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Re: Plagiarism in art class


From: Patricia Knott (pknott_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Mon Feb 18 2002 - 15:02:10 PST

I'm so glad someone is familiar with the controversy in Piper, Kansas.
This site does not require any password and it tells the Piper, Kansas,
biology project plagiarism story.
(I apologize that my link to the NY Times article required a password. The
NY Times article made the front page and is much more comprehensive.)

This is an issue that we all need to pay attention to. The teacher,
although supported by her administration, was overruled by a board, caving
to parent demands. In the NY Times article, some of the logic by parents
totally befuddled me. Aren't we all faced with this problem--- parents who
know better than the professionals?

Marvin asks
> How does what we do in the art class influence the honesty of our students?
> I ask myself :
> 1. Would I have the courage of Christine Pelton? Would I resign rather than
> pass students who copied work for art class?
That's a tough one. Apparently. Ms Pelton was planning on resigning at the
end of the year any how. I don't think I am willing to forfeit my income
for this principle. Ultimately, I believe these kinds of morals are the
parents responsibility. If I quit my job who suffers? I would get much
tougher. I would put in writing and demand a parent consent to any violaion
I could perceive in my assignments. If I have administrative support, but
not board support, then there is something wrong with the system. If this
would happen to me, I would expect my administrators to resign, too.

> 2. Are pictures less important that words when it comes to copying a project?
Not at all, and maybe more important.

> 3. Are there times when I made a suggestion to a student and the student
> exhibited the work without giving me credit? Did I say anything about it, or
> did I think, "Imitation is the greatest form of flattery." Should I have
> tried to teach thinking and problem solving instead of worrying quite so much
> about the right answer and "correct" product?
I give a problem as clearly as I can. If I see befuddled looks, I restate
the problem. I give prompts. I give possibilities, I give all kinds of
direction... but I have stopped giving my own solutions to the problem.
I care about process, I care about thinking. If the end result is less than
a slick solution, I don't care as long as the student explored his/her own
What is the right and correct answer to an art problem?

> 4. Are there times when I have used somebody's art work to show students how
> to do something only to find that some students virtually copied what I showed
> them? Did I smile when I told them they were cheating? Did I mean it?
> 5. When my students copied from a magazine photos, did I say anything about
> it? Who got the credit for the composition?
I teach high school and am involved with many exhibitions and competitions.
All too often I suspect a teacher's "hand" in the work I see. I see levels
of sophistication in some work that simply can not come from a teenager.
And I wonder, when these kids get to college and that "hand" is not there
what do they do?
Absolutely no magazine stuff allowed in my classes. Granted I am teaching
advanced classes preparing portfolios, but I see no value in working from
photographs. Nothing about space, form, or volume can be learned from a

I constantly remind my students about the difference between imagery that is
available and imagery that may not be. It is just too risky today.
I learned a lesson when I was in the fabric design business. When I first
started working, my employer would give me fabric designs from other
companies and ask that I just alter them slightly to copy. Well, at one
point my slightly wasn't enough, and it ended in a law suit. Then years
later, I was interviewing someone for a position and this person's
portfolio contained one of my designs.
I wonder why teaching originality is so difficult. Why take a chance.

> One of best things I learned from my art education professor in grad school is
> that I can teach art history at the end of the media lessons instead of "image
> flooding" at the beginning.
I agree.
Focus on the problem, then reinforce the solution after the problem has been
solved. How enlightening for a kid to think after the fact "that he/she had
similar thoughts and concepts?

I have too many thoughts on this subject.
One is that maybe we should keep "history" separate from creative problem