Because Our Students Are Still Not Infantilized Enough

Nothing bugs me more than attempts to infantilize students and turn them into little babies who can’t be held responsible for their own actions.

Via College Misery:

My Uni has announced they are taking a kinder stance on plagiarism, meaning when students plagiarize it is because they don’t know they are doing it, not because they are lying little cheaters. We are now expected to contact the students to let them know what they did wrong, explain what they did and how to prevent it and then offer them the opportunity to redo the assignment.

Such policies are doing a great disservice both to the students and to the society on which they will be unleashed upon graduation. The students will believe that whenever they mess up, a kindly adult will explain them that stealing (because that’s what plagiarism is) is not a nice thing to do and will give them another chance.

9 thoughts on “Because Our Students Are Still Not Infantilized Enough”

  1. Again, a product of “education is a consumable and student a consumer, with parents being the paying customer” mentality. We must do nothing that will deter our future tuition payers.


  2. I wrote about infantlization in a recent post on “Student Affairs Mission Creep” on one of my blogs. The idea I am criticizing is that college professors should all become experts on late adolescent developmental delay. In other words, the obvious fact that 18 year olds aren’t always very mature.


  3. Ick. I agree with the first comment that this goes beyond mere infantilization. It’s a wholesale abandonment of ethical standards. I discuss the definition of plagiarism on the very first day. That’s when the learning should occur! Protests of it being accidental are never very credible, and my goal is to prevent it – but when prevention fails, I also want to be in a strong position to apply sanctions. Anything less is awfully unfair to the students who do the work.


  4. When I entered the University of Virginia in 1964 I was not prepared for living on my own in that environment. However, I matured significantly during the course of my education. A great deal of the maturation process was a result of financial terror. Tuition and books were covered by a scholarship, but I had to work for living expenses. Despite my lack of maturity, I understood the UVa honor code quite well: “I will not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do.” This code was student administered and the only punishment was expulsion. Most of the students were outraged that the Administration saw fit to admit Teddy Kennedy to the Law School after he had been expelled from Harvard for cheating. Many schools today have similar codes, but they are generally a joke and not student administered. At the end of every test we signed the following statement, “On my honor, I pledge that I have neither given nor received help on this assignment.” The professors walked into finals and either dropped the exam on the desk for the students to pick up or wrote it on the board, then he left until the end of the exam period when he returned to pick up the blue books. In 5 years I never became aware of anyone cheating. Of course my eyes were on my work, not looking around the classroom. Today I am insulted by proctored exams and despite the proctoring we have rampant cheating. Last year my wife was supposed to have an online exam proctored in graduate level multivariate statistics while at a small FOB (forward operating base) in Iraq. Do you think there were any 22 year old E5s who were capable of proctoring the exam? What does a 22 year old do when someone 30 years older asks him to proctor an exam? There is no need to explain cheating, just expel the student when it occurs. Plagiarism is explained in high school or earlier. There is no need to explain it, just expel the student. Students will get the message quickly.


  5. Are the students informed about what is considered plagiarism and about the penalties for committing plagiarism in the academic setting? Are older working students informed that intra-office plagiarism and self-plagiarism practices at work, mandated in order to preserve exact wording, are not to be applied in academia?

    What level of plagiarism is a cause for expulsion or flunking – a missed citation in a long essay, a sentence, a paragraph, several paragraphs, the whole dam’ thing? A missed citation can be due to carelessness, with the same work cited correctly elsewhere in the essay. The occasional sentence similarity may be an indicator of poor writing skills or carelessness. I would accept these papers, mark down for the incident, and explain the problem to the student. I would flunk the student who bought a paper from the Internet, or cribbed long passages from sources.

    Re: assigned gravatar: “On the Internet, no-one knows that you are a dog” (famous cartoon) OOPS.


    1. I give an instant F for a paper when I find a copy-pasted sentence from any source. I spend a lot of class time beforehand talking about plagiarism, so at the very least, students should know not to copy-paste.


  6. This policy might make sense if it refers only to poor citation, since students often aren’t taught proper citation in high school. I even had a college level English class that left me misinformed about proper in-text citation, and given some accounts I’ve read by other people, this is apparently a common problem.

    On the other hand, if the student actually thinks that it’s ok to turn in a paper that was completely written by someone else, I have to wonder how the heck they got into college.


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