 7 minute speech - not the whole speech, but a major segment of it. If it were similar in this case, that seems like more than just repeating a joke you heard.

FWIW, if my kid repeated that story verbatim in a grad speech after cribbing it from YouTube the night before, I would be devastated. While it is not the same as academic plagiarism, in someways it seems worse - she didn't just try to fool her teacher, but her parents and peers. While life would go on, I would wonder where I went wrong.


Posted by u r blowing this out of proportion, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 25, 2008 at 10:58 pm

I am completely shocked at the comments that people have left, these are two kids who made mistakes and they both learned from them, it is completely horrible for the mercury news and Palo Alto weekly to write an article about their mistakes. This article also makes it sound like Mohammed plagiarized and he did not, if any of you attended you would know that he credited the analogy he used to a teacher, if you look up the definition of plagiarizing then you will see that it is taking someone elses work as your own, Mohammed did not, he simply sited his analogy wrong, also if you had been there you would have realized that his speech was 99% his own and only the end was plagiarized.


Posted by hello, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 25, 2008 at 11:03 pm

while most of you (no offense) must be jealous or something of the success that Mohammed has come across, i think that it is horrible to say that he has not worked his ass of for all of it, because he did and i know that he learned a lesson and all of you who think he should be punished are being stupid, Mohammed plans everything for paly and attends every sports game, and every meeting, he loves paly and never meant to hurt anyone, the guy who wrote the speech has forgiven him so you should all get over it, in fact he contacted the boy the next day and owned up to his mistake.


Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2008 at 11:03 pm

"Only the end was plagiarized."

sheesh!


Posted by NoMoMonica, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 25, 2008 at 11:13 pm

What about that bizarre line of Mo's ... something about "sweating like Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office." Did he copy that, too? Did he understand it? Not only how completely inappropriate it was for the moment, but how it just didn't make sense? If Monica was sweating in the Oval Office, it wasn't because she was nervous about being chosen. In Ken Starr's office, now there I bet she was sweating. How many Paly grads this year even know who Monica Lewinsky was? They were about 10 when she was in the news.

Sorry, I know this is a tangent, but the line did strike me as totally wrong in a few ways.


Posted by the guy who wrote the speech has forgiven him, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jun 25, 2008 at 11:18 pm

the guy who wrote the speech has forgiven him so you should all get over it


Posted by hannah mississppi, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 25, 2008 at 11:22 pm

Neither malini and mohammed had to do write their speeches they both volunteered and therefore it is not cheating, stanford did not accept mohammed because he was going to write this speech and duke dint accept malini because of this speech either, they were not getting graded on their speech either so why is everyone calling this cheating, what did they cheat on, where did they more of an advantage over other kids, they made a mistake in mohammeds case not siting his analagy correctly and because malini has not commented i dont think we can judge her untill she tells us her whole story.
Malini and Mohammed are top notch students, she will be attending duke in the fall and mohammed will be attending stanford, both are smart and good leaders, they made mistakes and have apologized to the appropiate people
Both got over a 4.0 and were very active in their communities, if any of you were half the people that either mohammed or malini are then our world would be a better place
dont blow this out of proportion recently obama copied a couple lines of a speech from a friend of his, does that make him any less of a person, right now if harvard knew that he was going to plagrise a couple lines would they still accept him YES because he is a good leader and smart guy.


Posted by Personally, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2008 at 11:24 pm

I have a college age child and one still in Palo Alto schools... I have always taught them not to cheat, not to plagiarize, and to quote their sources. I have never asked a teacher to up a grade (which is apparently often done by local parents). And I have never done their homeword for them, not even typing their essays as some parents I know do. At times, I wonder if I have short-changed my kids, since so many of their peers are the "beneficiaries" of so much parent involvement and help and lax rules.

However, I want to believe that, in the end, my kids will come ahead because they'll have learned to be self-reliant and hard-working. I hope I'm right. These days, it seems to me that our whole society is just based on cheating and other dubious arrangements.


Posted by OMG, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 25, 2008 at 11:27 pm

MOHAMMED DID NOT PLAGIARISE, HE NEVER CREDITED THE ANALOGY TO HIMSELF HE SIMPLIFY SITED THE END OF HIS SPEECH WRONG, PLAGIARISATION IS CREDITING SOMEONE ELSES WORK TO YOURSELF HE NEVER SAID IT WAS HIS ANALOGY!!!!!!!


Posted by karen, a resident of Barron Park School
on Jun 25, 2008 at 11:34 pm

why are you all targetting the poor kids parents, their parents did not write the speeches and did not tell their kids to use youtube videos to help with their speeches, so stop you dont know their parents and the way they have raised their kids
every child makes mistakes and i am sure that all of you do not want people blaming you for your childs mistake, these are 18 year olds and therfore to young to realize the extent of there mistakes but to old to listen to there parents


Posted by If It Feels Wrong, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 25, 2008 at 11:35 pm

While he did site "a teacher," why didn't he say "I heard a great analogy on You Tube while trying to find material for this speech?" I guess because it would have sounded pretty dumb. If telling the truth about what your are doing seems wrong, that's a good clue not to do it in the first place.


Posted by Lesson for all, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 25, 2008 at 11:44 pm

For people who think the truth matters, and honesty matters, plagiarism is serious. Scoring points using someone else's work is dishonest. That it happened in Paul Losch's daughter's class seems a reason to him to make excuses for it. He just doesn't get it.
It is irrelevant that the child learned a lesson. It is an act of public dishonesty. The children of the wealthy and privileged get away with so much, get jobs through their parents connections and get more lenient treatment by the justice system than poor kids.
One important function of the public disgrace is that everyone learns that it is wrong to plagiarize and being found out leads to humiliation and punishment.
Nothing trivial about that. The public lesson is more important than the private one.


Posted by doctor, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 25, 2008 at 11:55 pm

i think that you are forgetting that these kids just graduated high school, i am a doctor and i know that a childs brain is not completly mature untill 21, sure public disgrace teaches lessons but these are just kids they do not need this kind of trama in their young lives,
I notice that you are also assuming that the kids families are extremly wealthy and powerful, do you know them and their history, because if you do not then I do not think you have the right to say that


Posted by disappointed, a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2008 at 12:01 am

Mo didn't just attribute the joke to a different source, he used the metaphor and extended it for the theme of his entire speech (the point being made more clearly and better than the original) BUT some of the very same jokes were used as the Mt. View student which makes me uncomfortable. Malini's simply changed the restaurant and related items--otherwise, it was essentially the same speech as the one about Chipotle (same phrasing, set up for jokes, etc.)--and she didn't give credit to anyone! This seems even worse.

I don't think we should blame Andre for noticing what, after viewing both speeches from the Paly kids and on YouTube, are obvious similarities. That said, I have no idea what was on Facebook nor how this information got to the Merc. Seems to me that the Merc didn't have more than the talk on Facebook to go on (no citations of Mohammed and Malini's speeches) so it seems like the article was spreading gossip. For them to call Stanford for comment is just stirring the pot. And, to be fair, they shouldn't just single out Mohammed and not Malini if they're trying to jeopardize their college careers!


Posted by Student at Paly, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2008 at 12:03 am

To NoMoMonica,

Contrary to your belief, Paly students do not live under a rock. So what if we were 10 when the Monica thing happened. We were in 6th grade when 9/11 happened, does that mean we automatically don't know about it?


Posted by Carla, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2008 at 2:41 am


Plagerism of this sort is akin to corruption in a country. It taxes in mind and soul all those you do not cheat. Any sort of punishment must be immediate and great. My opinion is that this is appropriate punishment for the crime committed.

What must be understood is that this time they were caught. Just think of all the rest of the times they committed similar crimes and they were not caught. The probabability it high that they have already committed such crimes. If not, they'll learn a big necessary lesson just the same.

No wonder it happens at Stanford just the same. The reason is that it is not nipped in the bud when it is first detected. Our society is all to forgiving at a cost of all the rest.


