September 1, 2012
Harvard's Plagiarism PanicBy Timothy Birdnow
Harvard University, Regis of America's higher educational system, has been rocked by an enormous cheating scandal.
What is the big deal? Harvard may not officially encourage plagiarism, but it hardly frowns on the practice, either. Consider: legendary law professor Laurence Tribe was guilty of plagiarism, as were former Harvard prof and current Massachusetts senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren Law and Harvard grad and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. These luminaries of Harvard get caught, mumble a stilted apology, and move right along, so why shouldn't the student body in general.
What is happening at Harvard?
It's simple -- Harvard has sold its soul to progressivism, a bankrupt philosophy, yet it still demands high performance from its students to maintain its illustrious image. And liberalism is a relativistic belief system that holds no absolute truth and that emphasizes the material nature of Man rather than the spiritual, so there is no moral condemnation except where the collective decides to condemn. Morals are merely a social convention, agreed upon by the majority. The hallmark of leftists is the notion that they can slowly change the convention to make the world more to their liking. Well, if you believe that, why not take shortcuts? Morality is relative, after all. If you agree with what is being said, why bother to say it in your own words? Why bother to take the extra step of crediting a source? Who is to say you aren't the originator of it? It isn't the choice of words, but the meaning you wish to convey, anyway.
Oh, and how is the theft of intellectual property fundamentally different from redistribution of wealth, or land, or from Napster, for that matter? How is it different from the answer to Joe the Plumber?
This is evidence of the bankruptcy of liberalism and the failure of creativity that liberalism spawns.
One must ask: why would so many students think it acceptable to cheat so openly? The answer lies in the remarks of another of Harvard's luminaries.
"You didn't build that," President Barack Hussein Obama infamously claimed of successful businessmen, making the point that a successful business prospered because of the benefits of society in general and the work of government in particular. (Perhaps, but which came first, the chicken or the egg? Those roads and bridges were built after pioneers blazed trails, built dirt and gravel roads, and established towns, and this without any government assistance. Oh, and they pay taxes to maintain them.) The concept held by Mr. Obama and those on the left is not one of personal action, but of Gaia, of a sort of group organism, a gestalt in which human beings are interchangeable parts of a greater whole. Human minds are little more than a chain of conditioned responses, and free will is but an illusion -- the result of biological and social forces masquerading as an independent mind. Society is not at the service of the individual, but the individual to society. This is a critical point to understand, because it means that individual thoughts are largely pointless, a mere construct of the group. That is why liberals so concern themselves with the opinions of "experts" and are quite prepared to, say, fundamentally reorganize human society based on the opinions of climatologists and global warming models. Society is a collective of small, meager minds who must be guided by the intelligentsia, the experts (and, happily, they are the ones who compose the membership of this intelligentsia). This stems from Plato's vision of the philosopher-king -- an oligarchy ruled by the self-styled bright ones. One either is in the small clique of intellectual leaders or is in the rabble of peasantry. But in the end, the individual is unimportant; the collective is all.
And so there is no reason for original thinking; it isn't yours anyway. The result is groupthink, where liberals all look at issues in the same way and hold nearly identical opinions. Talking points go out but are scarcely needed because the liberals immediately latch onto the thoughts of other liberals and repeat them in parrot-like fashion. How many times have we witnessed this? Remember when George W. Bush was first running for president and the word "gravitas" was on the lips of every journalist? These sorts of things pass far more easily than head colds among the intellectual classes.
In a world without original thought, is it any wonder that plagiarism is rampant? Why bother to sit down, consider all the available information, sort through the details, and arrive at an independent viewpoint when you have one ready-made?
But it's worse than that; the original purpose of higher education was to teach students not what to think, but how to think. Originality was always prized. No more -- political correctness, multiculturalism, and the final unmasking of the liberal/progressive agenda have created a terrible homogeneity of thought, and a smart student must bow to that homogeneity or get a poor grade. Original thinking is dangerous if you are a student at an Ivy-League university; you may flunk out, or at best find yourself blackballed when it comes time to start a career. Better to simply give the professors what they want, which is a canned answer. Plagiarism makes perfect sense in such a setting; you are using the venerable thoughts of a well-tried "expert" instead of risking the transit across the educational sea in a leaky and unproven raft.
In short, the best parrot wins!
And in a world that admires cultural and moral relativism, that eschews absolutes and moral certitude, there is no reason not to plagiarize. If "you didn't build that" is your core belief, then neither did the original writer you are lifting from; he or she has no more claim to the material than does anyone else. If we all built it together, then we all have a right to use it in whatever fashion we may wish.
But such thinking is horribly destructive to a nation's culture and her soul. America's culture is in the toilet -- on that most people agree. But what should be obvious too is that the culture has not just become profane and rude, but it has become horrendously bland and uncreative. How many movies have been made in recent years that are any good and yet original? Most movies made today are remakes of older films. How many good original television shows? Art? Music? Rap music is the only truly original music these days, and it is barbarous and vacuous at the same time. Our culture is experiencing the same dreadful emptiness that the old Soviet culture experienced under communism. The only real originality under the Bolsheviks was the protest literature - Solzhenitsyn and the others imprisoned for conscience's sake. The rest of Soviet culture was bankrupt.
America has been walking down that path for some time, but the universities have been at the vanguard of this, and it is here that we see the real ravages of the progressive/liberal/left.
Yes, the Ivy League still produces a high share of inventive, creative people. Why shouldn't they? They are recruiting the very brightest or richest in society. People know that if they want to reach the top of any field, they aren't going to get there with a degree from an agricultural college in South Dakota. And many of these kids are bright enough to know how to ride out the wave of expectations from their liberal professors and counselors and schoolmates. But the sad fact is that they have to hide their own identities, to submerge them into the group during their tenure at places like Harvard.
In the end, many of the students who practice this kind of gamesmanship realize that they can make a fine career out of it, and staying in the game provides a fine living. Much like inhabitants of Malebolge in Dante's Inferno, they live by flattery -- flattering the leftist professors and later the media, the political classes, the leftists who dominate the top echelons of power. And like those flatterers in Malebolge, they too are in a kind of hell, a place where they live with the loss of their souls.
So we shouldn't be surprised at the discovery that large numbers of Harvard students are plagiarizing on tests. What should surprise us is that we hadn't learned about it until now.
Maybe it's time to ask the most famous Harvard Law graduate of our time who wrote his autobiography?
Timothy Birdnow is a St. Louis-based writer. His website is www.tbirdnow.mee.nu.
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