Even more on Odessa Bible class case

July 20, 2007

Oh, and, there’s more.

Also see Ed Brayton’s posts here:

Here’s the press release from the Liberty Legal Institute:

The ACLU put their initial complaint on-line, and may follow with more documents as the case progresses:

The Texas Freedom Network has sponsored high-level criticism of Bible study class curricula; their critiques forced changes in the curriculum used in Odessa, but the modified curriculum does not pass Constitutional, academic or Bible study muster, according to a careful report from Southern Methodist University (in Dallas) Bible study professor Mark Chancey. TFN has several reports and press releases on the general issue:

And from the local newspaper, the daily Odessa American:


Internet search tips from Google, on posters

June 6, 2007

Have you tried out Google for Educators?

Google is a powerful search tool that is way under-utilized by most of us. Working with students, I constantly find they have difficulty using Google or any other search engine to cut out worthless material and focus on specific items they need for their research.

Google for Educators has several posters offering tips on searching to help out.  Click here for .pdf version of Book Search, from GoogleBook Search poster, from Google for Educators

You can download the posters as .pdf files in a format suited to 8.5 X 11 inch pages, or for 17 X 22 inch pages. The larger size can be printed on the color “blueprint” printers your school’s drafting classes have (This is a good opportunity to go make friends with the drafting instructor — you can use those machines for great maps, too.).  If your school lacks such printers, you’ll find commercial copy centers will reproduce them (we have Kinko’s here) — though my experience is it can sometimes be cheaper to have them treated as photos and processed at a local photo center (Ritz/Wolf’s/Inkley’s, etc.)

I particularly like the “Better Searches, Better Results” poster.

The Texas teacher evaluation forms encourage evaluation on stuff hanging on the walls fo the classroom — if you lack stuff to hang, especially stuff that helps students in times of need, Google offers several posters.  Make the most of it.

[Has anyone else noticed that, as important as visual displays are supposed to be, very few schools make arrangements for easy display of materials?]


Typewriter of the Moment: Legal clip art for the classroom

June 5, 2007

Royal Typewriter, from legal clip art

Visit Clipart ETC for a great collection of clipart for students and teachers.

There you go: Legal clip art, properly attributed (though not necessarily properly footnoted — that’s another topic). How can you get more licensed clip art? See below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »


Plagiarism would have been the more noble course

March 3, 2007

Coulter chose the ignoble coarse. (No, that’s not misspelled.)


Grand music hoax: Plagiarist confesses

February 27, 2007

A fascinating, tragic hoax has unraveled in the classical music world. Dozens of performances by relatively unknown — but great — pianists were pirated, credited to a great pianist dying of cancer, and made internet hits.

The hoax that lives by the internet, dies by the internet, Jesus might have said. A music critic loaded one of the released discs into his iPod list on his computer, and it identified it as being performed by someone else.

Joyce Hatto had retired due to ovarian cancer in the 1970s, but started releasing recordings made at home in 1989. This was not unusual — her husband was a recording engineer. The quietly-released, small-label recordings got good reviews and a faithful audience. As time went on, the recordings became more ambitious, and the quality of the piano playing of the dying woman audibly increased.

Questions arose earlier this year.   Read the rest of this entry »


A little plagiarism, a little book

February 19, 2007

“Plagiarize! Plagiarize!//Don’t let anything evade your eyes!”Tom Lehrer, Lobachevsky

“Oh, he just stole from me. I steal from everybody.” Attributed to Woody Guthrie by Pete Seeger (Together, with Arlo Guthrie, 1974)

“Plagiarism is the root of all culture.” Pete Seeger (1974 tour)

Internet files and other databases make plagiarism amazingly easy. College faculties debate how best to police against plagiarism. Students caught and kicked out appear befuddled at the academic death penalty, when all it takes is a couple of mouse clicks over a text prepared by a willing accomplice.

Federal judge, University of Chicago law professor and blogger Richard Posner wrote a small book on plagiarism. In fact, that’s its title, The Little Book of Plagiarism (Pantheon,116 pages, $10.95).

My policy in class is to challenge students when I find they’ve stolen someone else’s work. I go over attribution, footnoting and bibliographic listings, on a spoken assumption that they don’t know how to do it. They don’t like it, but they realize it’s better than expulsion. I’ve never had a student try it a second time (that I’ve caught).

Some younger students, in junior high and high school, say they do not understand why they may not simply cut and paste material from internet sources, but I suspect that is more defense than genuine lack of understanding. More than once these same students have later complained that other student’s “stole” their work. Plagiarism sometimes appears more clear when others steal from you.

In a review of Posner’s book in the Los Angeles Times, Jonathan Kirsch wrote that Posner identified a key problem for society: What do we do when the stolen text improves the work? It’s the issue that Woody Guthrie knew and Pete Seeger stated: Borrowing good stuff is what culture is all about. In highly literate circles, the game is to make allusions to works that most people know, to relate to an already-established body of knowledge to shed light on other ideas.

Plagiarists, on the other hand, would shut off access to the broader body of the work of the originator – so the intent of the true plagiarizer is not to relate to previous works. Some plagiarizers want credit for the ideas, some student plagiarizers probably want credit only for the word count.

In the higher evil, plagiarism is not about stealing other people’s ideas. It’s about stealing the words without caring about the ideas. It is not that the plagiarizer covets the ideas too much, but rather that the plagiarizer is indifferent to the ideas, seeing only the individual trees and missing the forest.

That’s where the great danger lies as well. A forest is more than just the sum of the trees in it, as we only too late discovered with regard to ecosystems that depend on the various stages of forest growth, aging, decline, destruction and rebirth. An idea is worth more than the mere count of its words, or even the prima facie meaning of the words.

The sin of the plagiarizer is in not knowing what the plagiarizer steals.

And, with a tip of the old scrub brush to Let’s Play Math, we call your attention to a blog devoted to plagiarism issues, Plagiarism Today. Especially, you may want to take a look at the blog’s review of Posner’s book.


Chuck Colson hoaxed, or hoaxing; you should act

February 3, 2007

Chuck Colson claims to have found God, while in prison, and changed his ways. He’s got a newspaper column and radio feature called “Breakpoint” which generally covers issues at least tangentially related to ministry and church work.

But he’s either fallen victim to a great hoax, or he’s in on it and spread it.

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars alerted us to Colson’s “Breakpoint” commentary dated February 2, in which Colson repeats the disproven claims that Judge John E. Jones of the Middle District of Pennsylvania “plagiarized” significant portions of his decision. The charges are completely out of line, and have not held up under scrutiny. The claims were invented by people at the Discovery Institute who have no knowledge of how federal civil trials work, who misinterpreted trial procedures, and who made an invalid count of the words in the decision (failing to account for most of the 129 pages of the work for reasons that have never been explained).

If this catches you unaware of the issue, you can catch up with several posts. Attorney and Panda’s Thumb contributor Tim Sandefur explains how the charges are false here. Sandefur’s earlier explanation of the statistical errors behind the false claims is here (also at Panda’s Thumb).

You should act. If your local newspaper carries Colson’s column, notify them of the hoax. Give them the links above, and urge them to contact the press people at the National Center for Science Education for comment. Tell them they can quote Panda’s thumb, and that they can contact Sandefur, Brayton, or me, for comment.

Similarly, if your local radio station carries Colson’s commentaries, notify the station. Stations need to check to be sure they are not broadcasting hoaxes for license renewal reasons (though the FCC polices this issue rarely, and not often well).

Were Colson a practicing attorney, of course, he’d probably remember how federal trial procedures work, and not make such errors.

You can help him recall.


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