Posted by Recent Paly Graduate, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 2:45 am

I have heard both speeches during bacc and graduation because I was a student in the class of 2008. I have read some of the comments and was amused by many of them. I know we have just graduated high school, but we are well aware of what we are doing! I think this article missed a lot of the details and made everything a lot more dramatic, but I definitely think this is serious business. Saying Mo and Malini are confused "kids" that made mistakes is pathetic. I am ashamed and appalled this has happened at my school. Paly is great in many ways, but also has many, many flaws, so I am happy this was brought into attention. The fact that the two got into great schools has nothing to do with the speeches, yes, but who knows? [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by resident, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 26, 2008 at 7:30 am

This story has a great cast of characters:

Overachieving kids with a lack of moral compass representing a distinguished school; a smart kid with a moral compass communicating the moral issue clearly enough so that the larger community could see the issue; talented writers whose material was stolen by kids from a wealthy community for self-aggrandisement; a scandalized community with a possibly higher than average population of parents who are cheating-enablers; aggrieved honest students concerned that their school's reputation has been tarnished, and wondering if they might have had greater success in school (and, hence, college admissions) if the over-achieving cheaters had been caught earlier.

...and, sadly for Palo Alto, the last character in the drama may be a smirking nation that can now justifiably eye the high rankings of our local schools with an attitude of "I know how Palo Alto schools got those rankings. That's how they do it over there."


Posted by HSTeacher, a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 26, 2008 at 9:34 am

This is a very interesting conversation, one that exposes the varying beliefs on the definition of plagiarism and academic honesty. From a purely objective perspective, the event meets the definition of plagiarism. He included someone else's work in his own without giving credit. He did it knowingly and with intention, perhaps in an effort to live up to some idealized standard of speech greatness.

Students do this at every high school and in every way possible, mostly because they are able to do so. I find it fascinating how strongly the justifications are offered in defense of such actions. As parents we often use the sliding scale of importance to offer context. ("Oh, it was just a speech..") I think there is another side that must be considered.

I think the real issue at play here is the very nature of information itself. These students have access to information in a way not imaginable 20 years ago (10? 5?) and struggle with how to best make sense of it. They are encouraged to create, share, rework and publish information in a way that is transformational. They have tools and modes of interaction that make my own education obsolete in ways. And they will certainly be tempted to misuse this information, as we all are.

It is our responsibility to make sure that our education system truly focuses on how to manage this information. If we think about it, within days of the speech, this had been discovered and published in wide form with dazzling speed. I am sure that Abid knows more about the implications of this than ever before. I only wish he had been able to learn this message in a safer, less brutal way.


Posted by I learned to write in high school, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2008 at 9:44 am

Resident -- add to your list: supposedly well-educated high school students who can't seem to (or at least don't appear to care to) write English with punctuation or know how to spell words like 'cite!' (see above for plenty of examples).


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:08 am

HS Teacher

I respect your thoughts and they make sense to me.

I would like to ask you a question on this subject though and that is to do with parent input in students' work. From helping with typing essays, to helping with elementary science fair presentations which many parents do to small or larger extremes, to the more dubious doing of the homework and paying some tutor or planner to spoonfeed essays, where should the line be drawn? I have done very little to actually help in my kids' homework projects and discovered to their cost that theirs are among the weakest project handed in because it is indeed their own work. I am pleased that they no longer do missions models as I remember the sad effort of my daughter with cereal boxes made while I was on pregnancy bed rest whereas the rest of her class had bought kits from craft stores. But, I have on occasions helped with typing my 7thgraders essays although the words are definitely his own and I have had to sign that I edited the work which was a requirement.

However, as high school work gets more intense and I see more and more students getting their parents to do all the work, from physics projects to college applications, where do the students learn the ethics of doing their own work if they are so used to getting their parents' input as a matter of course.


Posted by paly student, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:00 am

hello people,
their parents did not write the speeches for them so get over it, paly has a very tough honor code and both malini and mohammed have never broken it.
i go to paly and i know that at the high school level parents dont do the work for the kids, yes they help them with college applications, they edit them and help them think of ideas but that is not a crime, i know kids from across the bay and country and not one of them did the college application process by themselves, in fact you are told that you should get other people to edit your essays and help you, by the teachers, books and colleges
because i go to paly i also know that cheating is very common(i personally heard both mohammed and malinis speeches and watched the youtube videos and i think that mohammed made a mistake but malini copy almost all of the speech and therfore is much worse, so why did the article only contact Stanford why didnt they contact Duke)
i have never meant anyone who has done every math assignment, read every AP english book, etc. when a school like paly gives kids this much homework it is impossible to expect them to complete it all, but they do, so for all of you parents of elementary school kids who are freaking out about your honorable kids who will not do well because they do not cheat, get over it no one is perfect and it is not like the parents are encourging their kids to do it, but it happens, honorable and smart kids do it


Posted by paly student, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:03 am

ps:
sorry i forgot to proof read my comment


Posted by Cara, a resident of Southgate
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:03 am

Let me chip in on the topic of parents doing homework. My friend has her son at Crystal Springs Uplands School in Hillsborough, which positions itself as school for gifted children. Almost all parents (most of them very wealthy) hire professional tutors and powerpoint wizzes to help their kids with homework.
My friend also asked her brother who is a Stanford PhD student to help her son with a project, yet the son got only B grade for this project. When she came to talk to the teacher about why he got a B, the teacher said that he did not put as much effort into the project as other sudents did and showed some examples of A projects. When my friend saw these projects, she was blown away, these were obviously done by a whole team of professional photographers and corporate powerpoint specialists. When she told the teacher her thoughts, the teacher said that "results matter" and that she is sure the kids did it themselves.


Posted by pausd alum, a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:11 am

This is all so disturbing. It seems, many of our high schoolers will do whatever it takes to get good grades. Cheating and rule breaking is apparently very common at Paly and Gunn - ask any kid. There is a sense that many teachers are aware of it, but slow to action because they know parents will attack them and defend their kids. The basic idea seems to be that getting in to a good college is of such supreme importance that kids cheat, parents rationalize and defend them, and teachers and admins cave in and ignore the problem. Recently, a kid broke a couple rules during a student government election at one of our high schools, but because "he only broke the rules a little" he was allowed to keep his office. Here is a very public example that cheating will be tolerated - if you only cheat a little. In the case of the 2 Paly students, these kids plagiarized "a little" - but that's not OK. At some point kids need to have consequences for their actions. It would be nice if parents would reflect on the amount of pressure they put on their kids and the message they send if they defend their cheating or rule breaking. It would also be nice if the school staff actually enforced the rules and fostered environments for our kids where cheating was addressed and not tolerated. So many of our kids end up at the best colleges in the country. Yes they work hard, but what rules are they willing to break to get there and what kind of leaders of the future are we developing here in Palo Alto? Most (hopefully) kids work hard and earn their grades without cheating. Most teachers (hopefully) foster classroom environments where cheating is not allowed. But there are many cheaters and many teachers who turn a blind eye and this is common knowledge on our high school campuses.


Posted by Katia, a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:19 am

To report on not to report is an interesting ethical dilemma. Would you report a collegue who is slacking at work or spends a lot of time surfing the web or having frequent and lengthy personal phone calls to his/her manager? Would you report a fellow student who is cheating on the test? I would never do that. It just does not seem right ethically. Let it be on the cheating person's consciousness. Maybe because I grew up in Soviet Russia where people were reporting on each other to KGB and I just hate hate whistle blowers. Unless of course it is for a serious matter.


Posted by Mom of Paly grads, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:30 am

I have two kids who graduated from Paly this decade. Both did all of their own work throughout high school. If they asked me, I would make some editing comments on their papers, but I did so with an extremely light touch so that the work was essentially theirs.

Both went on to good universities far from home, where they did all of their own work. Both graduated university with honors and spent almost every term on the Dean's List. I believe that doing all of their own work at a rigorous high school like Paly helped them achieve at a high level in college as well.

Parents who do their kids' work for them, or kids who get lazy and rip stuff off the Web rather than doing their own work, reap their own reward.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:36 am

Of course it should have reported. These were cases of public speeches. Both kids, for that matter, were adults. It's not a private issue--it's a public one.

