on plagiarism

i discovered today that some unknown person is plagiarizing my blog. there is a website called “gaza shout” and it is reprinting all of my writings here without attribution and without permission. i looked up this blog and it seems that this person is dubai. i have filed a complaint according to the digital millennium copyright act notice. i have no idea who this person is, but it is annoying that they are stealing my writing verbatim without a word about whose words they are.

i just discovered this today, but ironically i’ve been spending the past week or so talking to my research methods students about plagiarism. increasingly i take a harder stance on this. it has now come to banning paraphrasing and summarizing as well. mostly this is because years of rote memorization has led to my students inability to analyze anything or produce their own thoughts on paper. of course, my students have their own thoughts and ideas–many of them are quite brilliant. but oftentimes, when engaged in an academic context, i find this submerged. i see this creative thought when i have coffee with them or when they come to my office to chat, but in class it lurks beneath the surface. i was thinking about this in relation to the way that the palestinian authority’s curriculum–like most of the curricula in the region–forces this memorization pedagogy and does not allow for critical thinking. it occurred to me when i was talking about luis althusser’s ideological state apparatus in my postcolonial class last week that this is a good way of explaining why students here are taught to memorize and never think critically or question. to learn such skills would mean to question everything including the palestinian authority and its corruption and normalization with the zionist entity for one thing.

but this is not how it was supposed to be contrary to hillary clinton’s propaganda from her buddy the colonist over in efrat settlement occupying the land of al khader village near bethlehem. fouad moughrabi has an excellent analysis of palestinian textbooks and their evolution in an article that was published in the journal of palestine studies. he offers some important context on what happened with the plans for the new textbooks:

In 1994, the Palestinians established the first curriculum center on the basis of a formal agreement between UNESCO and the newly established Ministry of Education of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The center, directed by the late Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, began its work in October 1995 with a team of researchers analyzing the existing curriculum. They consulted with educators and teachers throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip and produced a blueprint containing the basic principles that should govern a unified Palestinian curriculum.

Birzeit University professor Ali Jarbawi, a member of the team, carried out a comprehensive analysis of history and social science textbooks, conducted workshops with teachers to obtain their assessment of the texts in use, and analyzed questionnaires that had been sent out to a random sample of history and social science teachers. Specifically in terms of writing Palestinian history, Jarbawi was guided by the following questions

What Palestine do we teach? Is it the historic Palestine with its complete geography, or the Palestine that is likely to emerge on the basis of possible agreements with Israel? How do we view Israel? Is it merely an ordinary neighbor, or is it a state that has arisen on the ruins of most of Palestine? This may well be one of the most difficult questions, but the answer to it need not be the most difficult. The new Palestinian curriculum should be creative, pragmatic, and truthful without having to engage in historical falsifications.

Since that time, new textbooks–language, history, science, civic education, national education, etc.–have been prepared for grades one and six and were introduced in September 2000; the PA Ministry of Educations’ plan is to introduce new textbooks for two more grades every year (grades two and seven in September 2001, grades three and eight in 2002, grades four and nine in 2003, and so on). In preparing the books, the ministry has tried to incorporate five basic principles suggested by Jarbawi. The first of these principles is that he curriculum should be predicated not on giving students facts as if they were eternal truths that must be memorized, but on encouraging them to become critical thinkers. Second, students should be encouraged to make independent judgments and intelligent choices, with careful attention to be paid to individual differences within the classroom. Third, the new curriculum should generate a concept of citizenship that emphasizes individual rights and responsibilities and that establishes a linkage between private interests and the public good so as to encourage responsible and intelligent political participation. Fourth, democratic values such as justice, personal responsibility, tolerance, empathy, pluralism, cooperation, and respect for the opinions of others should be emphasized. Fifth, students should be taught how to read primary texts, to debate, link ideas, read maps, interpret statistics, and use the Internet as well as how to verify facts, sources, and data critically and scientifically. (6-7)

