[VIEWPOINT]Plagiarism is deceitful in many waysPlagiarism is the act of using someone else’s ideas, expressions, writing or work as one’s own without crediting the source in an assignment, lecture, paper or publication. Regardless of the infringement of copyright, plagiarism is an immoral and illegal act of stealing knowledge. An educator’s plagiarism is especially heinous because he sets an example of theft when he is supposed to teach honesty.
Self-plagiarism is the act of publishing an author’s previous writing as new work, and this is also an illegitimate way to deceive others. Professor Irving Hexham of the University of Calgary explained thta self-plagiarism was an author’s attempt to decieve readers. The world of academia is propelled by continued efforts to seek new knowledge, and a scholar who recycles a previous work to write a new paper can be compared to a secondhand car dealer who changes a car’s odometer to make it appear newer. A scholar’s self-plagiarism not only unjustly inflates his own accomplishments but also deceives the academic community. If a scholar wins a bigger grant or receives a higher salary from self-plagiarism, it is fraud.
It is only natural that the entire nation is paying attention to whether the deputy prime minister, who is in charge of national policies, has indeed committed the dishonest act of plagiarism.
If the deputy prime minister, who was also the education minister, frankly acknowledged his past wrongdoing, well-intentioned citizens could have interpreted his initial denial as a lack of understanding of academic ethics standards.
We could have anticipated that the former minister might be the right person to testify to the need for academic ethics and advocate it as a national challenge. However, he continued to blame others for his wrongdoing and use sophistry to deny the accusation, and as a result, he revealed his ignorance of not just academic ethics, which an education minister is supposed to respect, but also the essence of education itself.
First of all, he argued that his student had plagiarized or quoted his paper. That is an excuse only a person who does not know the sacred nature of teaching can give.
From the nursery school to the university, a teacher’s educational authority is established only when he transfers all of his knowledge and conviction unsparingly to his students. It is not established by clinging strictly to the teacher’s intellectual property rights. Whether Professor Kim Byong-joon transferred knowledge, or offered a thesis topic or taught research methods to his students, he did all these as a teacher, not as a contractor.
As long as the topics of the papers written by an advisor and a student are the same, there is no point arguing which was written first or whether they are different in approach. The minister accused his student of having “stolen” his ideas, for having written a paper based on the knowledge he learned from the teacher.
Making such a claim is taking back what he gave to the student, essentially destroying the relationship between the teacher and the student. If the student’s paper was indeed a plagiarized work of Professor Kim, he virtually abandoned his authority as an educator by granting a degree based on such a paper.
With a person who has easily given up his educational authority for his personal interests as the head of education, it is only fair that academia demanded his resignation.
Secondly, Mr. Kim was unashamed of repeatedly recycling papers, much less regretting the acts, and he effectively denied the values of creativity and excellence, the core of higher education. According to James Johnson Duderstadt, former president of the University of Michigan, such a denial savages academic values.
How can an education minister produce proper policies if he outright denies the heart of higher education, justifies self-plagiarism as a typical academic practice and terrorizes an entire university society?
Whether the new deputy minister for education has an academic background or not, I hope the president appoints someone who not only understands academic ethics but also respects the authority of education and the academic value of universities.
* The writer is a professor of business administration at Ajou University. Translation by JoongAng Daily staff.
by Dokko Yoon
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