No one forced these kids to grab stuff from YouTube and fail to give credit for it. And if they didn't learn that that was a problem at Paly, what *were* they learning?

Should there be some sort of punishment? That's a different question. But I don't see why people should be upset about revealing some hard truths about something created to be heard in public.

And, unfortunately, it *does* make me question the steller academic records of the kids involved. When else did they take the easy way out?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:44 am

Obama was criticized a few weeks ago (eons in politics) for a speech which he plagiarized from a friend/colleague. This is probably where our residents and their kids get their ethics from.


Posted by paly grad, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:44 am

we are getting of topic, i would like to remind you that the parents of these kids DID NOT WRITE THE SPEECHES and personally knowing both students their PARENTS HAVE NEVER DONE THEIR WORK FOR THEM, yes people often do but malini's and mohammed's did not. They both came from immagriant families that taught their kids that education is important so both kids WORKED HARD to get into the colleges that they did, no one is in the room when you are taking the SAT and both kids got very high scores so these are SMART KIDS who deserve everything god has given them, while i do not know malinis family, i now that mohammeds family is a very religous family and never have encouraged cheating and mohammed is also religous and has many morals


Posted by Brian, a resident of Monroe Park
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:44 am

Katia,
I am with you on the issue of whether to report and what to report. Depends on the harm to society. If I were Andre Keiser, I might want to talk to the two students myself and give them a chance to come forward, but I wouldn't embarass them publicly the way Andre did.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:44 am

Obama was criticized a few weeks ago (eons in politics) for a speech which he plagiarized from a friend/colleague. This is probably where our residents and their kids get their ethics from.

Sorry, should have said some of our residents and some of our kids get their ethics from.


Posted by hello all, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:51 am

i agree, what has any one benefitted from knowing this story, all it has done is hurt the families of the 2 kids, so instead of hurting the 2 kids Andre should have confronted the 2 kids and told paly, why does he need to publize this [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by PA mom, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:52 am

Brian has a good point. I also think that it would be more honorable and honest if Andre confronted the two students himself and let them have a chance to admit plagiarism publicly before making it all public. Otherwise, it is kind of sneaky.


Posted by Ada, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:58 am

We are a non confrontational society. If you do not like the fact that you neighbour stores junk car in his driveway, you report it to the proper authority instead of confronting your neighbour. It makes things more civilized. However, I also think that these matters could have been handled better. Andre could have asked a teacher to talk to these two students and give them a chance to come forward instead of subjecting them to public humiliation and embarassment by exposing them redhanded.


Posted by PA parent, a resident of Nixon School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 12:09 pm

Quote - "Quit blaming Andre Keiser for simply pointing out the facts"? This was not just pointing the facts, he certainly was aware of the consequences that would follow and the shame and pain both families would have to endure. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I agree with all above that it should have been handled differently, both by Mercury News and Paly .


Posted by Blame, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 26, 2008 at 12:27 pm

Funny seeing people blame the person who pointed this out and publicized it. PA Mom says it would have been more "honorable and honest" if he had been more quiet about it. That's quite amazing to me - public honorees basically steal their material without proper attribution for a very public event and publicly pointing out that the emperor has no clothes is dishonorable? I'm not sure I understand how this kind of honor works. The whistleblower did not make unsubstantiated allegations or spread rumors; he put the evidence out there for all to judge. What's dishonorable or dishonest about that? The blame belongs with those who lifted the material.

We have what may be a serious culture of cheating, judging from this event and the above posts. Interestingly, Skelly had to deal with serious cheating scandals at Saratoga when he was principal there. Paly and Gunn students - is cheating and plagiarism commonplace at your schools?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2008 at 12:29 pm

7th grade parent here...
On doing the typing for your kid: Occassionally when the load is too great, I do the typing for her. She's doing the writing, the research, the learning. I'm typing it up from her handwritten original. I figure, any monkey can type. That's not the objective of the project (social studies, english, science, etc).. anyway. She's absorbing the most important learning here. And the extra two hours of sleep is more important for her education anyway (two hours of typing for her - vs. 10 minutes for me.) Interestingly enough - she volunteered to take a typing class last summer, and has been working her way up to typing up her own work.

Interestingly, I also have a third grade boy - for whom writing (anything having to do with taking a colored implement to paper - writing, drawing, painting, etc.) is torture - literally torture. He has a creative mind, is a brilliant thinker, reader, speller, story teller - but has a real problem with putting his words down on the paper. His teacher said, I should just let him dictate to me (in order for him to be able to get any work done at all). This seemed somewhat wrong, although the alternative was going to be utter failure to get anything done at all. I started giving him the encouragement that if he would do at least half (or whatever), I would take dication from him on the rest. And its helped him at least start. On the last two days of school he wrote a 4 paragraph 'report' on Palo Alto History. On his own. In record time. So, this is success in my book.

So when people are quick to ridicule parents for 'doing' for their kids, I think sometimes you need to be careful. In our case, its about giving my kids some hope and some perspective in a way that helps them see light at the end of the tunnel, and is a teaching pathway in and of itself.

Sometimes when a parent and a kid do a science project together, that gives the kid some perspective on quality, on setting high standards, on pride in work, on not settling, on teamwork, and idea processing (together). Its not necessarily about cheating. Why is it that our Palo Alto kids are doing better than many across the country - is it because our administators at 25 Churchill are brilliant? I think not. It's mainly because the parents are highly involved. Kids learn high standards, by seeing high standards at work.

All well and good to set your kid free and see what happens, but then they take a sad little cereal box mission to school and feel nothing but embarrassed. By the way PAUSD - QUIT GIVING OUR KIDS PROJECTS THAT REQUIRE SO MUCH PARENT INVOLVEMENT! Give kids projects they can reasonably expect to do and finish on their own! Or do the darn complicated projects in CLASS to ensure that it stays in the hands of the kids - level playing field. Its just ridiculous what some of these teachers are sending home for the PARENTS to hash out these days.

When I had my first real job (before college, 18 yrs old) I almost got fired when that company needed to downsize that staff. I was smart, but I didn't really do my work carefully, completely, quickly. I didn't think big picture, extra mile. I didn't know how to be clean and professional about it. It wasn't until one of the senior staff in that office stood up for me (saw some potential), and promised to take me under her wing - they kept me on. She proceeded to mentor me carefully, sit with me and explicitly walk me through some things I was falling down on step by step. She taught me by showing me. I really was able to show my true colors, but only after someone really held my hand in a significant way.

These are kids, now is the time for parents to hold their hands through some of this stuff. Someone probably should have micromanaged those speeches for those kids. How often had they given speeches to a thousand people before? Would have been nice for someone to teach them how to do it properly instead of letting them loose to make asses out of themselves.

I do not condone the plagarism we're talking about here. A sad error in judgement on the part of those kids that really should have known better. A culture of shortcutting came back to bite them in the butt. I'm glad to read about it so I can start now to hammer this in to my younger kids (especially my 7th grader who's beginning to use internet for research alot.) Cite your sources, and give credit for some elses ideas - just that easy.

another issue - teachers don't really seem to spend much time reading through and critiquing the kids work. I've seen them ask for 7 or 8 pages of work - and it comes back with no signs of having been read. No red marks, or editing at all - just a grade on top. Undoubtedly many missed opportuniteis to catch little kids making the plagarism mistake and nipping it in the bud before it gets serious.

Overworked kids, overworked teachers, parents picking up the slack, high expecations, and kids growing up in a shortcut to success mentality. Sad for everyone really.


Posted by PA Mom, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2008 at 12:32 pm

Blame,
I did not say Andre should have been quiet. I said "it would be more honorable and honest if Andre confronted the two students himself and let them have a chance to admit plagiarism publicly before making it all public". It would have been much more ethical to give the kids a chance to come forward themselves instead of exposing them publicly. What many people do not realize is the harm and pain that comes with such an action. You can teach a lesson in a much more mature and gentle way.


