SOME YEARS AGO, I caught a high school senior in an act of blatant plagiarism that surprised me. The student was an English teacher’s dream — the kind of kid who, if you assigned Pride and Prejudice on a Tuesday, would turn up Wednesday reading a Jane Austen biography for fun. Yet her final paper was a sloppy mishmash of her own work with that of someone more famous. I still remember the dread I felt as I read it.
I had no choice but to report her and let the school’s disciplinary machinery go to work. But I felt uncomfortable playing Big, Bad Grown-Up at a time when I still felt very close, in age and mentality, to my teenage students.