Schools have long fought an uphill battle against plagiarism, with endless source material for book reports and research papers just a few keyboard clicks away.
But in teaching students the importance of citing other people’s work, educators increasingly face another awkward challenge: a steady drumbeat of recent plagiarism incidents among adults, including two superintendents of Massachusetts school systems.
Such high-profile incidents, especially when they involve education leaders, undercut the message to students that plagiarism is unacceptable, specialists say.
“Modeling is one of the most significant ways in which values are conveyed,” said Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Josephson Institute of Ethics in Los Angeles, which conducts ethical surveys of high school students across the country. “What we see people do is more impactful than most other ways of trying to instill values.”
Earlier this month, Mansfield’s superintendent, Brenda Hodges, resigned amid accusations she plagiarized a graduation speech. On Thursday, Newton’s superintendent, David Fleishman, was docked a week’s salary after the Newton South High student newspaper raised similar complaints about two graduation speeches he delivered last month.
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