Posted by Jordan mom, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Mohammed and Malini,
If you are reading this, I want you to know that even though it must be really awful and shameful and you are probably hiding in the corners crying, do not feel desperate. I am sure you earned your grades and admissions to great colleges by hard work and this whole speech thing was just a poor judgement, a mistake that has been blown out of proportions by some. View it as a life lesson, but don't despair. I know at this age you tend to dramatize things, as if the sky is falling on you, but take a deep breath, you have entire life ahead of you, you will have plenty of chances to prove to the world that you are good and honest and hardworking. Cheer up!


Posted by Midtown Resident, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Jordan Mom,
Bless you for your kind heart and kind words. I hope more people understand what these kids are going through now.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2008 at 1:06 pm

7th grade parent

I think I am with you completely on this one.

I just wish the kids were taught how to do some of the projects themselves.

I have a 4th grader who was doing a homework project, quite well, but needed some help. One of the things he had to do was draw a map by hand of the country he was studying. He had no idea how to do it.
I got some tracing paper (parchment paper for cooking actually) an atlas, some paper clips, and proceeded to show him how to trace the map from the atlas. My older kids looked on in amazement. None of them knew how to do it.

One of my kids had to do an unseen map of the Mediterranean from memory. The point the teacher had been doing is that if you get a blank map off the internet you are not learning anything, but if you draw it yourself, next time you look at a map of the Med you will actually look at it differently.

Both these activities show the difference in our teachers' methods. One wanted the kid to draw the map by hand to learn what it looked like but never taught the mechanics of how to do it. The other knew that drawing a map by hand or from memory is actually teaching something valuable. The more experienced the teacher, the more innovate they become. But, the fact that I had been taught to trace maps at school back in the days of when there was no internet taught me something that none of my kids appear to have learned.

Interesting.


Posted by Ohlone alum, a resident of Ohlone School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 1:19 pm

Jordan mom is the voice of reason here. I agree wholeheartedly with her. Give these kids a break, they have suffered enough. Stop this lynching and move on. We live in the world where it is hard to be 100% authentic and reinvent the wheel all the time. Parents will continue to help kids with homework, some students will continue to cheat. Of course we need to guide and teach our kids to be honest but we need to do it in a kind way. Suppose you are a teacher and you catch a student stealing someone else's ipod, for example. You have a choice - drag this kid in front of the whole class and expose him or you have a private conversation with this kid and save his face. What would be a better lesson?


Posted by actually..., a resident of Southgate
on Jun 26, 2008 at 1:44 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Trent, a resident of Southgate
on Jun 26, 2008 at 2:04 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by What Lynch?, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 26, 2008 at 2:09 pm

I'm confused - who's lynching? These people made a big public show of success (gave a graduation speech!) and it terms out they lifted the material - no doubt about it, smoking gun, they don't deny it. This is pretty different from if they handed in a paper or gave a private talk - those things might be appropriate to handle privately. But this was a public honor at a public event - so the idea that their misdeed should be made public seems right; it's a natural consequence. In the above analogy, it's one thing if you stole an Ipod; it's another if you stole the iPod, and then made a public show of what a great iPod you had.

A lynching implies rush to judgment and punishment way beyond any possible crime. Here the infraction is obvious and admitted, the punishment is everybody knowing what you did. It is humiliating, no doubt, and very unfortunate; but they brought it on themselves, didn't they?


Posted by Enough, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2008 at 2:33 pm

People, have mercy on these kids. This was a misjudgement, a mistake on their behalf and I am sure they are very sorry. But it does not mean they did not work hard and do not deserve being admitted to the best colleges in the country. Enough of lynching, time to forgive!


Posted by pops, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2008 at 2:50 pm

I completely disagree with "Enoughs" statement. These are not KIDS! They are adults and they should be punished for their misdoings. It is very unfortunate that the paly class had to be a part of this and witness plagiarism in the making. Malini was given a priveledge to give a speech to her graduating high school class in which she had competed for that spot against several other of her classmates. I think it is very unethical for her to do such a thing as to succumb to the level of using someone else's words to make "her" speech clever and catchy. The community should NOT have mercy on these "kids". They have done something terribly wrong and I am happy that their names are being publicized. I also feel that Abid should have his Viking Award taken away from him. I do not understand how he can look at that award everyday and truly believe that he had earned it after he has plagiarized. THe viking award should be given to someone who shows mature qualities and is a role model for their friends and peers, both on a social level as well as an academic level, and from what Abid has done he should NOT have gotten that award.

These students should not be treated as kids. Yes, I agree with ENough's statement that these are brilliant kids, but what if they have committed something simliar to this in their other classes in which they were fortunate enough not to get caught....and even if this is their first time, students who are going to these reputable colleges should know better. Hope Malini and Abid learn a huge lesson from this.


Posted by grey, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2008 at 2:56 pm

This thread may have started as a result of a specific instance, but it's moved beyond that. What frightens me is not that the two students plagiarized but that so many of you choose to excuse their behavior. "It's okay because they weren't being graded." "It's okay because they had other achievements." "It's okay because it made me laugh." "It's okay because they're kids and they made a mistake."

I have no desire to punish these kids but I am sad to live in a community whose residents have such a poor grasp of ethics.


Posted by Paly Alumn, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Jun 26, 2008 at 3:23 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Enough, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:13 pm

This really started to resemble a mob that wants revenge!
By the way, I asked my son and 4 of his classmates what they think of cheating and if they would ever report a cheater and all of them said cheating bad and they all said they would not report a cheater. They said they would talk about it among themselves, but will not report, and certainly not post on Facebook for the whole world to watch. They couldn't explain why they wouldn't report, they said it does not feel right.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:17 pm

For those of you saying that this should have been handled privately, what is the fitting punishment for this? Is there anything at all?

I think it being made public is, actually, the fitting "punishment" for this particular misdeed. Among other things, we don't want it to keep happening. I think making it public is a more effective deterrent than handling it in a hush-hush way.

Yes, I'm sure the two kids feel humiliated by this. But why isn't that appropriate? They didn't have to compete for the speaker spots, they didn't have to crib from YouTube. They didn't have to not give credit.

Heck, all they really had to do is give credit instead of take credit.

They made bad choices and I think there's nothing wrong with their having to deal with people's reaction to it.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:20 pm

Enough,

Do you really look to your kid for moral guidance on this?

Of course, your kid and his friends don't report on other kids. This isn't news.

There's no lynch mob here--there's anger over what happened. And plagiarism *is* a huge problem.


Posted by don't lynch me, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:20 pm

The "fitting punishment" is not to mention it at all. Haven't you figured it out, OhlonePar? In the real world, the privileged don't have to pay for their misdeeds. That's how it works.


Posted by enough enough already, a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Am I surprised that Enough's kids think it's okay to ignore a cheater? Wanting (and expecting) a child to take responsibility is hardly the same as lynching someone.

But then, I've also taught my kids not to result to hyperbole to support a shaky argument, so I'm clearly out of step with some of you.


Posted by think before you speak, a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:28 pm

The unfortunate thing is that these were students who were given the "gift" of speaking to their classmates. This was an honor given to them over all of the other PALY students. Instead of embracing that honor it seems that they took the easy way out. That set a bad example and a sad way to represent themselves, their classmates and their school.


Posted by common sense, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:36 pm

These two Paly students will pay an unknown price long term. Whenever they apply for future opportunities, they have the potential to be found via an internet search; it's up to the grad school or potential employer to figure out if this matters to them, if it's going to make difference between them and another candidate. And worse of all for these two students, they may never know if it's been a factor in their non-selection.


Posted by Enough, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:36 pm

What makes many kids and grown ups uncomfortable with reporting on cheaters? Perhaps they realize that by reporting they inflict direct harm (in the form of dire consequences) on the cheater, while the cheater does not inflict direct harm on another person by cheating.

There is a difference between how people perceive crime - one thing is to steal from government in the form of avoiding taxes or being creative about what one can deduct and another thing stealing from a person.


