The P Word

, Don Irvine, Leave a comment

High School Students at one Virginia school are rebelling against a new school policy that checks their papers for plagiarism using a service provided by a California based company according to a report in The Washington Post last week.

The company, Turnitin uses a database that contains more than 22 million papers written by students from all over the world along with online sources and electronic journal archives to check for plagiarism.

It would seem pretty straightforward but not to some students at McLean High School in McLean, Virginia who were upset enough to form a group they called the Committee for Students’ Rights and launched a petition drive that netted 1,190 signatures opposing the policy.

The students felt that this policy infringed on their intellectual property rights and implied that the school is presuming guilt when they turn it a paper. Since the service isn’t selling the papers they collect I don’t see how this infringes on what if any intellectual property rights the students have. Have you ever read papers written by students today? It isn’t likely many will ever be cited or used again based on the quality of most high school students writing abilities.

For its part the school is standing firm citing the use of this service by many colleges and universities nationwide as well as some other local school systems.

In this day and age with computers making it so easy to cut and paste and create a new document out of something old what is the harm? Even the best students can be tempted to cut corners and cheat when there is a time crunch or grades are at stake.

If the students don’t have anything to hide then why should this bother them? They should welcome the opportunity to prove their intellectual prowess and to have any suspicions about their work removed.

Don Irvine is the chairman of Accuracy in Media.