Teach Your Students About Plagiarism

Plagiarism is an Important Topic for You to Teach About

There is a lot of hubbub going on amongst the Southern Baptist Convention about plagiarism. It’s unfathomable to me how anyone who has been through higher education could possibly be ignorant of citing sources. From essays to dissertations, citing sources is a must. To be sure your students aren’t ignorant, you as a homeschooling parent need to teach your students about plagiarism.

Plagiarism is Theft

Firstly and most importantly, your students must understand that plagiarism is theft. True to the Biblical Principle Approach way of learning, have your students define plagiarism with Webster’s 1828 Dictionary:

PLA’GIARISM, noun [from plagiary.] The act of purloining another man’s literary works, or introducing passages from another man’s writings and putting them off as one’s own; literary theft.” -Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

Highlighted within the definition is a Key Word to have your students define:

THEFT, noun The act of stealing. In law, the private, unlawful, felonious taking of another person’s goods or movables, with an intent to steal them. To constitute theft the taking must be in private or without the owner’s knowledge, and it must be unlawful or felonious, that is, it must be with a design to deprive the owner of his property privately and against his will. theft differs from robbery, as the latter is a violent taking from the person, and of course not private.” -Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

What is the Biblical reference about theft? One example is below:

“Thou shalt not steal.” -Exodus 20:15 (KJV)

Citing Sources Elevates the Owner

Help your students to see that the following principles are being violated when plagiarism is a choice that one makes:

  • The Principle of Private Property
  • And the Principle of Conscience (the most sacred of all property)

The first principle, the Principle of Private Property, is external. Specifically, it’s the external product that one has labored for. However, it’s also internal because it has come from within the individual’s faculties. Therefore, when you cite the owner you are lifting up the individuality and labor of that person. You bestow honor on the person.

Secondly, the Principle of Conscience is internal property. When someone chooses to steal—to plagiarize—he or she is violating his or her own conscience. Ask your students: “What is the root cause of plagiarizing?” Help them to reason that the root is pride.

Of note, it is my mentor Ben Gilmore who helped me to apply seeing—identifying—the counter principles (as done above) in subjects and in life. He does this through his study on The Principles of American Government.

Plagiarism is Rooted in Pride

Truly, an individual knows that he or she is stealing from another when they don’t cite sources. But why would anyone do this? Let’s define pride:

PRIDE, noun 1. Inordinate self-esteem; an unreasonable conceit of one’s own superiority in talents, beauty, wealth, accomplishments, rank or elevation in office, which manifests itself in lofty airs, distance, reserve, and often in contempt of others.” -Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

When an individual desires to receive praise or credit for something that is not his or her work, that person is walking in pride. The individual wants to be seen as having superiority in talents, accomplishments, rank, or an elevation of some kind in the eyes of others.

To be clear, this is not just a matter of one’s internal issues. It’s also a matter of how the plagiarist is treating the owner(s) as Noah Webster points out in the second definition:

2. Insolence; rude treatment of others; insolent exultation.” -Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

The Soil in Which Pride Grows

What kind of soil does pride take root in? Here are some ideas to discuss with your students:

  • Insecurity
  • A need to prove one’s worth
  • Selfishness
  • Greed
  • A desire for fame or popularity
  • What other examples can your students think of?

Citing Sources Gives Affirmation

One thing that is missed when individuals don’t cite sources is affirmation or credibility. In fact, citing sources helps to support one’s elaborated thoughts on a topic or compilation of information. Really, does one expect another to accept their ‘work’ simply because they have a doctorate? On the contrary, plagiarism discredits the individual committing the theft.

Noah Webster defines cite in the following ways:

CITE, verb transitive 1. To call upon officially, or authoritatively; summon; to give legal or official notice, as to a defendant to appear in court, to answer or defend.

3. To quote; to name or repeat, as a passage or the words of another, either from a book or from verbal communication; as, to cite a passage from scripture, or to cite the very words a man utters.

4. To call or name, in support, proof or confirmation; as, to cite an authority to prove a point in law.” -Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

Emphatic Conclusion

One brings honor to the owner when he or she cites the owner’s internal and external work. Also, one brings credibility to their sermon, speech, compilation, etc. But above all else, if one chooses the act of plagiarism, the individual is:

  • hurting their witness for Christ
  • dishonoring Holy God
  • breaking God’s moral law
  • harming his or her self in the site of God
  • legal consequences before God and mankind

Therefore, it’s of utmost importance for homeschooling parents to teach their students about the wrongs of plagiarism and how to avoid it. Also of importance is for homeschooling parents to model the right path for their children and youth to follow.

A good rule of thumb is to give credit where credit is due.

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