Posted by yet another Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:37 pm

"...an error of judgement..."
"... two kids who made mistakes and they both learned from them..."
(from posts above)

I am shocked and saddened at the behavior of these supposed top Paly students. Just goes to show those with the best morals are not necessarily those accepted to top universities.
WOULD they have "learned from them" (their mistakes) if they had not been caught?
Just a question.
Plagiarism is completely unacceptable. Students are crystal clear on what this is nowadays.
[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Enough, a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:48 pm

I agree with you that they are poor role models and they probably knew exactly what they were doing. And if I were one of them I'd give away the award (but not the college acceptance. But I am certainly very much against the continuing sensationalism and overreaction to this incident. I also think they were punished enough and that this should have been dealt privately.


Posted by Jon, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:53 pm

The funny thing is they thought I was taking this seriously in the Facebook group when I told Andre after Day 3 of the group it was spinning out of control.

While I believe Andre Kaiser's decision to shed light on the truth, [portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff] this forum is a testament as to my greatest fears: the words of angry, disappointed (and rightfully so), self-righteous, condescending fully grown adults ripping at whatever person or fault they can find.

Yes, there were mistakes, no the perpetrators are not morally bankrupt (this has been emotionally distressful period for Mohammed) so for the sharks out there, try to remember your humanity and the high minded ideals of forgiveness, healing, and love that you have abandoned, and at least take a dab in them before you continue your judgements.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I do not believe the leak to the Merc was good, and it was something I knew would happen had Andre not closed the group down quickly. Mohammed and Malini are to be held accountable to their own class and the Paly community, and nobody else.

The good part about all this is the discourse about cheating, which I promise you will not be solved by signing any agreement on any form (To whichever genius suggested that a signed agreement is necessary, the cheating policy is harsh as is and exists and is enforced by default and does nothing to fix the problem).

I wasn't in the Grad Committee but I was in the Student Government with many of my friends on the Committee. There was no way to have anticipated the problem, yet I am fully confident next year steps will be taken to prevent this from happening again. Note: the Grad Committee has officially apologized for not catching the plagiarisms, but who can blame them?

Note: I was in Paly's student government and newspaper program, so you can understand the whole truth vs dignity argument comes into play.


Posted by Jon, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 26, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Revision

"Truth vs Dignity"
may be too abstract, so the debate between

Exposing the truth vs. minimizing harm




Posted by yet another Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 5:02 pm

Well, I am just hearing of this situation (I was away), and I am interested in it and concerned about it as a Paly parent and PAUSD graduate myself, so I am not beating a dead horse when I weigh in on it with my opinion.
--Blaming parents as "condescending... adults..." is pretty silly under the circumstances.
--Blaming the speech committee for not reviewing/vetting the speeches and catching the plagiarism is pretty silly.
Blaming the students who did the wrong thing and plagiarized is doing the right thing. The fact is you are not supposed to plagiarize, whether in school or at work, or when you publish a book or submit a scientific article, etc. so to brush it under the rug is to say we just don't care any more about doing the right thing! Only your conscience should help you in these situations, what worries me is why didn't it here at Paly?


Posted by paly grad 08, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 5:07 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

The outrageous expectations college-bound students face and set for themselves heightens their desperation and willingness to cheat and to plagiarize just to get by. these students spend hours every day with sports and volunteering and clubs and other extra curriculars, and they only have so many hours left in the day to complete the hours and hours of homework for each AP class. i can guarantee that on the day of a calculus test, people will be in the library telling their friends the problems on it. the day of an AP English quotes test, students will fill the library computers in order to sparknote the book they didn't read. some people don't even bother to do work because they know they can rely on their friends to tell them the answers to a test. this happens, and it happens a lot. every day, in fact. and these students were no exception. great for them for getting into two of the most well-known brand name colleges in the country, but that doesn't mean they earned it for themselves.


Posted by Jon, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 26, 2008 at 5:09 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Abid is a friend, and let me tell you HE is ashamed, and HIS PARENTS are also ashamed. His fault was in mis-attribution, not outright plagiarism. He's a good man, and if you were in a room speaking to him one on one, he would be downcast, and profusely apologizing to you.

There are people in this community who are merciless.
Get a reality check people, those of you looking down upon others and always calling Paly students snobs need to do some serious self-examination.


Posted by the truth, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 5:10 pm

this might be the first time to get caught, but by no means the first time to have cheated. its the "paly way" and most students realize this..


Posted by re: Paly Grad, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 26, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Yes, and those of us who didn't cheat know full well the fault cannot lie in the system alone. The system does what it is supposed to do, and that is punishing cheaters. The next line of defense are teachers, who I believe do not try hard enough to prevent this from happening.

Every year The Campanile, our school newspaper, comes out with an opinion piece criticizing the practice, but what is the point?

This is an issue that should be taught in a class such as Living Skills, where a student assignment is to sit down with their parents and discuss their own values. This type of discussion exists for pregnancies but not for academics. I think there are more cheaters than pregnant teens at Paly.


Posted by the truth, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 5:23 pm

well said "re: Paly Grad". if i had asked my friends how many of them had NOT cheated i would say it ran between 5-10%. the extent of the cheating might differ slightly but the fact of the matter is that MOST HAVE CHEATED. the parents who are trying to cover up and support these students are crazy (they are probably oblivious their own children cheat). the "best" and the "worst" kids cheated at paly and every student is aware of that. its sad that the school system creates a situation where students are left to cheat because the work is rediculous, too much/hard and leaves not many choices but to cheat....unless the kid is a savant or genius... the fact of the matter is that finally the truth has been exposed into paly (and other high school) cheating. to all the parents, welcome to high school.


Posted by Paly Grad 2.0, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 26, 2008 at 5:27 pm

Re: truth

Unfortunately for those of us who took the high and narrow road, not many of us made it in to our top college choices. Tis the cost of some integrity in this morally depraved system.

Tho I do have savant/genius friends that did quite well and got into their top choices, props to them.


Posted by Eliot Wilson, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 5:28 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 26, 2008 at 5:52 pm

Enough,

Plagiarism does cause direct harm by helping create an environment that penalizes honest students.

Unfortunately, I don't think plagiarism happens in a vaccuum. I don't think, unfortunately, that this was a one-time deal for either student. It doesn't make sense for it to be so. Frankly, the stakes were too low. And it's just not that hard for a straight-A student to remember to give credit.

For those who consider me a ruthless adult. Think about this--people are often fine with cheating, until they're the victim of it.

If Mohammed and Malini learn something about honesty being more important than being no. 1, then something true will have been gained from this.

Because of Mohammed and Malini'a actions, future Paly speakers will be subject to strict scrutiny that they may not actually merit. This sort of thing means a further breakdown in the traditional trust between schools and students--that the work you do is your own.

I mean, are we really in a situation at the high schools that our top students are either cheaters or idiot-savants? Because some of the students posting here are presenting it that way.


Posted by the truth, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 5:53 pm

re: paly grad 2.0

exactly. thats the reason why i'm even posting comments on this topic... because i was one of those kids who didnt cheat- yet had almost no choices for colleges despite the fact that i had a great gpa, worked since freshman year, received scholarships and had amazing out of school activities/volunteer work references. its a shame.

i dont feel bad for the students because they should get what they deserve, especially if they only "lucked out" in this deal being the only time they were ever CAUGHT.

its sad schools dont see these situations for what they really are... chances are they will take it as a "learning lesson for the student" or "one little mistake which we can brush under our huge rug".


Posted by Jon, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 26, 2008 at 6:11 pm

OhlonePar,

So what? I doubt this case is unique. Had the Grad Committee known about this, they would have pulled all stops to prevent it from happening. That's called 20/20 hindsight.


The whole school-trusting-students is honestly overrated, and worst off it is abused. Teachers don't change tests, and people filter the information through each successive period.

That's why there is turnitin.com for English. It catches people, yet the teachers always give the students a draft to submit that is purely for our own reference, and so they aren't out to screw us over.

I don't know about your experiences from high school, but in my last 4 years, I have gone into the library and heard countless times chatter between students about how the last test was, and what was or was not on it, etc.

While you may accuse me of painting the "top students are either cheaters or idiot-savants?" I will clarify and say that those of us who didn't cheat are in the minority.

