So today I got called a racist. Well, not exactly outright called a racist, but the inference was undeniable. Maybe I wouldn’t be quite so upset if I’d actually done anything to deserve it. If I’d told an off color joke or punished a student of one race and not a student of my own, it might have been warranted. Maybe it would have bothered me less if it had been one of my students, angry over a grade or a punishment, looking to place blame somewhere else. But it wasn’t. It was a parent and he was definitely looking to place blame other than where it belonged, which, by the way was entirely on his son.
You see, my integrity came into question when I gave his son an F for plagiarizing his research paper. I’m not talking about forgetting a citation or two. I’m talking about copying 90% of an essay from an essay website (view the essay he copied from here), slapping his name on it, and turning it in as his own. The kicker is that he knew he had to upload it to a plagiarism detection website. Still, he took an anonymous student’s essay, added a few words of his own (which made no sense) and uploaded it. I’m not sure if he actually thought I was not smart enough to catch him or he just didn’t care. Either way, the website caught him and I gave him an F.
I called his mother to tell her about the plagiarism. She seemed upset. Not at me though. She was obviously shocked her son cheated. I offered to send her a copy of his essay as well as the site he cheated from, but she told me it wasn’t necessary as she wasn’t questioning me. A little later I emailed his father to let him know I would send the copy home and that because he’d been failing before the research paper was figured into the grade, the 0 he earned on the research paper and all its componants would mean there was no way he could pass the class.
His father called minutes later. He assured me I must be mistaken. After all, both he and his wife had watched and helped their son work on the paper last night. This was extremely odd to me since the paper was turned in a week ago and the only thing his son could have been doing to it was uploading it to the website. I informed him of this, but he said I had to be talking about the wrong paper. I clarified myself and explained the paper I was talking about: his research paper on racism. The father’s response? “Are you sure the subject matter doesn’t have something to do with this?” I was taken aback.
In 10 years of teaching, I have been accused of losing student papers (never have), being a bitch (definitely am), having ridiculous expectations (only for lazy students) and not telling kids information (which I always do, usually verbally, on the board and in handout form), but I’ve never been accused of failing a kid because he wrote about racism.
I assured his father the topic was not the problem. It was the fact his son copied 90% of his paper, including the other student’s sources, that caused him to fail. I even read a selection from the original essay: “From the beginning of recorded history, possibly before then, humans have found a necessity for classifying and categorizing every aspect of life.” And followed it with a selection from his son’s essay: “From the beginning of recorded history, possibly before then, humans have found a necessity for classifying and categorizing every our daily life.” The entire paper is just like this, sentences that are 90-100% copied, with his own strange wordings added in in what I can only assume is an attempt to fool me into thinking a student who guessed that unalterable meant “not able to start” understands that “Racialism is an ideology based on the following suppositions,” another excerpt from “his” paper. Anyone else see a problem?
His father started ranting about needing to pull his kid out of our school. He told me repeatedly that I could do what I felt I had to, and that he would do the same. I’m not entirely sure what he meant by that, but I’m assuming he meant take his kid out of our district. I realize I’ve only taught at four different schools, but I somehow can’t imagine any school is going to give his kid anything other than a 0 for intellectual theivery (a phrase I’m proud I used in our conversation).
I tried to explain this to his father, but instead of putting any responsibility on his lying, cheating child, he simply told me that he could not believe this wasn’t because of the subject his child chose. I told him I found that highly offensive. Then he hung up on me.
I know there is a lot of prejudice in this world. I know people are often treated unfairly as a result of it, but when did cheating become a racially motivated activity? In ten years of teaching I’ve caught several kids plagiarizing. Until today, they have always been white. I’m all for calling out racial inequality when it exists in society, but using your race as an excuse for cheating and lying is despicable, especially when you accuse someone of being a racist. It makes you someone I don’t want to associate with, a bad human being, and let’s face it, a racist.
Congratulations sir, you were right…racism was involved. Too bad it’s you who’s the racist.