Uploaded: Wed, Jun 25, 2008, 4:07 pm
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.
Like this comment
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.
Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.