If you don't believe me, go dig up the social norms survey and see for yourself.


Posted by Parent of Paly grad 06, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2008 at 6:21 pm

Truth

I feel for you and understand your pain and disappointment. But, my daughter had the same results as you and has spent the past two years at a State college, but the good news is she applied two 8 UCs to transferand got accepted at all 8. She will be attending Berkeley this fall. She has actually benefited in many ways from this experience and I am sure you will too. She doesn't regret anything that happened at Paly now, but she has learned bigger lessons. I am sure you will too.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 26, 2008 at 6:28 pm

Jon,

Widespread cheating wasn't the norm 20 years ago. Just because it's your norm doesn't make it right. Why assume something is overrated because you haven't experienced it?

As a parent, I don't want my kid in a situation where being honest is a severe disadvantage.

It's not that I don't believe you, by the way--cheating's become a big problem both because of the Internet and increased competition. It doesn't help that our government's increasingly corrupt--call it trickle-down morality.

But we're not better for it as a society. You're not better off for being in a situation where cheating is rampant.


Posted by Jon, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 26, 2008 at 6:49 pm

I agree with you that just because it is the norm doesn't mean it holds up to conventional morality. The truth remains there is a high rate of cheating I witnessed firsthand.

I need a bit of clarification on "Why assume something is overrated because you haven't experienced it?"

I am not saying the non-cheaters are hopeless, but they are at a severe disadvantage (obviously) and must work harder than those that cheat, and the consequence of not working as hard is far graver than for those with the same work ethics who do cheat.


Note, this whole conversation is slightly of a tangent, yet it is the more important discussion in my view, and inevitably the "plagiarizing" (I still say 1 case of misattribution) leads to the current dialog. (this is in anticipation of anyone who thinks the last few posts were irrelevant to the topic at hand)


Posted by Student, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 7:43 pm

I didn't cheat at Paly and I'm not going to Stanford or Duke, but I made it on my own and I feel proud of that fact. There is no excuse for cheating like this and anyone who tries to make excuses for them probably thinks cheating is OK too. I think both Stanford and Duke should withdraw their offers of admission because both of these students obviously do not understand how dishonorable this behavior actually is in the minds of most Paly students and the community at large. How could they both do this at a Graduation? It's special for most students but these two students have ruined it for many. It would reflect badly on both Stanford and Duke if they allowed Mohammed and Malini to attend after learning of the plagiarism charges. It is not the "Paly Way" to cheat your way into good schools. If they are not penalized for plagiarism, it will encourage other students, not just at Paly, to do the same. I'm really sorry this happened both for the Paly community and for Malini and Mohammed.


Posted by the truth, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 7:49 pm

parent of 06 grad:
thanks and yes, i agree... its just frustrating that this is how the college system works nowadays. im glad i attend the school i do - and know i will learn a lot more from this experience than if i were to have gone somewhere else "that everyone accepts". its sad because when i graduated i felt embarrassed to say what school i was going to, and kids shouldnt feel that way - especially when its not just a choice of brains and athletic ability to go to one of the bigger name schools, but financial also.


Posted by the truth, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 8:03 pm

parent of 06 grad:
thanks and yes, i agree... its just frustrating that this is how the college system works nowadays. im glad i attend the school i do - and know i will learn a lot more from this experience than if i were to have gone somewhere else "that everyone accepts". its sad because when i graduated i felt embarrassed to say what school i was going to, and kids shouldnt feel that way - especially when its not just a choice of brains and athletic ability to go to one of the bigger name schools, but financial also.


Posted by Ada, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2008 at 8:23 pm

All those calling for Stanford and Duke to withdraw their offers of admission for these students should also call for removal of Barack Omaba from the Senate and presidential race for plagiarism in his public speech. Let's be consistent then.


Posted by woohoo, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 8:45 pm

I am proud to say that I wrote every word of my fifth grade promotion speech at Addison 7 years ago. It may have been super awkward, but hey, it was original :)


Posted by yet another Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 8:48 pm

I have always told my kids: never cheat or plagiarize. Do your own work, whatever it is. I feel very strongly about this, in school and elsewhere in life, even when grades are at stake in these competitive times, even if honest kids are "penalized" by doing their own hard work and being exhausted, not having the advantage of their parents arranging for under the table paid tutors teaching the curriculum in advance to their kid, and so on.

One day, all these kids will surely have to stand on their own. It'll happen sooner or later. Sad to say, at least one female plagiarist (sensational, celebrated young book author) was caught at Harvard a few years back...

Do your own work and you will feel good about yourself "even if" you "only" go to a state university, as I did.

Sounds like Paly is in dire need of character education, especially for so-called student leaders.


Posted by musing, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2008 at 8:53 pm

re Ada:

The fact that Obama did use plagiarism in his speeches is one of the many reasons I will NOT vote for him in November. (He also lied about his not filling out a questionnaire on gun control himself... and has done many other dishonorable things)


Posted by musing, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2008 at 8:57 pm


Beyond high school, I learned from my daughter that, at her university, students BUY the answers to upcoming tests from teaching assistants (in the case of professors using the premade tests provided to them by publishers in conjunction with textbooks).

Yes, you read right: At my daughter's UC you can purchase test answers ahead of time from teaching assistants. She has never done it but it pretty disgusted about the whole situation.


Posted by Humanitarian, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2008 at 8:58 pm

"Let him who is without sin, throw the first stone". I bet there is nobody on this forum who never cheated in one way or another, even in a very small way.
So then it becomes the question of degree.
This is all madness and it is very sad that it is so widespread.
Do you want to start a hysteria in school over cheating? Crazy soul-less world!


Posted by Paul Losch, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 26, 2008 at 9:28 pm

There seems to be some thinking expressed here that students who have gotten accepted to highly selective colleges got in partially due to cheating while in high school.

While that may occur from time to time, I find such suggestions about the college application and admissions process to be absurd.

I am happy to use my full name and express my opinions on matters around town, but some of the comments on this thread is the stuff of existential novels, which I actually did read, not the Cliff's Notes, while I was in high school.

I love my kids and do what I can to help them achieve their personal best, but if I believed some of the comments on this thread, I would wonder who the people are whom I have known since Walter Hays kindergarten time that have been part of my children's time in Palo Alto Schools.

Is it just possible that many students who attend schools here in Palo Alto are talented, bright, ethical and are exactly the types of people that selective colleges seek for their student bodies?

Is it just possible that because they are trying and stretching their capacities they are going to make mistakes? Too many comments in this thread do not distinguish between a behavior/action and the character of the students who took the action.

Is it just possible that all the kids that apply to college are imperfect, and those who are flagrant cheaters actually are discovered pretty easily? The people on the admissions committees aren't stupid, and a great number of them are recent graduates themselves. They have a clue, unlike some parents, and in IMHO some of the people writing in the abstract about what is going on with this particular situation and these two students.


Posted by yet another Paly parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 9:32 pm

I cannot think of any excuse for what these high school seniors did. It was wrong. Full stop.


Posted by paly student, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 26, 2008 at 9:45 pm

first of all, people need to stop bashing Andre. why aren't these same people who are outraged at Andre and questioning his ethics not outraged at Malini and Mohammed? Plagiarism is a BIG deal. And honestly, if they had nothing to say at graduation, why did they give speeches? Malini did so completely voluntarily and if Mohammed was really as busy as he claims to have been, I'm sure he could have opted out of giving a speech. Irregardless, plagiarizing off of youtube is INEXCUSABLE. Seriously.

Also, a lot of these comments are WAY off topic. All you Obama haters: find another RELEVANT forum. (notice how "Obama" is spelled...) And since you guys are using this forum to bash him, here's my take:

Yes We Can.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 26, 2008 at 9:47 pm

Actually, Paul, I first became aware of the plagiarism issue and how big an issue it had become from a professor I knew who sat on the admissions committee of one of the Ivy Leagues. It was also a fairly hard situation to correct--as junior faculty, she wanted to flunk one plagiarizer, but got a lot blowback from the parents.

Unless you penalize plagiarism and cheating, you create a situation where honesty is a disadvantage because these kids are competing against one another for class rank and college admissions.

