Our conversation below, with Thelma in bold (okay, italics):
Shakin it up: An Interview on Integrity and Accountability
Well now, sure an I know that Louise an I been missin fer a fair spell. We done been busy gals of late, an hope our friends will forgive us for not findin an takin on the dumbasses.
Lordamighty, we gots ta member that the dumbasses have feelins, but it don't mean we fail ta take em on! We been focused on the internets dumbasses, sure, ain't we? Plenty of em. We don't often take on and talk about the dumbasses in our real lives.
What's up with folks is somethin I been awonderin? Why we got all these folks at Age of Fools sayin such nonsense an the outright lies? Blows Thelma right away. Whatever happened ta integrity an accountability?
Been talkin ta our friend Kim on it some, as she's had ta deal with some students this semester that have just puredee amazed her with their failure ta act with integrity an ta take accountability for their foolishness. Asked her what she thought about it, an we decided we'd take it on interview style, shake it up some. Made me feel all official like, interviewin an such. I got me some index cards an wrote my questions out, got adequately relaxed with my Wild Turkey and tab. Mhhhhm. Sat my plump arse down an gave her a holler while Louise was out with Mama Hazel at the senior citizen center teachin a class on somethin ta do with teeth in the mason jar not interferin with, well, never mind, that'd be a story for Louise ta tell. Boy howdy, though, cain't ya jus picture Mama Hazel and Louise co-teachin?
So, armed with my index cards, Kim an I had us a fine chat that I have done reproduced here. Kim says she'll have ta repay the favor; said her best bud Kathleen and my best bud Louise oughta consider it since we had great fun. Tried ta get Kim ta have a cuppa Boone's Farm while we chatted, but she weren't havin none of it. Said she'd rather lick tarpaper than ta drink the Boones. Done said the Wild Turkey nearly done her in when she tried it ta see if it were as good as I let on. She said oh, hale no, it ain't. It's an aquired taste, hun, is what I said.
Index card number one: What does integrity mean ta ya?
Kim: We could look it up and be technical about it, but to me it means: you do the right thing even when no one's looking. If I put on my psychology instructor hat, I could lecture on Kohlberg's stages of morality (http://faculty.plts.edu/gpence/html/kohlberg.htm) and talk about how we might define that differently depending on what stage we're in, but that gets messy fairly quickly. What we consider to be the right thing depends on our stage of moral development. For some, that is going to mean following society's rules and laws, and overall, that's not a bad way to go when we talk about things like violence, aggression, theft. For others, if the laws aren't just, doing the right thing means breaking the law. See, messy fast.
When it comes to integrity as a student, though, it's not messy. You do your own work. Period.
Thelma: Ya been on the facebook a commentin upon occasion that this here has been a rough semester for ya on the plagiarizin. Whaddaya mean by that, in case folks are awonderin?
Kim: I wrote a post last week or so on Olmsted taking the auhor of Denial to task for plagiarizing Offit. I noted that if the two paragraphs were indeed as Olmsted showed them that Specter had indeed plagiarized. Taking another person's words or ideas and not correctly attributing them or quoting them is plagiarism. It's one thing to paraphrase another's words as long as you let the reader know it's not your ideas; what Specter did was take an entire paragraph of Offit's and change a couple words and completely fail to attribute it or place it in quotes.
Careers have been ruined over this. It's a huge deal. It's a failure of integrity. I go over this a great deal in my English classes. I harp on it. I bring it up weekly. As laid back and easy going as I can be as an instructor (I know I'm personally wound tight, but I can and do cut students a lot of slack), the worst thing you can do as far as I'm concerned is hand in work that isn't your own. I focus a lot of attention on this; I carefully go over that you've got to give credit to other's peoples' ideas and words. If you use two words in a row, it better be in quotes.
I have never had so many students get caught intentionally plagiarizing before. I have had four students take or BUY essays wholesale off of the internet this semester and three individuals take bits and pieces and fit them into their papers. This shows a lack of integrity, and worse, an inability to take acountability for their actions.
Thelma an my next index card (I knew this was comin up!): What do you mean by accountability?
Kim: Accountability is owning your actions, accepting responsibility for your words and acts. This isn't just a problem for students. It's systemic throughout our society. The Age of Fools folks, as you call them, regularly fail to act with integrity or to take accountabiliy for their actions.
Bill Maher, Jay Gordon, Bob Sears, and the inflammation buy-my-services doctor are over at Huffington Post and elsewhere failing to take responsibility for their words and the actions that result from the inaccurate and often dangerous ideas that result from their words regarding vaccines. Jenny McCarthy is bad enough; you can almost feel like any idiot who takes his information from a playboy bunny whose only science is her son and what she learned at sites like Fisher's, whale.to, Mercola, Gordon, etc., deserves what he gets.
Like several of my students who were caught plagiarizing or the one who recently had a cussing hissy fit in the middle of my class, or like the priviliged yuppies who think rules don't apply to them, the inherent lack of integrity leads to an inability to take responsibility, to be held accountable. Every bad thing is someone else's fault. You made me do this. Vaccines did it. Big pharma wants to make us all autistic. Cops are mean. You name it. So many people refusing to own their mistakes.
Thelma: Sure, they be the dumbasses we are always takin on. Whadda we do ta stem the tide?
Kim: It starts by recognizing when we ourselves act without integrity. Yes, it can be a real pain in the butt to be the one to stand and say that an act is wrong, but integrity means not only doing the right thing personally but standing up and countering when we see a wrong.
It means teaching our children to act with integrity and to own their mistakes. That means leting them suffer some of the consequences of their own actions. Not easy, but necessary. It's the only way to promote accountability.
I've been dealing with community and two-year colleges since the mid 1990s (with an extended break to homeschool my son), and there is a definite shift in how today's students behave. The internet has made it so easy to just take other people's work that it seems a no-brainer to them to save themselves some time. They come to the college unprepared to learn on their own, unwilling to do the work, and unaware of how to treat others with respect. That's fine; we have to deal with them where they are at, but that means some real hard knocks for these kids as they learn that what worked for them in high school won't be accepted in college. It means choosing to stand there, as well, and be a bit confrontational and call out unacceptable behavior. I can't teach a student who won't put down the electronic device long enough to listen to me.
Thelma: What? I was textin Louise. She said Mama H jus took her teeth out and demonstrated somethin on a banana an sent me a picure. I think I have to wash my eyes out with soap now.