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NorthDecoder.com in the Classroom PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chet   
Tuesday, 03 November 2009 02:35

SchaferLots of folks consider NorthDecoder.com to be an invaluable resource for news that's passed over or ignored by the mainstream media.  But did you know NorthDecoder.com can also be used in the classroom to teach students about important and pressing educational issues? 

Well it can.

And it is.

You may recall how we broke the story, back in January of 2007, about former North Dakota Governor Ed Schafer (R) plagiarizing much of an article published, appropriately, on the backside of Steve Cates' right-wing crap-fest , the Dakota Beacon magazine.  (We broke a second story about another plagiarized article "written" by Schafer after he was appointed as the Secretary of Agriculture, too.)  Currently, when a North Dakota teacher needs a solid, proven, indisputeable, confirmed story of home-grown North Dakota plagiarism, where do they turn?  


Minot Bishop Ryan high school principal Terry Voiles asked Ruth Veselka, an English teacher at the school, to assist the school's administration in addressing the problem of plagiarism and cheating in schools.  From the introduction in Mrs. Veselka's assignment:

Mr. Voiles has challenged you to find some method to alert, teach, and ultimately prevent this from happening.  The sophomore class has taken up the challenge and with the help of Mrs. Veselka, will present their findings to the school board through a collaborative website.


Mrs. Veselka goes on to describe the assignment:

Your task is to work collaboratively with your classmates to help the Administration better understand what plagiarism is and the problems and effects it has on the world, in our communities, and at Bishop Ryan.  As you address the issue of plagiarism in a proactive manner in our school, you must first do the research, so that you can address the issue head on...  


As part of the process, Mrs. Veselka has given four students the task of researching "state evidence of the problem of plagiarism and compare it to other states."  She gives those students four legitimate examples of home-grown, North Dakota plagiarism to consider in their report.  One of the examples she has instructed her students to read is the NorthDecoder.com story about former Governor Ed Schafer's serial plagiarism.

I should note this:  Mrs. Veselka obviously put a lot of work and planning into her assignment.  I don't review a lot of lesson plans, but this one is seriously impressive.  It is a great assignment and would really be interested to see the final product of these students' work. 

But I'm also concerned about the lesson these high school sophomores will learn from the assignment.  Think about it.  What are they going to be investigating, and what are they going to learn.  What question are they going to be asking in their research.  I think I know.  

Question:  What will the students and school administration at Minot Bishop Ryan learn from this lesson?

Answer:  If you are a slacker who skates through life stealing other peoples' work and claiming it as your own, and if you repeatedly publish your plagiarism in a mysteriously-funded, viciously-partisan, truth-challenged, right-wing rag, and if you never accept responsibility for your irresponsible conduct, the best you will ever do in life is to become U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and keynote speaker at the North Dakota Republican Party's state convention.

Nice lesson, Ed.  Way to set an example for North Dakota's young people.

If I were one of those students, that's what I'd snarkily end my report with:  "People who get caught plagiarizing things, repeatedly, will never become anything more than a cabinet level official, working closely with the leader of the greatest nation on earth.  I think I'm going to take up plagiarizing."   (I hereby give Mrs. Veselka's students permission to use those two sentences without attribution.)

I really hope these kids, as part of their assignment, call Schafer and ask him why he did this.  I hope they ask him why he never took responsibility for it.  (His publisher, Steve Cates, told me he confronted Schafer about it.)  They should ask him why he sent out his surrogates -- like Cates and right-wing bloggers -- to downplay his plagiarism.  They should ask Schafer what the consequences were for Schafer.  They should ask him if he ever contacted the people whose stuff he stole and apologized to them or offered to compensate them for his thievery.  They should ask him when he started plagiarizing things.  (Was it in junior high?  High school?  College?)  They should ask him how many other times he's been caught plagiarizing.  The students should ask Schafer if he continues to plagiarize things, or if he'd do it again if he is asked to write for a magazine again.

If Schafer had any integrity he would proactively call these high school sophomores and/or their teacher, admit to what he did, accept responsibility, apologize and offer to come to the school and explain why he stole other peoples' hard work.  He should do something -- anything -- to convey to these kids that what he did was wrong.

But he won't.

It's sad.

Comments (1)add comment

Michael G. said:

If Steve Cates confronted Schafer about this issue and still published the work then he is no more intelligent then Schafer!
November 05, 2009
Votes: +1

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