I think public exposure is actually one of the better ways to handle it--we're not sending anyone to jail here, but public shame is a time-honored tradition as a social corrective.

Don't worry, it will die out and the perps here can go on. Maybe they'll be more honest, or maybe they'll work in Hollywood where credit stealing is a fine art.

I don't see why, though, it's logical to assume that most plagiarism is caught. Educational systems have been built on trust, so unless the plagiarism or cheating is egregious, it probably does go unnoticed. The reason it came out in these cases is because it was so public and the proof was so easy to show.


Posted by Paly Junior, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 9:51 pm

I have but a few comments to make.

Firstly, while the plagiarism of the speeches suggests cheating in other areas, that's all it does. It SUGGESTS (capitalized for emphasis, not to be rude) but offers no solid proof as to cheating in other areas.

Secondly, (this is directed to you resident) it's a high school graduation speech. Granted, plagiarism and cheating is bad, but they cannot all be treated in an authoritarian manner (ie. asking someone how a test was cannot be treated the same as copying a full essay and turning it in as your own work). The punishments should not be the same. Nobody deserves to have their college admissions rescinded, and their lives potentially destroyed because of a high school graduation speech.

Thirdly, (this is to you Ada) and on a more or less unrelated note. I agree "Omaba" (to quote you) shouldn't be on the senate, or elected president. However, a Mr. Barack Obama should be elected president (in my opinion).


Posted by Paly Student, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2008 at 9:54 pm

As one of the Paly seniors who graduated and actually listened to both Malini and Mohammed's speeches, I'd like to give my take on the situation. First of all, it was not a "small part" of Mohammed's speech that was plagiarized--the joke took up the majority of his speech. And I'm still dumbfounded as to why he would credit the joke to a "teacher," when he could just as easily have given the proper credit to where it was due. He obviously didn't "mess up" when saying that he heard the joke from a teacher; it's kind of hard to confuse what your teachers say with youtube videos.

As for Malini's speech, I watched the video on youtube and it was literally almost entirely plagiarized. Given that she VOLUNTEERED to give a speech, I don't understand why anyone would volunteer just to submit a speech they didn't actually write.

I do think that this has gotten out of hand. I know both Malini and Mohammed, and I know that people make mistakes. But I AM disappointed that they couldn't come up with their own heartfelt speeches to mark what was an incredibly important time in our lives. And while those of us who are questioning the ethics of Mohammed and Malini may seem as though they are attacking the two of them, I can see where they're coming from. To plagiarize a speech at graduation, when there is NO INCENTIVE to do so (you don't HAVE to give a speech), obviously would lead to questions about their school performances, when there is much more incentive to cheat. Yes, a lot of people cheat at Paly. But that does not make it okay for Malini and Mohammed, even though they were unlucky enough to get caught.


Posted by Me Too, a resident of Meadow Park
on Jun 26, 2008 at 9:58 pm

Fascinating. I'm shocked at the blase attitudes of some toward cheating and the apparent prevalence in the schools. I never cheated in HS or college, never knew anyone who did, and would not want to be with someone who did it. Good for you, those who are walking the right road.

If nothing else, this episode will make me talk to my own kids to reinforce how wrong it is and the injustice they do to their family, their classmates, and themselves by cheating in any way. There is no excuse; there is no justification; there is no gray area. And the penalty, aside from the "F" or whatever, can be public humiliation. I will warn them - don't be like those Paly kids who stole their speeches - imagine the shame they and their families feel? And for what - to give a slightly funnier speech. Was it worth it? That is the value of this public "outing" - it is an example for us all.


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:00 pm

I do happen to think it is relevant that Obama was publicised as having plagiarised a speech. The fact that he appears to be getting away with it is also relevant. The political aspect is not the important aspect, but that one of our candidates for president has been caught and is appearing to get away with it is what our students are seeing. Whether they are of his political pursuasion may or may not make a difference to them, but they are seeing someone in high office getting away with it and they think they can too.

Whether or not Obama is worthy of being president can be discussed elsewhere. His role model status though is given and when impressionable young people see him getting away with something makes them feel that it is alright for them to do so also.


Posted by OBAMA GIRL, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:05 pm

seriously? give kids some credit. Blaming Obama? Are you serious? Congratulations. You have successfully insulted the intelligence of teenagers around the nation. If you honestly think we're that impressionable, you have clearly forgotten your own teenage years. The students who plagiarized have no excuse other than their own lack of ethics. Blaming Obama for borrowing a joke from a friend (NOT word for word and WITH his friend's permission) has no relevance and are two completely different situations.


Posted by Ada, a resident of Midtown
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:07 pm

Paly Junior and some of the others seem to have have double standards. You let Obama get away with plagiarism in his speech when he is running for the office but want to grind to the ground the two teenagers for plagiarizing in a much less public speech. If politicians, including Obama, plagiarize, cheat and lie then what can you ask of high school students?


Posted by STUDENT., a resident of Stanford
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:10 pm

Hey I just watched Brad Pitt shoot a bunch of people! I'm a really impressionable young person so I'm going to go shoot some people too! And it's totally okay because I'm impressionable with no sense of my own morality or ethics and definitely not responsible for my own actions!!!


Posted by Paly Junior, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:12 pm

Ada, I suggest you check your facts. (Obama had permission to use the idea, and I never said anything about grinding the students to the ground over the speech). In fact, I highly suggest you reread my post, in order to accurately address my points.

But I'll be kind, and succinctly sum up my main point. Plagiarism is bad, but if it's a high school speech then potentially destroying someone's life over it is (to use a colloquialism) OVERKILL (capitalized for emphasis).


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:14 pm

Actually, I do remember my teenage years and that is what makes me make my comment. Teenagers in my day were just as impressionable as the ones today. It is not the copying of Obama that they are doing, but when they see someone as visual as him not getting penalised, it makes the whole thing a little less serious in their mind.

Teenagers do follow like sheep. Palo Alto teenagers are no exception. Whether it be the styles of music, the styles of clothes or hairstyles, or politics, they follow the leader. When one teenager does occasionally try to do something different, they are laughed at. It takes a lot of initiative to go against the flow when the flow is so very strong.

I am not blaming Obama for anything. I am just using a very visible example of how someone in the public eye can become an example of good and bad behavior. He was criticised for what he did, but he is still where he is. If someone like him gets away with, why don't others think they can too.


Posted by Student, a resident of Stanford
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:31 pm

Paly Parent -
(See my previous post for obvious satire.)

Yes, teens are impressionable. Yes, many of us do sometimes follow other people in terms of fashion, music, etc. But we do not follow people like "sheep." Believe it or not, but many of us have our OWN UNIQUE set of ideals, beliefs, and opinions. Maybe teenagers were like sheep when you were a teenager, but I can assure you that it is not nearly as bad as that now. People are usually not ostracized for going against the majority. I know from personal experience. And to link Mohammed and Malini plagiarizing their graduation speeches to Obama's plagiarism controversy is incredibly far-fetched. I understand your point that seeing Obama "get away" with his "plagiarism" (which shouldn't even be compared to THIS instance of plagiarism, in my opinion, but that's another discussion) MAY have contributed to making plagiarism seem less serious. But regardless, we are not adults in politics, we are in school, and WE KNOW that plagiarism has serious consequences and that if we are caught, we WILL be punished. I'm sure Mohammed and Malini thought that they could get away with plagiarizing parts of their speeches. But not because of Obama.


Posted by disappointed, a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:31 pm

Jon, what do you mean "I do not believe the leak to the Merc was good"?


Posted by Paly student, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:38 pm

This argument is ridiculous. PLAGIARISM IS BAD. I think we can all agree on that. Stop trying to make excuses for the students, or trying to link what they did to the fact that we're "impressionable" and using Obama as a scapegoat. Regardless of what their motives or reasons were, they still plagiarized. Maybe such a big deal shouldn't have been made out of this. But we can't change that now, and to all those who think that and have posted complaining about it, you're just adding fuel to the fire.