although i don’t have time to write right now about the many ways in which none of the above was ever implemented into the curriculum (you’ll have to wait for my book for that one), i keep coming back to these writings by moughrabi, jarbawi, and others about what they envisioned for the curriculum. i imagine how different it would be to teach students equipped with skills already so they could do research, writing, and analysis about their topics of choice. instead, students are taught that reading, summarizing, and paraphrasing counts as academic writing and research. amazingly, last week i gave my students a two-page narrative from a palestinian man in a refugee camp in lebanon. it was a narrative about labor organizing in yaffa from 1945-46. i asked my students to share their opinions about his writings as a way to talk about how one formulates an analysis. i want my students to learn how to connect their opinions and ideas to other people’s texts so they can see how to develop their own sustained analysis. but only one of my students had a response and it was, unfortunately, a troubling one. he claimed that because this writer shared his feelings about the labor organizing that it was not “truthful” or couldn’t be counted as history. everyone else, when pressed to share their opinions, could only re-state facts from the narrative. they thought they were all sharing opinions, but not one of them did.

what is amazing to me is that if i got any one of them alone with a tv or a newspaper and asked their opinion outside of class i know i’d hear an earful. but somehow the classroom has been mystified for them. somehow their knowledge has been devalued. and i think this is part of what moughrabi and jarbawi talk about: this idea that knowledge can only come from some all powerful source because it is published in a book. that they have nothing valuable to contribute, which is a bunch of hooey. still, this is what i am up against.

i must plant more seeds…


6 thoughts on “on plagiarism

  1. FYI, at the bottom of each post on that gaza shout site there is a “Go To Source” link that hyperlinks to your blog’s URL’s. Not that that’s sufficient I know, but it does have some attribution.

    1. yes, i know. this is how i found out about the site in the first place. but a link is not attribution. if you notice, when i quote other people i always provide a link (if it is from a website) and if not i give citation information and it is always in quotes. i never pretend that those are my words. this is what responsible and respectful writers do. they quote and attribute work.

  2. Plagiarism is widespread and it seems like there is not much one can do to effectively stop it apart from what you’re rightly doing: naming and shaming.

    over to the curriculum issue: it is all the same, from Morocco (where I grew up) to Iraq. The corrupt governments are cultivating a culture of ignorance which fosters extremism. Just look at the number of international books or essays translated into Arabic, it’s ludicrous: a country like Spain, or Greece translate more books (each) than the whole 22 Arab countries. you couldn’t make it up

    1. it is such a shame–especially the curriculum issue. but i think that students need to be taught–especially in the university–that it is their governments that are fostering this sort of ignorance because they fear a situation in which the people know what is really going on, can critique it, and rise up against it. this is the real shame. and it is yet another reason why education–real education–is a vital part of any resistance movement.

  3. Teaching non-plagiarized writing includes developing student voice and one way to do that is to have students do a lot of freewriting around primary sources before they tackle secondary commentary (see DeSena, Preventing Plagiarism). I don’t believe that “banning paraphrasing and summarizing” is a productive way to approach the problem. In fact, just the opposite, we need to help students learn how to do this well (see NoodleBib’s note-taking software for one example: http://www.noodletools.com/blog/archives/104). There’s lots that goes into the “why” of plagiarism (see: http://www.dukegiftedletter.com/articles/vol9no1_feature.html) so just one solution won’t be right for everyone.

    1. the context here in palestine i imagine is quite different from where you are. my students only know how to paraphrase and summarize. and we do some of those activities in class. but what they do not know how to do–specifically because they have been trained not to–is think critically and analyze. this is why i am fixating on this as a skill that i want them to develop. i think it is necessary in their lives far more so than just in the classroom. my teaching here is not merely about teaching skills to make them better writers or english speakers. my goal is to help give them various tools that will help them think, question, and act in ways that will help them to liberate their land from murderous israeli colonists.

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