School-ish Thoughts: The Hidden Tragedy of Plagiarism

Nobody talks about this.

Education is important, but the main reason it is important is not one that is usually touted by the suits at school board meetings. It’s not because it prepares the yutes of America for the marvelous adult world of Slavin’ for The Man. It’s not because it fills their brains with facts and formulas they’ll rarely use in their everyday lives. It’s not because we just need them out of our hair doing something more or less constructive during the day. It’s not even because we need more scientists, plumbers, accountants and teachers or because a computer science degree will help them earn a fat paycheck.

Education is a vehicle...hang on, it's a bumpy ride.

We teach children about the Peloponnesian Wars, Peter the Great, and the Pythagorean theorem because these  things exercise their minds, they focus the thoughts of a child on a specific person, event or problem and force them to use their God-given intellects to work their way through it. The events and the formulas and the people and the literature of a complete education are all parts of the  educational vehicle used to drive the mind to learn to think for itself.

(Don’t tell anyone that, though. Thinking is dangerous: it results in the growth of an untamable beast known as Imagination. Lots of people don’t want that juicy little tidbit to get out.)

People seem to think that education is mainly putting vast amounts of information into young minds. Wrong-ola. That is not education; that is indoctrination. Education is the hard and often painful process of drawing trapped discoveries, thoughts, ideas, art, and opinions out of young minds who have not yet learned how to effectively share their thoughts with others. It is a gut-wrenching endeavor that takes years, decades, even. It is not a journey for the faint of heart, the lazy, or the easily intimidated.

There is a dark tragedy today: many kids (and even adults) in classes today do not value their own minds, much less the minds of anyone else. This is why plagiarism is so commonplace in the classroom today. Children begin learning as soon as they enter the world: it is a by-product of existence, of interaction with the world. For too many kids, from the beginning, what they learn is to shut up, to leave the room, to stop bothering everyone with their endless questions. Their initial impulse to wonder is met with irritation and the dismissive waving of a hand attached to a head that doesn’t even turn in their general direction. Soon they just keep quiet. Their minds grow restless, frustrated, angry. 

Ejucatin' the yutes of America, one episode at a time.

These people occupy their brains with Cartoon Network and other mindless entertainment designed to soothe, placate, and control their restless brains. Their goals change (without their knowledge or consent) from pursuing learning about their world to being entertained by it. They learn it is so much easier to let someone else do their thinking for them (it certainly hurts less), and their young souls start to suffocate.

By the time these suffocating ones enter high school and college, many have made such a habit of not thinking for themselves that they can not form a reasoned opinion of their own. Their convictions are based on someone else’s thoughts, someone else’s mind.  They endure school: it is not fun, it doesn’t entertain them, so therefore it has no value. They cheat on tests if they need to (grades matter, but learning doesn’t) with no remorse or afterthought, they plagiarise papers (if my thoughts aren’t of any value, then neither are anyone else’s). They do not care that they have systematically muzzled their own voice, as long as they pass that English final so they can get out of the hell-hole that is high-school.

Thinking for oneself is so dangerous...

If you are a student of any age today, consider this radical thought: What you think, yes, you, is important. It is more important than the letter grade you need to pass that difficult class. Don’t you dare duct-tape your mouth shut and turn off your mind by cheating or (worse) plagiarizing. Think for yourself, and own it. Your thoughts are worth the effort it takes to learn to clearly communicate them. So study, and then tell people, clearly, with well-constructed paragraphs and properly cited sources what you believe, and why.

Education is important because of this: the mind is the home of the soul. And each soul matters. We must value children enough to help them be able to form, collect, organize and share their thoughts intelligently. We must educate every mind, in order to help them see that their thoughts and opinions have weight and value. And unlimited potential.

They matter.

You matter.

You matter.

So learn. Ask those questions you want answers to, and then go seek out the answers to them. Don’t stick someone else’s words into your mouth. Find your own voice, and speak up.

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