Posted by OBAMA GIRL, a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 26, 2008 at 10:45 pm

I agree with the Stanford student (I'm assuming they're a student)

Although it pains me to do so, I am going to make a clear distinction between what Obama did and what the two Paly students did: Obama got permission from his friend to use the so-called "plagiarized portion" of his speech. AND it was NOT word-for-word. Hi only fault was not explicitly giving his friend credit, and his friend is quoted as saying the whole situation was completely blown out of proportion.

What Malini and Mohammed did is completely different: they actively sought out material to use as their own on youtube. They were signifigant if not complete portions of their speeches; the plagiarism was word-for-word; they had no permission whatsoever to use the plagiarized material.

I don't buy the "impressionable youth" argument. These two students are basically adults and have minds of their own. As a former Paly student, the school makes the severity of breaking the academic honesty policy very clear to students. And in all honesty, even if the consequences were non-existent, it shows a complete lack of character to plagiarize as they did. People shouldn't plagiarize, nor commit any sort of wrong-doing even if they think they will get away with it. That's just having integrity.


Posted by such a shame, a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:29 pm

Please tell me,if Malini and Mohammed are bright enough to get accepted to Stanford and Duke,surely they are bright enough to know what plagiarism is and why it is wrong. I feel certain that they are sorry for what they did but that does not take away from the fact that it was not right. It may not be "for a grade" but it impacts what many graduating seniors and their families are focusing on at this moment. They have cast a small gray cloud over their accomplishments.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 26, 2008 at 11:32 pm

Thanks for the info. Obama Girl. What Obama did doesn't sound like plagiarism if his friend gave permission. Failure to source, from the sounds of it. And, yeah, changing enough the words also makes it questionable whether its plagiarism. Ya gotta steal the expression, not just the idea.

But plagiarism in politics dates well before that--Joe Biden plagiarized a British politician's speech. That was a much more clear-cut case of plagiarism and while it didn't kill his political career, it certainly didn't help his presidential run.

Sounds like the Obama business isn't sticking because it's not that clear-cut a case. And after the last 12 years, I take a lot of this kind of attack with a grain of salt. I remember the attacks on Gore's credibility--smeared as self-aggrandizing when his speech about his role in the Internet was, in fact, the truth.

By the same token, it's been put out in public and people can form their opinions accordingly. Which is really all that's happening with the Paly kids--unless Stanford or Duke decides to act. I'm inclined to think they won't just because it's not an academic issue.


Posted by Grad 08, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 27, 2008 at 12:01 am

Beyond not being a clear-cut case, the Obama business isn't sticking because we're NOT THAT IMPRESSIONABLE. Ada stated: "If politicians, including Obama, plagiarize, cheat and lie then what can you ask of high school students?" Okay, well by that logic, I guess no one can expect any of us impressionable teenagers to manage to remain faithful to anyone given that Bill cheated on Hillary and he pretty much got away with it, so that obviously means that that's okay. If we're going to judge how high schoolers should act, and what their ethical standards should be, by the acts of high-profile politicians, celebrities, etc....then I think we basically can just do whatever ethically wrong things we want.

And if you're going to stereotype teenagers as "impressionable," you might as well be consistently stereotypical and stereotype them as ignorant about politics as well. In which case the allegations against Obama for plagiarizing are irrelevant.


Posted by Jon, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 27, 2008 at 12:08 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Are you a Stanford admissions officer? Are you a Duke admissions officer? So until you are, you have no right to dictate the future of either students. You do not know what rescinding a student means. Graduation and Bacc speeches, both important, this is a letdown, but that is NOT a proportionate or appropriate response as a student, parent, or member of the community.

Somehow some of you have it in your minds that your word is gospel, and you have the grand solution that will bring the universe into its Karmic balance. I am simply disgusted at you. Simply because these are people you dont know and they made grevious mistakes does not give you any right to suggest such a notion. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves, yet you probably won't be with my berating =P

To "Disappointed"
"Jon, what do you mean "I do not believe the leak to the Merc was good"?"

I meant this whole discussion should have remained among the people it most directly affected- the Paly community. The Mercury News editors made a call I disagree with, and the execution of the article was incredibly poor (feel free to digress).

I didn't want this story to be picked up by the mainstream media because

A) This is NOT news. The incident happened weeks ago, and the group was created weeks ago.
B) Not all of the facts are in.
C) Not all the parties mentioned had been reached (given it is NOT news, it could have waited for a more comprehensive answer from both Mo and Malini).
D) The Merc picked it up before the Weekly, which is disgraceful, because now the Weekly is playing catchup with a bunch of misinformed and clueless members of the community who apparently have never made mistakes in their lives, and are so self-righteous they can blatantly attack individuals they don't know who do not have anything to do with them (those outside of the Palo Alto community).

So yes I am disgusted with how overblown this is and I am sick and tired of trolls, and I am sick of how the Weekly can't make a decent forum for beans that gives a semblance of organization or accountability outside of admins censoring comments they deem inappropriate and sometimes failing to do so.


Posted by What about free will?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2008 at 7:30 am

What I don't get are the observations by students above saying that the competitiveness around here to get into good colleges (too much time and pressure to build that college resume) justifies the cheating.

And consider this - if you think high school is high pressure, life after high school is no walk in the park. Grad schools are competitive, academia and law careers and engineering jobs with product release dates are too. Will you cheat then too to keep up?

What about free will? What about choosing to keep your values intact even if that means dropping an extra curricular or two? What about just doing the best you can with the right ethics and seeing where that takes you?

It is far better that kids learn at 18 the lesson of what can happen if they cross the ethical line than later when the stakes are high and fines and prison are the consequences (think Enron).

While local stories about misdeeds of teenagers are appropriate fodder between students (even if on Facebook), they are not appropriate for town or regional newspapers where names are easily googled. But that seems to be the age we live in and fear of it alone should cause students to pause before they cross the ethical line.

I am sorry this happened at all, but hope that all students behind them will learn from it. Perhaps this lapse will end up being a gift to the community. You can be assured that many dinner conversations with children about what is right in this situation and what is not will be had over it.



Posted by Lior, a resident of Community Center
on Jun 27, 2008 at 9:55 am

I am also disgusted with how overblown this is. Some people are such drama queens!


Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 27, 2008 at 10:05 am

Yep, it's time to wrap this one up-
another lesson learned-
let's give it a rest-
afterall-
everybody knows-
scholarship is the art of plagiarism


Posted by Parent, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 27, 2008 at 10:12 am

I think it is interesting here to note that the only people who appear to be denying that teenagers (or very recent teenagers) are impressionable are teenagers themselves. There has been no affirmation of this from the older community.

If we look at how society has changed over the past 20 or so years we can definitely see a trend. What was very unacceptable 30 years ago is now so routine that we don't bat an eyelid. When miniskirts and long hair became the range (because celebrities initiated the trends) teenagers wanted to copy and the older generation was shocked. (I believe Joe Simitian at his time in Paly actually worked through the student council to get hair longer than collar length for boys accepted.) Over the years as a popular new movie comes out, the fashion trends change, Annie Hall being a huge example. Nowadays with the media pushing each new movie so much, the trends don't stay around long, but they still have an influence. How about the early 80s when all the teens wore tshirts saying "Frankie says Relax" when most didn't even know what it was referring to.

Nowadays we have trends too but they tend to be more partisan. The rap artists have influenced many, Spice Girls, and Britney Spears had their day (thankfully in Britney's case) and Hannah Montana is doing it now.

So please don't say that teens are not influenced by celebrities. They are even though some of you are not admitting it. What Obama and Bill Clinton did and got away with are part of the popular culture and even though we can hairsplit on details of these particular scenarios, it is things like this happening that will gradually change the views of society. JFK kept his affairs to himself and the media did not publicise any of it for reasons not important, but today's media is happy to publicise the slightest suggestion of any wrongdoing to all and no longer are we shocked by the behavior of our politicians and celebrities so the shock factor of what our teens are doing is no longer seen as shocking.

Standards have changed or evolved and we are seeing that not only in what these people (teens included) do but in the way the media report and the attitudes of the public who hear about it.


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