I was working on a post—Dysteachia in the 50s for Teach Effectively!—when I searched the Web to see if there was another person quoting the same material I was about to quote. I found two hits using the text string I drew from the quote. One of them pointed to an article by Robert W. Sweet, Jr., of the National Reading Reform Foundation that shared some of the content. That was pretty cool.
The second hit wasn’t as cool. I found that another Web site had a word-for-word lift on Mr. Sweet’s essay. What’s worse is that the second site is one of those places that offers “free essays” which are sometimes submitted by students as their own work for term papers and the like. I don’t want to give the Web site a boost by linking to it, but you can find it by searching “Free Essays, Cliff Notes and Term Paper Database” if you want to check it for whatever reason. If you do search, you’ll find that this is one of many sites offering similar services.
I do not routinely check the essays students submit to me. There are myriad reasons. I’m generally predisposed to expect people will do right; I don’t walk down the street tensed and prepared for a fight. Students in my classes are very highly qualified and most want to be there for the learning. I hope I create the expectation that they will generate original work. I also change tasks so often that there are unlikely to be ways to use a previous students’ answers for one of my assignments. Of course, my institution (Mr. Jefferson’s Resort) has a venerable honor code that I believe affects students’ behavior, too.
Even if I feel pretty secure about the materials that I receive from my students, I am still uneasy about the presence of Web sites that peddle (whether for free or fee) essays. Shoot, these sites even advertise on Google. I don’t like it. I don’t l like the idea that people would lie about their work like that. And I don’t like the idea that someone else would cater to those who want to steal another person’s work.