With people like The King about, suspicious minds are a must

18th July 2008 at 01:00
You read so much about plagiarism these days, the subject's in danger of becoming a bit of a bore

You read so much about plagiarism these days, the subject's in danger of becoming a bit of a bore. Even celebs such as Dr Raj Persaud are owning up to it.

But I just have to pass on the story I heard the other day about the student they are calling "The King of the Plagiarisers". Apparently this man is so blatant, so reckless, so unrepentant in his "borrowings" that you feel he should have "cheat" entered in his passport under "occupation".

The King initially came to the attention of tutors when he handed in his first essays. As a return-to-learn student, it had been assumed he'd need a bit of easing into the conventions of academic writing, so he was given some straightforward advice: going on the internet and cutting and pasting everything you can find there on the subject is not what it's all about. He said he understood, that it wouldn't happen again. It did though. And again. And again. His teachers began to think that even his first yells at birth must have been copied from the kid in the next cot. But, being kind and liberal, they discounted plagiarism as an original sin, and tried to reform him.

The King's next assignment was a piece of autobiographical writing. No chance of cheating there, his teachers thought. The King thought differently. Notwithstanding that he actually hailed from Dunstable, his tale of childhood bliss was set somewhere in rural Illinois. No surprise, then, when it turned out he had lifted a "term paper" from a high school kid in the mid-West.

By now The King really was floundering, but somehow just managing to stay afloat. He had exams coming up, which his teachers thought might finally sort him out. Surely, they reasoned, no internet surfing could take place in the exam room. It didn't, but that didn't stop The King doing his surfing beforehand and smuggling his notes in with him. Thus his exam scripts ended up looking just like his essays: wall-to-wall Wikipedia.

At this point, the plug was pulled and a thorough review of all his written work carried out. It seemed that about the only original words that The King had come up with were "and" and "the".

Sadly, though, this trawl through his writings revealed an unfortunate oversight. One of his teachers had somehow managed to be outside the loop when The King's cheating was being brought to light. Not noticing that the essay he was assessing was almost identical to a well-known textbook on the topic, the teacher had praised The King to the heights. "You should be proud of such good work", he wrote in the feedback. No doubt this did make The King proud, though not of his own work. More likely he saved his hallelujahs for the fact he had found at least one sucker on the college's payroll!

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